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Day 28. Boundaries With New People

Set the tone The wonderful thing about meeting somebody new is that you don’t have the history and all of the expectations and assumptions that come with it. There are no ‘roles’. You can paint a very fresh picture and choose whether you show up in it as boundaried or unboundaried. You do not need to bring in past habits that you know have been an issue for you. So for instance, when I first met my now-husband, I did all of the things that I’d previously been afraid of doing — relaxing and being myself, being a co-pilot instead of a passenger, keeping my own life rather than sacking it off like I usually did, and staying in the present instead of imagining our entire future including bad things that could happen to me. When I did experience insecurity due to my own tape, rather than blaming him or putting it on him to make me feel better, or being self-destructive, I grounded myself with reassurance rather than tarring him or myself with the same brush. It’s a discovery process People unfold. Who you meet on day 0 is an impression and no matter which way you slice it, the only way through getting to know someone is to go through getting to know them. Don’t try to take shortcuts with assumptions, projections and acting as if you know them more than you do or assigning them superior status in your life. Stop, halt. No matter what type of relationship this is, when you first meet somebody, it is a discovery phase. You need time, experience and consistency on both sides. Show up You do not need to be perfect but what you do need is to be conscious, aware and present. If you are living in the past or trying to predict the future, you’re not being grounded. If you’re consistent about who and how you show up, you are communicating from a boundaried place with the landmarks. Remember that walls are not boundaries If it feels as if you have a wall up and that you don’t feel as if you can be discerning and use your intuition and knowledge for guidance, you need to be conscious not just of having that wall but also how it is influencing you. You can’t help meeting new people on your journey but what you can help is how walled you are around them. Trust yourself Being boundaried for you means that you must use the Debit and Credit Trust System. This means that as a basic, you need to be able to trust you. It means showing faith, being willing to listen to you and act from a boundaried place. Self-trust is evolving – you have to use it to build it. You learn not just from when things go well but also from when they don’t. Instead of abandoning you when things don’t work out, you learn from the insights that you stand to gain. You acknowledge what that experience was here to teach you so that you can better support you next time around. Each experience tells us what we need to know and learn. What you also do is go into things with a healthy level of trust (call it 70%) and increase for consistent demonstrations of trustworthy behaviour and you being able to come from a boundaried, loving place, and you roll back trust in the person when they show that there are reasons not to be trusting and also when it feels as if you are expected to be someone that you’re not. If your self-esteem is on the decline in a relationship, that’s a code red alert to step back and step out. Trust you more than you trust them. Know your own boundaries If you are emotionally, mentally and physically boundaried with you, it is a lot easier to gauge whether that person is in a healthy place with you. Pay attention to your body’s messaging – it is there to help you. You cannot know in advance what is going to happen, but you can be willing to listen to you while also paying attention to what is happening. Engage from a place of equity You’re not on an audition or playing wolf catcher and trying to suss out whether the sheep is really a sheep. Engaging from a place of inadequacy or fear will significantly impact on your mentality, attitude and behaviour. Absolutely no acting from a place of superiority or inferiority. If thoughts and feelings around this show up, use these as a cue to be conscious, aware and present. Ask yourself, What am I saying, thinking and doing here that is not truly representative of who I am and how I want to come across? Also ask, What is it about him/her that I’m using as evidence of their superiority (or inferiority)? And then focus on how you can be emotionally, mentally and physically boundaried. What do you need to remind you of? What do you need to take more time to get to know? Is there something here that you are pretending not to know already that might signal that this is not a healthy interaction for you and that you need to step away? Slowly does it If it feels as if you’re moving too fast or that you’ve known each other for ages or ‘forever’ when you haven’t met yet or you’ve known each other for a short time, you are not being boundaried. There are people who have whirlwind relationships who are also boundaried. They show up as themselves, they get grounded when tempted to get too carried away, and they recognise that they have the responsibility of doing due diligence and also ensuring that they don’t do anything that crosses their own line. They can move and be conscious, aware and present at the same time. If it feels as if you’re going too fast, make conscious choices that slow you down. You can also say, “I realise that things have been moving really quickly and I’m slowing myself down so that I can get to know you properly”. While they don’t have to be all-singing and all-dancing, if they’re very negative about it and it even feels and looks as if they’re trying to punish you in some way or trying to be controlling, that’s a code red alert. Be careful, though – don’t be contradictory. So many people tell me that they told a person that they wanted to go slowly and then within hours, did the opposite. Do not go fast to appease someone else’s ego and relieve tension, or to override your discomfort out of fear of being a party pooper. Once you lose trust in and stop backing you, it will be a fast, slippery slope to pain. Familiarity is at best a code amber alert If you’re experiencing the familiarity of pattern, it’s a cue to be more boundaried and to stop, look and listen. Now, it could be that the familiarity is you slipping into a pattern of thinking and behaviour that is a blanket response rather than a specific one for the type of person you’re with, or it could be that the familiarity is recognition of same person, different package or encountering similar issues or feelings that alert you to be conscious, aware, present and boundaried. The moment that there’s that familiar feeling that you recognise from previous experiences of not being boundaried, you need to ask yourself: What is the boundary that I need to set for myself and what is it that I need to communicate to the other party? Also ask, Where am I being/doing something that I know doesn’t work or what does this person/situation remind me of from my past? Use the Releasing Exercise in the resources to quickly ground you. Make a mental note of any minor or amber concerns You meet somebody new, and something unsettles you, but you don’t know why. This is OK. You don’t need to jump to conclusions– make a mental note (acknowledge it) and then go about your business with your boundaries in tow. This means that if there is something to be concerned about, you will not be open to it causing you any major damage because you’ve stayed grounded and remembered that you’re in discovery. Whatever the reason was, it will become clear. I don’t always know why I feel discomfort and sometimes whatever it is seems so ‘small’ that it almost seems “silly”, but it’s not. Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to mean doom and gloom. It might mean pay attention, or it might simply mean, be yourself. Engage, talk, ask questions If you’re not asking questions, that points to discomfort not just about being seen but also about seeing that person. It’s a fear of vulnerability. If you don’t feel free to talk and you feel as if you have to be concerned about potential criticism, conflict or rejection, this is a call to be boundaried. If you’re terrified of showing up and gaining clarity about that person and yeah, digging a bit deeper, that’s a cue to check in with you about whether you are afraid because there’s a real concern that you are not acknowledging or addressing or whether you’re scared of stretching into vulnerability and finding out something that will allow you to see that person more clearly. No, it’s not about being invasive, but it is about recognising that if you’re not asking questions and engaging that person across a diverse range of subjects, that you’re getting a very one-dimensional view that’s driven by a perspective and image that they want to put across or that you want to imagine. It also means that you will come across passively and while you don’t need to be assertive 24/7, what you do need to ensure is that you’re not passively showing up and making this person into an authority. Get to know someone by saying and showing no when necessary You really get a sense of who a person truly is and the type of issues you will encounter when you say or show no. All of us have our game face, and we all have that honeymoon period where we don’t know that person in a variety of situations and everything seems perfect. If when you say or show no, you both see that as an opportunity to evolve the relationship and don’t take it personally and turn it into a major conflict, this is good. No relationship where there isn’t the scope to say and show no or where there’s fear of reprisals is a real relationship. Don’t jump to the worst conclusions Getting to know someone means that someday, you’re going to realise that you’re very different in an area, or that you’re going to have a disagreement, or that they’re going to really piss you off. It’s called life and relationships. Don’t let these stop you from getting to know the person because your relationship will only be strengthened by learning how to live and let live, to overcome disagreements and to address concerns. I used to flip out over conflict, and with Em (husband), I made myself grow up by facing down my worst fears instead of throwing in the towel as soon as I don’t like what I hear or projecting my past into the relationship. If you don’t act as you did previously, or you don’t mimic the people who influenced your nervousness of boundaries, you don’t have to be in a repeat of the past. Call it So many people have asked me variations of, I’ve been on a few dates with someone, and I really like them, but they’ve busted my boundaries a few times. What should I say to them? How should I ‘make’ them respect my boundaries?  I’ve also had variations of, I’m with someone, and they’re really great, but I hate the fact that they never call and only text or they won’t stop having secret convos and meetups with their ex or are drunk all the time, etc. I really want them to respect my boundaries but feel like it’s too uppity if I say it to them.  If you’re accepting boundary-busting behaviour, especially from a new person, then you in effect have faux boundaries that are actually up for negotiation. Call it, because if you don’t, the things you let slide will become the impossible-to-ignore problem in your relationship. It will hurt far more than if you’d called it and experienced the short-term discomfort.

