Updated: Jun 6
A week ago, I had a conversation with someone who had recently begun dating a person practicing polyamory for the first time. As both individuals were new to polyamory, it came as no surprise that they had numerous questions for me. As a coach and bookkeeper, my value lies in the experience I bring to the table.
However, I sometimes overlook the knowledge I possess that others may lack. With my background experience, I can identify the questions my clients may not even know to ask. The key lies not in merely finding answers, but in asking the right questions that lead to uncovering the truth.
During our discussion, the newly polyamorous individual mentioned, "I can't attend that event because the person I'm dating said it would cross their boundary. They're going with their other partner." In response, I explained, "That sounds more like a rule than a boundary."
I've noticed that when we believe we are setting boundaries, we often attempt to hold others accountable for upholding our own boundaries. However, in doing so, we inadvertently disempower ourselves by placing others in control of our own needs. So, how can we assert our wants and needs while upholding our own boundaries? Here are three steps to help us on this empowering journey. Following that, I will share the advice I gave the new polyamorous individual regarding this particular rule.
“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you’re not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” – Paulo Coelho
3 Steps To Setting Your Own Boundaries
1. What is bothering you and why?
I find the hardest part about boundaries is stopping for a moment and really listening to why you feel what you feel. For instance, in the case above, the person I sat down with expressed annoyance that they couldn't go to that event. The question you may want to ask yourself in that instance is why? For them it was that they wanted to feel FREE to go to any even they chose.
2. Stop Assuming and Start Discovering
The next crucial step is to define with utmost clarity what you are absolutely not okay with, what you can agree to, and the consequences you are willing to accept in order to attain your desires. In a recent conversation, the individual I sat down with realized their annoyance stemmed from their partner's failure to establish their own boundaries. Instead of honestly expressing, "Hey, I prefer attending events with one person at a time and I feel uncomfortable when you're present while I'm with my other partner. Can we find a mutually agreeable solution?" their partner chose to avoid open communication and imposed a rigid rule on their interactions, leaving them feeling controlled and managed.
In truth, most of us fall into a pattern of not fully communicating our needs. We either rely on others to dictate how we should be, or we trample over others to fulfill our own desires. While these approaches may seem momentarily effective, they are ultimately unsustainable. By relying on these methods, we may inadvertently overlook the fact that we never truly possess our own power. Furthermore, in both cases, we remain unaware of our genuine needs and the underlying reasons behind them. To break free from this pattern, it is essential to stop assuming and start discovering through open and honest communication.
3. Standing up for yourself : The path to Belonging
Beneath the surface, this manner of "setting boundaries" rests on a faulty foundation of control, manipulation, and insecurity. We fear facing our own needs because we worry that others will reject us. Ultimately, it all boils down to a fundamental need for BELONGING. However, let me make this clear: belonging can only emerge from within. We cannot compel anyone to like us, desire us, or belong to us, nor can they do the same to us.
I can barely get myself to add a new easy habit, why do I think I could change someone else?
That being said, authentic boundaries require courage, as they proclaim to the world that we are important enough to have a voice and to fully enjoy our lives. They hold power because, in order to stand up for our needs, we must first deeply understand ourselves, accept others as they are (which entails truly seeing them), and lovingly let go of their opinions because we trust in the healing energy of being authentic to ourselves.
Before I leave you, I will share with you what I told that newbee poly-person.
"You can ask for what you want. You can set your own boundaries even when others are not. For example here's an idea of what you can say to your partner.
"Thank you for sharing what you feel uncomfortable with. How you feel is important to me. I now want to share with you what I absolutely need in a relationship and what I am willing to agree to around this topic. After which, I'd like to talk about how that feels for you and how we can make this work for both of us. "
Start SMALL in your everyday experience: Practice your boundary setting and follow through on yourself with small items in your life. For example, maybe you always do something that you know leads you to be disappointed in the end. Do these five steps and see how it works out for you:
1) Ask yourself, why do I feel this way when I do this?
2) What am I getting by doing this? (BENEFITS?)
3) Ask yourself what kind of person do you want to be in this scenario?
4) What is the line in the sand for this activity? (What will I not accept into my life anymore?)
5) Dream up 3 scenarios that could happen that would make it hard to keep your BOUNDARY with yourself around this thing and find work arounds that will help you keep on your path.
CHECK OUT the Mini-sode that provides an example of how you can try this out in your life.
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