The Christmas Gift of Boundaries. You're Welcome.

20 December, 2018

How excited or worried are you about this upcoming Christmas break?  I’m going to help you design it a little better so it doesn’t turn out unnecessarily overwhelming, disappointing, conflict inducing or an erosion of your very precious health and wellbeing.

Whatever your beliefs and celebrations are for this “Christmas” period that we have coming up, most of us living in western countries will at the very least get some extra time off work and have some kind of holiday break.

This period of time can be a very welcome pause at the end of what’s likely to have been a busy year for most of us, before the New Year starts and we get the chance to affectively “start again”.  In the southern hemisphere of course we have the added joy of it being the beginning of our summer season.

Some people will find themselves without special people to spend this time with.  Some people will be lonely, the season highlighting this intensely. Some people will enter into unnecessary debt and stress trying to live up to expectations that aren’t realistic.  Some people will be hosting large numbers of people in their homes and will thrive on this.  Some people will be worried about the amount of time they’ll be spending with extended family and all the pitfalls that come with that.  Some people will have the balance just right in terms of people and downtime, and are looking forward to it all.

Which category do you fall into this year?  I’m happy to say that I’m spending it in just the right way this year and I’m really looking forward to having a quiet and stress-free Christmas and New Year.  This has taken some work to finally achieve!

This blog is for those people who will be spending periods of time with extended family and are worried about how this is going to go.  I’m going to help you design it a little better so it doesn’t turn out unnecessarily overwhelming, disappointing, conflict inducing or an erosion of your very precious health and wellbeing.  

So - this year I’m giving you The Christmas gift of Boundaries. Yep. You’re welcome! Please feel free to send organic chocolate treats my way.

Before we begin, a note about why people find setting and sticking to boundaries very difficult:
  1. It’s likely that we did not have boundaries set for us in a firm and also warm and loving manner when we were growing up. This means we have no decent model of what this can actually look like and feel like.
  2. People have the misguided belief that boundaries are draconian or hurtful to others. We are likely to have had more of this modelled to us than the former.
  3. We worry that people won’t like our boundaries.  And that this means that they won’t like us.
  4. We are concerned that others will have an adverse reaction to a boundary we set.  They may blow up, start a conflict or end the relationship.
  5. We think that if we set boundaries and people don’t like them, we will simply just lose them (they will hang out elsewhere).
I would like to dispel all of those limiting beliefs and assumptions around boundaries.  The truth is, if they are set and communicated in a firm but loving and warm way, you only have other people’s respect to gain. It will give them permission to set boundaries when they also need to.  People may have an adverse reaction, and if that’s the case then that’s up to them and is not your stuff.  And if people can’t tolerate you caring for yourself and your wellbeing and leave the relationship, then it was not a relationship worth nurturing. This may sound harsh but it is the truth.

And here’s the thing.  People ARE affronted by a boundary.  I know I have been in the past.  I’ve certainly crossed boundaries that I had no idea existed, and I was definitely slightly affronted when the boundary came back to me.  This is a normal reaction because, firstly, how are you supposed to know you’re violating a boundary when you didn’t even know that it existed?  You can’t!  Because you don’t know what you don’t know.  And I know for me, I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.  So aren’t I lucky that I have the kind of people in my life that can communicate to me, in a warm and loving way, when this has happened and what their lovely boundary actually is. Amen to that.  And secondly, it’s a normal reaction because boundaries are for the person setting them, not for the person receiving them.  So it’s understandable that it doesn’t feel 100% amazing to be on the receiving end of a boundary.  And that’s OK!  Because it’s for the benefit of the other person, not directly for your benefit.  Although indirectly of course you DO benefit from this in the long term -  as explained above.

And the really great news is the inverse of that: that when YOU decide on, set and stick to a boundary, it’s a beautiful force-field of protection for you and YOUR health and wellbeing.  And that’s the purpose of having it.  If the other person is offended or affronted, as long as it’s been communicated in a firm but warm and loving way, then there’s not much you can do about that but hope that they do their own helpful processing around it and know and trust that it ultimately benefits them.

And so, with all of that sorted, let’s look at the kind of boundaries you can set this Christmas:
  • Boundaries for time: decide how much time you’re willing to devote to preparation, shopping, cooking, cleaning up etc. I’m assuming you will want to preserve your wellbeing and get some down-time amongst it all, as well as spend time with these people?  So the question is: how much is possible for you to do, while still sleeping well, resting each day and spending some time alone?  And that's all you invest in and commit to.
  • Boundaries for people: with the people who are problematic to you, what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable during this period?  Do they themselves have a clear and logical sense of what’s OK and not OK for you and your family in your home?  If not, I would spend some thought on defining this for yourself, and work out how you will communicate to them when they’ve violated this.  Remember, people don’t know what they don’t know - it’s up to us to make it clear to them where the lines are, and then communicate it in a warm and loving way.
  • Boundaries for communication: are there certain topics that are off the table this year, because they’ve caused problems in the past?  Work out what these are, and how you will gently put a stop to them if they come up - especially while people are getting pissed on booze.  And if they are fundamentally important and need to be discussed at some point, work out the best time, place, and people and insist on doing it then and only then. 
  • Boundaries for who is responsible for what: it’s not your job to “make” other people happy and anticipate and fulfill their every need.  Your sole job is to provide an environment for people to come together and celebrate life.  If they aren’t in a position to find the joy in this, then so be it. It’s sad for them, but again, not your stuff.  Focus on your own happiness and wellbeing.
And so here it is.  I hope that’s the most useful gift you will receive this Christmas.  

Keep me posted about the difference this made to you over the holidays.

With much love, Charlotte.

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