Keeping it real,establishing boundaries with family and friends.

Vincent S Collins Sr By Vincent S Collins Sr, 13th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Relationships

My experience with the challenges of setting boundaries with family and friends

Boundaries fact vs. fiction

Most people want to believe that their family and close friends are there for them unconditionally. We would like to think that we could go to any family member or close friend, explain how they can help us and they would, no matter what. In reality this is rarely the case.

Work place boundaries

In work and business relationships, expectations and boundaries are clearly established at the beginning of the relationship by contracts, work place policy and, management. There are consequences when parties operate outside of established boundaries or they do not meet agreed upon expectations. These consequences can include verbal or written reprimand, termination and, even law suits. Each party understands what is expected of them. Personal boundaries between friends are not always this clear.

The gray area of friendships

Suppose a friend asked to borrow $1000.00 and you could afford to lend her the money, would you? If you decided not to lend her the money, would you be wrong? Was she wrong for approaching you? This is the type of scenario in which personal boundaries are tested or established. This situation happens often and it is never easy to address. There are some important variables to consider. How long have you known this person? Has she borrowed money from you before? Did she repay the loan as she promised? Why does she need to borrow the money? Why is she coming to you? Personally, when it comes to making loans to friends I avoid it, however, if my friend is in a dire situation, I may consider lending the money but only within certain parameters. I was in a situation similar to the one described previously. A friend that I had known for at least a year needed repair work on her car. She had most of the money however she was short $200.00, I explained to her that I could not lend $200.00 short notice but, I could loan her $100.00 and only if it could be repaid by our next pay date which was two weeks later. To make a long story short, she agreed to my terms, she repaid the loan and we are still friends today. I believe that if I did not establish clear boundaries up front, our friendship would have been affected a relatively small amount of money.

Family and boundaries

Things can be very different when dealing with family and personal boundaries. Personal boundaries do not always involve money; in fact breaches of boundaries among family members usually do not involve money. My aunt Brenda is highly opinionated, nosy and, even though she has no children of her own and does not work with children, she is a self proclaimed expert in every area of child development. She has never hesitated to give her opinion or advice to a family member, weather they asked for it or not and facts don’t seem to matter if she believes she is right. A few months before the birth of my first son, my wife sat down with me and explained to me why she had concerns about Aunt Brenda and, how she planned to deal with her after our child was born. I responded to my wife by asking her what she was talking about. I told her that I loved my aunt and she loved me, I asked her what was there to deal with. My wife explained to me that my aunt is essentially a bully she forces her opinion on family members whenever she feels like it and, she is a control freak. She told me that during our time together, she noticed that everyone one in my family avoided telling my aunt to mind her business. My wife explained that she didn’t feel comfortable asking other family members about my aunt’s behavior until my sister commented about a statement that Brenda made about my nephews sudden weight gain. Brenda called my sister and told her that my nephews sudden weight was due to his diet and his sedentary life style, she went on to say that if the issue was not addressed my nephew would certainly develop diabetes. In my aunt’s defense, her points seem valid until we consider the facts. My nephew had began playing high school football several months earlier this meant that he was training with weights on a regular basis. Weight training and the fact that he is 17 and still growing would explain the sudden weight gain. Before the start of the season, the team held two practice sessions a day; this certainly is not what I would call a sedentary lifestyle. During the previous summer my nephew had a physical examination by the team doctor and by his family physician; diabetes was not a concern for either of the doctors who examined him. As my wife was talking about the incident I had a vague recollection of a comment I made after Brenda approached me about her concern, I respectfully listened to her and acted as if it mattered to me and , after she left the room I remember saying to my mother “Sounds like aunt Brenda has another crusade to lead.” My mother responded by saying “Well you know Brenda.” Wow! , my wife was right! It occurred to me that my response to Brenda was typical among members of my family. We would act as if we were listening to her and then forget what she said when she walked away. Brenda did not know that her behavior was a problem because we never told her it was a problem. Putting myself in her place, I came to the conclusion that if I was nosy, highly opinionated, unqualified and, a loud mouth I would want someone to tell me. I mean really, who would want to go through life being that way if they didn’t have to? To a certain extent, we were all somewhat responsible for Brenda’s behavior because we accepted it.

The showdown with brenda

My wife explained to me that she planned to respectfully stand up to Brenda if she ever tried to force an unsolicited opinion on her concerning our child or any issue that related to her or our small family. I told my wife that I agreed with her and I would support her and respond the same way if necessary. On a quiet Sunday afternoon several days before my son was born, I was sitting on the couch next to my wife when the phone rang. My wife answered the phone, asked the caller to hold on and, whispered to me that it was Brenda calling to tell us why we should not allow our son to be circumcised. It’s important to understand that the issue was not circumcision itself; the issue was the unsolicited opinion from an extended family member on a highly sensitive and personal topic to expecting parents. I watch as my wife patiently listened to Brenda’s argument against the procedure and I listened as she politely told Brenda that we have made a decision concerning the matter and if we had any concerns we would discuss them with our doctor. I couldn’t believe how easy that was, I expected more resistance from Brenda and I wasn’t disappointed. I continued to observe my wife’s demeanor and tone as she spoke with Brenda and it became apparent to me that Brenda wasn’t even close to ending her lecture on the topic. I watched my wife go from polite and patient, to irritated, to angry as hell. I jumped up and snatched the phone from my wife when I heard her tell my aunt Brenda that since she didn’t have children or a penis, she should keep her opinion on those things to herself. I spoke into to complete silence, I said that we appreciated her call and her concern but, we have the situation under control I said “We love you” and hung up. I spent the rest of the day and much of the evening attempting to calm my wife down. A few days later we were blessed with a healthy baby boy. Brenda has made several attempts to force her opinion on us but, they are less frequent and more tactful. She seems to be spending more time understanding all of the facts before coming to a conclusion and putting more thought into how she comes across. Our relationship with Brenda has grown as a result of our decision to establish boundaries with her, I am very happy that we worked it out.

The challenge of setting boundaries

Establishing personal boundaries and limits is easier said than done. My experience with family and friends has helped me understand several key factors in establishing personal boundaries.
Be honest with yourself, it is impossible to set realistic boundaries if you don’t acknowledge the limits of your own tolerance. If you don’t like something admit to yourself that you don’t like it.
Communicate effectively not emotionally, when I find it necessary to speak with someone about boundaries in our relationship, I take time to think about what information I want to convey. I even write down what I plan to say and read aloud to myself to make sure that it is not too personal and that it doesn’t come across as a personal attack or criticism. Try to end on a positive and friendly point. Let them know that you appreciate them listening to your concerns. Emphasize that your relationship with them is important to you and it’s important that you communicate openly and honestly.
Stand your ground; boundaries are meaningless if they are not maintained. The fact that you have established boundaries with yourself and have made those boundaries clear to family and friends does not mean that these people will not attempt to challenge or even ignore your limits. Be prepared to assert yourself and maintain your personal limits when necessary.
I hope my experiences and insight were helpful.

Vincent S. Collins Sr.


Family, Friendships, Relationship Advice, Relationship Problems, Relationships, Relatives

Meet the author

author avatar Vincent S Collins Sr
I am a student of life, I read and write poetry based on my experiences. I also write short humorous stories based on my experiences and observations.

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author avatar AnnH
16th May 2013 (#)

Thanks for sharing this interesting story.

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author avatar Vincent S Collins Sr
16th May 2013 (#)

Thank you Gemstar99

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author avatar Trillionaire
30th May 2013 (#)

Thanks, enjoyed.

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author avatar Vincent S Collins Sr
30th May 2013 (#)

Thank You trillionaire

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