Changing the dynamics of the relationships of women with the world starts with setting healthy boundaries. There are all kinds of excuses that the rest of the world gives to us so that we continue to put up with their bad behavior, their laziness, their expectations. As a New Woman I am exploring these excuses to be prepared to face them when I am setting healthy boundaries with my family, friends, coworkers, and clients. Setting boundaries can be done in a firm but kind way. Starting with that works well combined with standing firm.
Excuses that other people make to avoid women setting boundaries:
“You are just being selfish”. This response usually comes when someone wants us to spend time with them doing something we don’t want to do or when we insist our family helps us with a household project when they would rather go and do their own activity. It also comes in response when we tell other people that we need time alone. Especially in our American society it’s simply not acceptable to tell people that you can’t attend an event because that’s your scheduled time to be alone. Times will change if we keep at it.
“You’re one of those women that hate men”. I don’t hate men. I’m married to one. I would also venture to guess that most women don’t hate men. They hate their superior attitudes and demeaning language. Setting boundaries with men might be as simple as requiring the man of the house to do an equal share in housework, cooking, and child rearing. Even though my husband pitches in a lot he still balks at having to go and pick up the child at school even though we are both working a day job. He expects that I will just do it. I have to ask him and then I never know if he is mad about it or not. Sometimes I hate him for his pompous attitude about that. My friends say I should be grateful for all of the other stuff that he does. I say I do plenty of other stuff as well. Chores and responsibilities may not always be even but things like this are reason for a serious discussion. We as women also need to remember not to have a chip on our shoulder about every little thing. We have a responsibility to pursue setting boundaries as harmoniously as possible. I find that it’s effective to stand my ground and just put the expectations out there very matter of fact.
“You aren’t being a good friend” If being a good friend entails listening to your stories of how you’ve stepped out on your husband for the last ten years, how you are miserable in your marriage but refuse to do anything about it, and how you expect me to listen to every sordid detail of both then no, I’m not being a good friend. I’m an adult walking away. Putting up with consistent bad behavior and listening to consistent whining is not being a good friend. Good friends call you out on your shit. Then when they’ve called you out numerous times and you don’t listen don’t tell them they aren’t being a good friend. Done.
“You can’t walk away from family” Oh yes we can. Some families have a fight every now and again. Others have that one family member that thinks it’s okay to abuse you because you are family. Mental, psychological, and physical abuse are not okay. If calling them out on it, trying to get them professional help, and setting simple boundaries doesn’t work then walking away is the only way for a woman’s survival for a healthy life. We aren’t put on this earth to be punching bags or to be verbally abused by our sister. Walk away.
“Society doesn’t work that way. You have unrealistic expectations” No. YOU have unrealistic expectations that women are going to put up with society pushing them down. Society has changed expectations of women’s body type, lifestyle, and work over the centuries. They can change again. Being with people that are closed minded doesn’t help our cause. Spend time with people that have a broader view of the world is better. Keep the closed minded friends and family for coffee dates that you can state your case and leave. Happy trails.
Setting healthy boundaries doesn’t mean that we have to change other people’s minds. Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice to change the world instantly by setting a few simple boundaries. I’ve found ways around that when I know a mind can’t be changed. For instance, my father is a very conservative old marine. When I knew he was coming to my house I scrubbed everything three times and was spontaneously throwing up behind closed doors and crying in the shower because I knew I was never going to meet inspection. He would still come to my house and tell me what needed to be fixed, wiping off services and the inside of my refrigerator as he went around. Now I don’t invite him and he’s learned not to invite himself. Instead, we meet on common ground at a historical site or a tourist spot that we can both enjoy and there is much less stress. I just steer clear of politics. (smile)
How do you set healthy boundaries?