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Who's In Charge Here???

Written by Sonja Meyrer, MAT, Life Coach

Think you are fairly evolved when it comes to handling sticky situations and prickly people? Let’s see how you would respond to the following:

Scenario 1: Your father-in-law consistently puts-down your husband in front of you. He questions his financial decisions, his career choices and even makes snide remarks about his new Prius. Your husband doesn’t seem to know how to defend himself and you are getting tired of watching him be bullied by his dad. You:

  • Pull your father-in-law aide and tell him he had better change if he ever wants to step foot in your house again.

  • Remark to your husband that he needs to “man up” and stop allowing his father to control him.

  • Work extra hard to compliment your husband to build up his self-esteem so that he does not feel bad after a “beating” from his dad.

Scenario 2: Your 17-year-old daughter has informed you that your 20-year-old son smokes pot all the time. She won’t tell you how she knows but….she knows! He is away at college and will be coming home for the summer in a few weeks. You:

  • Call him at school and tell him he needs to clean up his act before he comes home.

  • Wait until he comes home and then secretly search through his car and room for “evidence” of using.

  • Do nothing, remembering that you did a few “dumb” things in college too!

Scenario 3: Your wife has been working closely on a project with a male colleague who is recently divorced. He texts her late at night and on the weekend and they travel to see clients together. You have confronted her about this situation, and she swears there is nothing to worry about. You:

  • Continue to “keep tabs on her” by checking her phone, her hotel receipts etc. to be sure that nothing happens.

  • Tell her she is behaving selfishly and demand that she finds a new job.

  • Start to “shut down” emotionally and question whether you were ever enough for her.

Truth be told, while SOME of these actions might get you short-term results or at least make you feel like you are doing something, NONE of these will likely end in a healthy, long-term solution. Why? Because in reality, we are powerless over the thoughts, opinions and actions of other people. When we respond to people who are causing us pain or discomfort by attempting to beg, scold or shame them into change, we are setting everyone up for failure. Furthermore, when we allow behaviors that push up against our values, we start down a slippery slope of tolerance that can lead to heartbreak and even abuse. But how can we secure our values when others are pushing against them? We begin by looking at ourselves.

Indeed, the good news is that we are NOT powerless over ourselves. In fact, we are downright powerful and ridiculously in charge of ourselves and our lives. When we advocate for ourselves in a healthy way, we:

  • learn to accept our powerlessness over others and our inability to force change.

  • grieve the expectations we may have of others or the role we had hoped they would play in our lives.

  • begin to detach from our obsession with fixing or changing other people.

  • learn to articulate and set clear boundaries based on our non-negotiable values.

  • practice self-care to keep those boundaries firmly in place.

Let me be the first to say that setting boundaries in relationships takes time and patience. For those of us who are inexperienced, it can feel downright impossible and even selfish! But healthy boundaries are good for everyone and, when set and maintained well, they do result in change. Even if the change is not the outcome we initially desired, those of us who learn to set boundaries inevitably feel more empowered, less frustrated and more serene.

Curious? Come join our Boundaries in Relationships workshop to hear more about these tools and get a chance to practice with a few other folks. Satisfaction (or at least more serenity) guaranteed!

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