The Secret to Functional Relationships

Boundaries. The secret to functional relationships are those invisible lines that tell others what we will and will not allow. The word ’no,’ plays an important role in developing healthy boundaries. Those of us who have grown up with abuse often have skewed views of boundaries, however. Our minds or our bodies have not belonged to us, so it’s difficult for us to determine where the decision-making for our lives truly begins. Thankfully, boundaries can be learned!

Boundaries, most importantly, must have consequences attached to the spoken words. If those invisible lines are crossed, the consequences must then be dealt with by the antagonist. This is a lesson in responsibility.

Imagine for a moment, that you have a coworker who is piling their workload on you. You resent them taking advantage of your good nature, but cannot find it within you to refuse their continuous requests for help. As a result, you grow angrier and angrier until you explode. Instead of taking this boundary-less approach with your coworker, try, “I appreciate you coming to me for help, Steve, but I have my own paperwork to file.” The responsibility then falls rightly on Steve, who can then choose to file his own paperwork, or risk the consequence…losing his job.

Implementing boundaries also involves the term ’care, but don’t carry.’ What exactly does this mean? We are to be caring towards one another, but we are not to carry the ‘workload’ of another. Now sometimes there are people who need help shouldering a weight beyond that of their regular ’workload.’ As long as we have the means necessary, we should help lift the weight. This decision to help, however, should be voluntary, and not done under compulsion.

Aren’t boundaries selfish? The short answer is no. Violated or unestablished boundaries bring nothing more than hurt, anger, and burnout. Just as the airlines tell us to put the oxygen masks on ourselves first, so should we put ourselves first in life, that we might have the means to help others.

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