Setting boundaries in my life is something that I learned to do while I was healing from my divorce. If you’re in an emotionally oppressive marriage chances are that whatever boundaries you had in your life prior to marriage have stripped away over time.
Rebuilding your boundaries is possible and I’m going to show you how.
When it became known that I was getting a divorce I began to have people approach me with all sorts of advice on what I should and shouldn’t do; most of which was unsolicited and managed to confuse me even more.
What I quickly decided was I was only going to have 2-3 people whose advice I would seek out, and who I would confide in. When I made that decision I had essentially built a fence in the backyard of my life. Inside the fence were the people that I WANTED in my backyard as I healed.
I discovered that when people gave me their unsolicited advice that it was mostly given from a place of EGO…it makes THEM feel good that they’ve shared their experiences. Those people are the ones that need to be outside of your fence. Most of those people have only good intentions but there are some who want to be gate crashers and have self-appointed themselves to guide you through the process.
So, How Do You Handle the Gate Crashers?
As I was going through my divorce the last thing that I wanted was someone else’s opinion on how I should handle a particular situation, or whose lawyer I should use when I didn’t ask them for advice. So often I wanted to scream at people to just leave me alone. These people will be friends, co-workers or even family members. Dealing with them and maintaining a healthy relationship can be a big challenge at times.
The best thing you can do to ensure you don’t receive unsolicited advice is to NOT discuss the details of what is going on in your divorce OR what you are feeling. You’re just giving them an opportunity to jump into your backyard; not to mention that you put yourself in a negative emotional place every time you discuss it.
For example, a co-worker who just loved getting into everyone’s business at the office would ask me questions about how my divorce was going. I would answer ‘It’s moving along’ and say nothing else. If she asked me how was I handling living under the same roof as my soon to be Ex I would answer ‘We’re getting along fine’. I found I had to give a positive neutral answer in less than 6 words. If they asked another question I would state ‘I would rather not discuss it.’ and say nothing else.
For the occasional advice giver I’ve learned that it’s best to just listen politely. Thank them for sharing and move on with whatever it was I was doing. I do not ask any questions because then I am sending a message that I’m validating, and encouraging their advice.
There will be those people who will be very persistent about giving you all sorts of advice. These can be co-workers who will camp out in your office, or they could be well-meaning friends and family members who hound you with phone calls. For people at the office you may want to tell them that you’ve decided that you need to keep your personal life out of the office so that you can focus on your job and that you appreciate their support in your decision. The last thing you want is to have your personal story become the topic of office gossip.
For friends and family members a more direct approach may be needed. Talk with them about how much you appreciate their concern and support, but you have a support group you are working with and that is enough right now. They may not like the fact that you’re not opening your gate and letting them into your backyard but chances are they will respect your boundaries since they know you have people to support you inside your fence that you’re already confiding in.
As you learn to be firm and polite with people about your boundaries you will grow stronger and more in touch with yourself.