Setting boundaries, especially with loved ones, is one of the hardest things to communicate in a relationship.

And especially now, right? There are so many more challenges as we navigate moving through a pandemic. Spending a ton of our time with those we are closest can have your nerves on edge and have you struggle to get your bearings.

Most of us are not used to being with someone 24/7. We would normally have a lot of time to go to work, go to the store, hang with friends and socialize to relieve some of the stress of close quarters.

We’ve built long-term patterns that in some cases, have been in place for years. To “retrain” the people around you as you heal and grow, well, it’s challenging. Especially when you’re spending so much time together.

We put together this communication list to support you in creating healthier boundaries, as you gain clarity on what works for your life.

Here are 5 communication phrases that will help:

“I understand you’re angry, but do not speak to me that way.”

“Please do not show up here unannounced.”

“I won’t be able to make it.”

“I would appreciate you not bringing up this subject in front of my mom.”

“When you text, I will text you back at a time that works best.”

When you set boundaries, providing specific action works, too, such as these:

“If this continues, I won’t be spending time here.”

“If you can’t respect what I’m asking, I’ll need to take a break.”

“If you continue to attempt to guilt me, I’m going to end this conversation.”

Here’s the thing. Setting boundaries takes practice.

At first, you’ll experience discomfort, confusion and even guilt. In time, though, as you change, and as the person you’re communicating with understands you’re not going to back down, it will get easier.

Remember, you’ve trained people in your life to treat you a certain way and it takes commitment to reiterate how you want to be treated. Sometimes when we’re setting new boundaries we have unrealistic expectations for time frames for the changes to happen. The deeper the connection with someone and the more intimate the relationship, the longer it can take for the boundaries to be permanently adhered to.

When I’m setting a boundary with someone I love, such as my husband, I’ll say something like: “I know this won’t change overnight, I want you to be more mindful of how this impacts me and to work on it for our marriage. I need to know you care about this because it’s important to me.”

Remember: you may need to repeat these types of communication many times before they start to take hold and you see actual changes. Change takes time and patience.

Empathy is critical.

When you have empathy for yourself, as well as the person you’re in a relationship with, you’ll gain clarity on what you need from that relationship and find better ways to communicate those needs.

The biggest reminder as you move forward with new boundaries: Be gentle with yourself as you grow.

Joy, Dr. Shawne

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