Creating your boundaries is definitely a brave dating practice. Making and keeping your own boundaries is what will make you attractive and it will help you grow a healthy relationship. This is very much a part of brave dating.
But don’t just assume that you need to make and keep boundaries for relationships only involved in your dating life. You also need to make and keep them when it comes to all of your personal relationships. Yes, even those complicated relationships with your family.
One of those “adulting” things you need to do is to make and keep boundaries with your family. Even if you come from a good family. Because sometimes even a good parent can have an assumption about you that will encroach on the person God is growing you to be. This then causes you quite a lot of tension as you desire to follow how God is leading but you have a beloved parent voicing the opposite. This is not holy tension. This is a mess. And one you need to define and figure out. You know it is not healthy to live this double identity.
There’s nothing like family to bring out the people pleaser in you. Family knows how to pull on every guilt nerve you have. Because of this you will contort yourself any which way possible so you can please your family when you are with them and then continue to live your life the way you believe God is asking you to live when you are not with them. You don’t even see this double identity for what it is because it has “family obligations” attached to it so it is the responsibility that you have to bear.
Somehow the popular message is “family is more important” or “family first” or “we are family and that matters most.” This message is everywhere. It is ingrained in movie and TV plots. It is the reason why NFL players wind up broke after 5 years. It is the source of strife for many marriages. Why does family get to cross boundaries with you—do what is not okay—and it is okay? There is a lie buried deep here. And love is not attached to that lie.
Remember that list of negative behaviors that become you if you don’t create your boundaries? That list of negative behaviors of someone you definitely don’t want to date? Why does family get a pass to trample on your boundaries and turn you into one of these negative behaviors?
Remember remember remember that boundaries are a form of love. That is why God created this world with boundaries. This is why you are making and keeping your own personal boundaries. You desire to be that whole person who can be wholly loved.
In Matthew 12:46-50 we read some tough love verses Jesus had for his family. Sometimes these verses are misunderstood because of that tough love aspect. But Jesus had boundaries even with his own family, especially when they tried to use their position to gain something from Him when He was doing a more important thing.
You can do this. You need to do this. The dread you feel is real. You feel the dread because you know, even before you read any further, that this is true. You need to make boundaries with your family. Particularly that one family member who is continually blurring into your life. You’ve whined about this family member long enough.
Understand first that making boundaries with your family has nothing to do with you not loving them. It has all to do with you loving them. You want to love them wholly which means they need to see you as a whole person.
Where to start? Especially with that one difficult relationship.
Honest communication. It is your responsibility to be as clear as possible. Don’t assume this someone will “get the message.” Don’t talk in circles. Communicate honestly and clearly. As hard as that is. Realizing there is no guarantee that your mother or sister or whomever is going to actually hear what you are trying to communicate. Change is coming whether it is communicated or not. Your responsibility is to communicate as best you can.
In this communication describe the behaviors that are not acceptable, but do not attack this person’s character. Don’t tell someone that she is “too controlling.” Say the actual behaviors. Keep repeating the actual behaviors if need be. Breathe between each time. Watch your own voice tone. Once you start name calling, defensiveness will rise and you have created more pain than you ever intended to create.
Don’t forget grace. It is very likely that what you can communicate honestly and clearly will not be heard. Too many emotions—and maybe some dysfunction and brokenness—are in the way of this person actually hearing you. Extend grace. You are the whole person here so that makes it easier. Which means extending grace does not grant continual permission to run over your boundaries. You keep your boundaries and extend love and grace as this whole person.
Pray. Pray before. Ask your people (and team?) to pray with you before. Pray throughout the conversation or conversations. And pray after. Prayer is this wonderful gift to call on God who has no limits to intervene in situations that are so limiting. Prayer is supernatural and this situation certainly needs some supernatural help.
Yes, this is hard work. This will be emotional work. This will cause pain. And yes, this will probably cause some family strife. Yes, you will have to cause family strife. This is actually a part of growing up and separating from your family so you can eventually “cleave” to your spouse. You need to set your boundaries with your family now. Before you are married. You can imagine the complications you could be bringing into your marriage if you don’t do this now. You can avoid those complications. Or decide now to make your marriage a sit-com.
Stop your guilt. You are allowed to have boundaries with your family members. It is adulting. And remember that the guilt you are feeling is probably better defined as sadness. It is sad that your family is broken. It is sad that dysfunction is the broken love language in your family. It is sad that your mother can’t forgive. It is sad that your good parent is still interfering with your life. It is easier to feel misplaced guilt than admit the truth that you have some very sad situations in your family. In your sadness remember to continue to pray and move close to God. Because He is certainly close to you. God is close to the broken-hearted. Psalm 34:18.
Do you remember how Dr. Brene’ Brown defined boundaries for her? BIG is “what Boundaries need to be in place for me to stay in my Integrity to make the most Generous assumptions about you.” When you make and keep your boundaries you are free to make generous assumptions about your family members—even those who are so broken. This is grace. This is love.
You can do this adulting step. Before you get married. Be brave.
(Photo credit: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/thanksgiving-television-gallery-1.2446714?pmSlide=1.2446708)