No relationship is perfect… a relationship is two people, with two different experiences, and two different ways of thinking. A relationship can be with family, friends, or intimate partners. So naturally, there are going to be differences. Our history, previous interactions, and relationships influence how we interact in our current relationships. Just because someone did something wrong, or did something that seemed malicious, doesn’t mean it was on purpose. I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves a second chance. It’s not always easy telling healthy relationships from unhealthy ones.
Here’s some steps to figure it out:
o Communicate your boundaries
o Enforce your boundaries
o Determine if they listen and change
o Know when and how to walk away
Know what your boundaries are. In other words, know what you are and aren’t ok with. While knowing your boundaries is important, it’s just as important to talk about them. A lot of people keep things to themselves because they feel like it doesn’t matter, or the other person didn’t mean to, or for another reason. But how you feel matters, even if it isn’t logical. Feelings are never logical, and feelings always matter.
So talk about them. Explain the hurt, the sadness, the betrayal, the fear, or the loneliness. Make sure to talk about the main emotion. For example, anger, resentment, and jealousy are all symptoms of a deeper emotion. Do you best to identify and communicate what you are really feeling.
Stand Your Ground
Don’t just talk about how you feel; follow up with action. If someone says or does something to you that hurt you in any way, tell them. Then enforce your boundary.
I had a client who’s friend’s chronic lateness often made their friend group late as well. The friend group was frustrated with it, so they decided to set a boundary. When the friend was late, they would follow through with the plans without the friend. And if that friend became upset, they would remind them of the boundary.
How do you know if they listen to your feelings, thoughts, and boundaries? Are they listening to defend and respond or are they listening to understand how you feel? It’s important to have a mutual discussion where both people are being heard and feeling validated. Watch and see if they are avidly making changes in their actions and how they communicate.
They won’t be perfect immediately, of course. They have learned a habit they have to unlearn. Sometimes it’s something they learned from childhood. So give them time to grow and get better at the boundary. Be patient with them and help them to understand. Keep communicating.
Sometimes It’s Healthy to Walk Away
Not every relationship is healthy and that’s ok. Not everyone wants to change. If someone has shown you over and over that they do not respect your boundaries, then that may not be a healthy relationship. If they continue to not listen to how you feel or make necessary changes, then maybe that relationship isn’t a healthy relationship for you.
Sometimes the healthiest thing to do is walk away. Sometimes it’s healthy to have a relationship, just at a distance. Know yourself, know your limits, and know your boundaries. Standing up for yourself can be emotionally hard and seem mean or unfair. But what’s mean and unfair is someone not knowing they are hurting you, or someone not being given the opportunity to add to your happiness. Consider this if you have a hard time talking about how you feel and setting boundaries.
If you need help telling healthy relationships from unhealthy ones, Dawn Institute is here to help. Therapy can be a great place to evaluate how relationships are going, learn how to set boundaries and — even more importantly — enforce them. If you’re interested in getting help with this type of growth, reach out today.