The TAKEAWAY

  • There is absolutely no need to make special exceptions to your boundaries just because someone is ‘new’. New, old, keep your boundaries.
  • Don’t know them? Be vigilant.Decide who you’re going to be in this relationship — authentic, real you who isn’t supposed to be perfect or without boundaries, or pretending to be something or somebody that you’re not?
  • If you feel as if you know somebody so well when you hardly know them in reality and have not seen them in a variety of different situations, not only are you not being boundaried but you are very likely repeating an aspect of an unhealthy pattern.
  • Using the Debit and Credit Trust System keeps you grounded as you don’t have to have walls where you’re red-lighting everything nor do you engage in the blindness (and danger) that comes with green-lighting everything.
  • New relationships are a great way of testing out your more boundaried self without the pressures of the past – they don’t know you yet!

JOURNALING: If you feel as if you have experiences of struggling to have boundaries with new people, what do you know now are your blind spots and your cues to be more vigilant and boundaried? Do you feel as if you’re ready to trust you now? What do you know that you can now rely on that you weren’t able to before? Acknowledge where you’ve grown.

TASK: Identify 5 key things that you are nervous about doing or saying when you are around somebody that you don’t know and identify alternatives that will allow you to show up. E.g. I am very nervous about asking questions about something that confuses me or that I would like to know more about when I don’t know the person that well and I like them a lot. In future, I’ll remind myself that it is OK to ask questions, not rude, and that if I want the confusion and nervousness to ease, I need to be willing to speak up. I’ll ask, “What did you mean by that?” or “Tell me more about __________”.

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