We don't make boundaries because we're not sure where they should go, we fear disapproval and we avoid discomfort.
There are a couple of reasons why we're not sure where our boundaries should go. One big reason is that other people like us better without them!! If we start putting boundaries in, and start saying no, some people in our lives won't like it! We won't be as easy to manipulate. They won't be able to make us do what they want. Here's an example. You have a friend who often borrows money from you. You go out for dinner, and they somehow forgot their wallet, or they don't have change to pay their share, or they're a bit short that week, or they suggest you pay all of it on your card, and they'll give you the cash. They promise to pay you back, but they never do.
Why haven't you said anything about this before? Why haven't you said no? Why are you always surprised?
You haven't said anything because you don't to be mean and petty.
They are your friend and you want to believe them.
They are quite persuasive.
You are scared to say no in case they get mad at you and or reject you.
The interesting thing about this type of situation is that while you're worrying about being nice, your friend is completely taking advantage of your generous and kind nature. They're not worrying about any of the things you're worrying about. They're quite happy to keep using your money, or your time or your talents because it's easy for them. They're not worried you'll say no, or disapprove of them or reject them. They have no guilt about exploiting you. They are relying on your false guilt to keep you doing what they want.
They have no guilt about exploiting you. They are relying on your false guilt to keep you doing what they want.
There are times when we should all feel guilty. We've done something wrong. We've been dishonest or hurt someone or been mean for example. We should feel guilty. But very often, we experience false guilt when someone else uses it to manipulate us into doing what they want. They make us feel bad when we say no. They may even tell us we're selfish, we only think of ourselves. Actually, the opposite is true. They are selfish and only think of themselves. Sure, sometimes you are willing and able to put yourself out to help someone. That's being a good friend. But you don't always have to say yes. Say for example you've made plans to do something, and you've been looking forward to it. But your friend, who is always having dramas, calls you to say she needs you because she's broken her nail or something trivial. You say you've already got plans, but she manipulates you into feeling sorry for her and feeling guilty for doing something for yourself. You cancel your plans and go around and see her. If she was really your friend, she would think of you, and say, "No, you go and enjoy yourself."
One of the most powerful tools in the manipulator's tool box is sulking!
One of the most powerful tools in the manipulator's tool box is sulking! This is not just a kid problem. Lots of adults do this to get what they want. They give you the sad puppy eyes. We have a spaniel named Ruby. Talk about big brown sad eyes when she wants to come inside!!! It gets us in the guilts every time. Nice people like you, don't want anybody to be unhappy. Let's say you tell your partner you're going out with the girls for a fun night out. He's staying home to parent the kids. Notice I didn't say baby sitting? If you're a Dad it's called parenting. He might go quiet, turn up the freezer so it get frosty at home, maybe use the silent treatment, or say in a pitiful voice, "Are you going to go out and leave me?" That last one is also using guilt. I'm not picking on the guys. Girls do this too. Just switch the story for going out for a night with the boys. He never said you can't go, because that would be too obvious, and it's not nice. But, he's still communicated his disapproval to you, maybe even without a word! For whatever reason, he doesn't want you to go, and lets you know. He never said you can't go, because that would be too obvious, and it's not nice. But, he's still communicated his disapproval to you, maybe even without a word!
Are people who don't let you have a no to something you don't want, and a yes to something you do want, really supportive? In healthy relationships you should have a no and a yes with penalty.
We might be a rescuer. We like everyone to be happy and not experience discomfort. We pay for our friend to rescue them from the consequences of being irresponsible and a user of others, you being one of them. We rescue our partner from the discomfort of being home alone with the kids while we go out. We rescue our kids from their irresponsible mistakes. We think we're helping, but we're not. We are robbing them of growing resilience and understanding another aspect of themselves. We only make changes in response to discomfort or avoiding pain. When we take their pain away, we stop them growing. Nice person, you're not helping them! Stop it! The other discomfort we want to avoid is our own. We don't like disapproval, distance, frostiness or tension when the other person responds to our boundary. It's quite selfish really. We avoid the boundary, which may benefit the person, because we don't want to feel uncomfortable. Rescuing feels good. We confirm to ourselves that we're a nice person. But is it nice to help the person avoid a life lesson and learn some respect for you and others and some responsibility?
When we take their pain away, we stop them growing.
If you struggle with knowing when to say yes, how to say no, and take control of your life, consider our Boundaries workshop, or come and have a few sessions. We'd love to support your journey.