Creating boundaries can be done in many ways. Plant a hedge of bushes between yours and your neighbor’s yards, build a fence around your garden to keep the critters out, construct a Lincoln-Log fence around your plastic horses (that would be my daughter!) or place your breakfast sausage between your syrupy pancakes and your eggs. Boundaries, however, are not always physical. They can be relational and psychological as well. The best example to start creating these boundaries is by saying the word, “NO!” Just like that!
Usually these boundaries are created for the sake of keeping someone out of your personal space and keeping yourself away and free from their mistreatment. Maybe they have wronged you or insulted you in the past. Maybe you haven’t personally experienced any wrongdoing coming from their direction but have heard from someone else to, “Stay away!” from them.
Creating healthy boundaries is a safe, comfortable method of keeping yourself from further harm or discomfort. This technique can be the result of two different scenarios. First, maybe you have already confronted the offender about the wrong they have committed or may potentially commit. However they either don’t acknowledge the wrongdoing or continue to react in their previous manner (which will further damage your relationship with them). Of course, the offender can totally come clean as a result of you confronting them and turn around. This will result in a continuation of your relationship and make it stronger as well.
The second scenario of creating boundaries is that you have not confronted the potential or guilty offender. This offender may or may not understand why you have constructed boundaries between yourself and them. Instead of confronting them, you automatically create a gap between the two of you. This can be done by ceasing to communicate with them, moving away, stating unnecessary comments about them or turning away from your previous friendship.
The wisest conclusion of the two scenarios is to confront the person for which you are building boundaries between. It will be difficult because you will have to bring up negative circumstances between you two. Usually both parties harbor feelings about each other but are afraid to communicate their true feelings for fear of rejection or heartache. It takes a strong person to be the first to step out in faith and speak the truth without worrying about a negative response or outright denial. However, in the end, you might discover that the root issue is not a problem at all but instead a severe misunderstanding. That is why communication is so important in relationships.
The opposite of creating boundaries is to continue in a relationship where you are constantly “walked” all over, ridiculed, put down, insulted and feel totally rejected. All people deserve to be loved and cared for. There will be those who’s lot in life seems to be to talk negatively about others, make fun of misfortunes, jeer at people’s mistakes and scoff at other’s trials. In this instance, the receivers of this contempt need to stand up for themselves. No one deserves this kind of treatment; no matter who they are! I have heard people say that no matter how difficult the situation is, you need to remain in the relationship even if the other person outright hates you and continues to create negative circumstances to make the relationship harder to live with. This is simply not a healthy lifestyle and mindset. Creating healthy boundaries after confronting the other person is very necessary in these situations.
Now, let me be clear here. There are three basic types of relationships. The first are those between two un-related people of the same or opposite sex who have made a choice to enter into a friendship because of similar interests or because they enjoy one another’s company. These would be a fishing or hiking buddy or an acquaintance from work. There are also relationships between two blood-related family members who have had no choice in becoming family but still decide to enter into a close friendship with one another. An example of that would be between a father and son or between two sisters. The final relationship type is the (hopefully) life-long intimate bond of marriage between one (male) husband and one (female) wife (I had to be specific here!). The two people in this relationship are two (hopefully!) un-related people who hold an attraction for one another and create an unbreakable union between each other that lasts for a life-time.
The first relationship between two un-related people can be broken and walked away from. I’m not saying that it would be easy to do this but if one of the parties is creating a negative environment of selfishness, jealousy, negativity or anything else that makes it tough to exist with this friendship, this must be handled by confronting one another and dealing with the issues. Negativity and un-confronted concerns cannot exist in a healthy friendship/relationship.
The second relationship between two blood related people can be broken and discontinued as well. However, the difference between the 1st and 2nd relationships is that the 2nd one is much MUCH tougher to walk away from. Because of the fact that two blood related people have most likely known one another their whole lives, walking away from this relationship would drastically affect them.
