Someone in an online group recently pointed out that a boundary that had been mentioned was actually a rule. It was along the lines of, "You may not x while y, and if you do, I will z." I'm so used to everyone's boundaries being expressed differently that I totally didn't notice the poster had posted a rule. So glad the commenter said something.
My first sponsor said that a boundary is a deal I make with myself to take care of me. It comes in the form of, "If x happens, then I will y."
The way to apply it is to think of 3-5 things that are most likely to happen. If I think of every single thing that might happen, I get drawn into futurizing, and that's no good, so 5 is the limit for now.
For each thing that might happen, I think of an appropriate way to take care of myself in that situation. I might even give myself alternatives, or set up escalating boundaries.
- If my mom criticizes me on the phone, I will:
- Say, "Gotta go, Mom. Love you. Bye!" and hang up. Or,
- Ask her how her peach trees are. Or,
- Ask her to hang on a second, I need a drink of water. And then get one.
- If someone keeps interrupting me at a meeting, I will:
- The first time, say, "Hang on, I'm not done."
- The second time, stand up to speak.
- The third time, leave the room.
I get to change my boundaries as needs and circumstances change.
I don't necessarily have to tell other people what the boundaries are. It's even probably better that I don't, unless exercising my boundary will have a direct effect on them.
- If the other adults in the house don't have a job by the end of next month, I will:
- Get an apartment and move myself and my kids out. And
- I will also stop paying for the house.
That last one might be a rule, now that I think about it. Boundaries are not meant to be about controlling another person's behavior, but instead about taking care of myself. I'm not sure how else to handle the situation of a house bought with the expectation of 3 full-time salaries that actually had only 1 to support it.