Thankfully, I have not personally experienced this in my life. I am very close to my immediate family. If I lived closer to them, I’d
take my middle brother shooting and talk politics, play chess and talk “Lord of the Rings” with my youngest brother, go on a hike with my dad or take my mom to a movie.
I used to be close to someone (I’ll call this person Charlie) who chose to create unhealthy boundaries with their own mother and still refuses to confront her on issues that date back to when Charlie was a child. Although this breaks the mother’s heart, Charlie continues to go through life denying the mother any form of a healthy relationship. Charlie even refuses to allow the mother to see her own grand-kids!
Now that I have defined creating healthy boundaries, I will talk about maltreatment. Maltreatment is when two people involved in either one of the three relationships I mentioned earlier are at odds with each other. Instead of creating healthy boundaries or politely confronting the other about the issue(s), one (or both) people began to harbor a dislike for the other. This dislike or grudge can grow into unfriendliness, then antagonism, then enmity, then resentment and finally bitterness.
During the first stage, the offender might ignore the other. This might not be noticed at first but when it grows into antagonism and the offender moves on to gossip, things become quite clear. The progression just continues until the offender feels so much resentment, they turn to bitterness. This is the ultimate feeling of animosity towards someone. Even the very mention of the person’s name brings a disgusting, bitter taste to their mouth. All this progression might take years and years to become bitterness; or it might even take just a couple of weeks.
During this unhealthy progression, the offender is bent on punishing the other person. They look for ways they can gain the upper hand or acquire an advantage. Once they obtain this, they chastise the other for being powerless and vulnerable. While in this authoritarian position, the offender feels like justice has been served by their actions. They might feel that they were the ones who were wronged and by dishing out this punishment, they are executing a fair penalty to the other person.
This offender is, however, displaying very selfish behavior. Fairness would be to place themselves in the shoes of the other person and show empathy. They might not understand what it’s like to be the other person but they can do their best to imagine what they might be going through. Only after this is done (and they have confront the other person about the issue) can they judge whether or not they were truly wronged. Sadly, too many relationships end in this devastation. After all, it is human nature to seek justice and make the other pay for their “wrongdoing”. It takes guts to do the right thing and try to work issues out the healthy way.
However, creating healthy boundaries is one of the best means of treating any negative issue in a relationship. If the offender is the kind of person who will not change after being confronted, the victim must build healthy and reasonable boundaries. As stated before, without confronting one another, the two members of a relationship will never know the root cause for their dispute. It might be just a simple misunderstanding or misjudgment.
If it turns out that the victim must build healthy boundaries, they can slowly and gradually began to step out from behind their wall and test the other person. They do this simply to see if the offender has really changed their negative behavior and will continue to live their life free from it. If they are still the same as they were before the boundaries were built, the victim will retreat back behind their wall. Even if the offender has changed, the victim might still feel like they can be hurt and might still retreat behind their wall. This cycle will repeat itself many times. The victim will keep coming back from behind the wall and testing to see how the offender has changed. If there is ultimately no change at all, the relationship might have to be ended.
This would be the case in every relationship except for marriage. Even though I am a divorcee, I still believe in working issues out no matter what. Divorce is simply a cop-out in many instances (except in cases of abuse and infidelity – however, even those marriages can be turned around). In my previous marriage, I did my best to work through every issue and because of that, today I have no regrets. Sadly, my ex-wife didn’t view it that way and instead of working it out and divorce not being an option, she threw in the towel and walked away.
Anyways, as I was saying, after the victim repeatedly walks out from behind their wall and sees no change in the offender, the relationship might have to end. However, if the offender ends up genuinely changing, the relationship can begin anew. It will never be the same, however. Instead it will be stronger as a result of the trial the two friends or family members or married couple experienced.
Once people learn to create fair and healthy boundaries as a result of negativity in a relationship, hearts can be mended, feelings can be built up, lives can be enriched and people can truly begin to live again.