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Ending a relationship is always difficult. Whether you wanted the relationship to end or not, there will be a grieving process. Whether it was a romantic relationship, family, or friend, the grief can be overwhelming. Ending a relationship you did not want to end because you had to implement boundaries for your peace can be confusing.
Implementing our boundaries is difficult in many ways. When they’re rejected by a loved one, you may become confused about their reaction. Or question the choice you made about your relationship. It can be difficult to believe you made the right choice when other people try to convince you otherwise.
Flexible Boundaries Don’t Work
You may believe being flexible about your boundaries will help you avoid the sacrifices. But addressing problems this way will leave you feeling defeated, drained, and taken advantage of. Flexible boundaries lead down a self-destructive path where what you need doesn’t matter as much as what someone thinks about it.
Holding firm to our boundaries and protecting ourselves in healthy ways will allow us to create opportunities for the right relationships to enter our lives, whether it’s in a personal setting or professional environment. Enforcing our boundaries impacts every relationship in which we participate in a beneficial way.
When we face reactions and responses directly we learn what’s important to us. Exploring the reason for our boundaries allows us to evaluate how they fit into our lives and effectively contribute to helping us get our needs met. Allowing ourselves to process the grief that accompanies rejected boundaries protects you from the personal sacrifices that lead to unhealthy relationships.
When Boundaries are Tested
Imagine for a moment you’re in a conference room full of people. A colleague or manager addresses your performance in front of the entire conference room. Maybe you’ve been late the last few days, maybe your sales numbers are down, or a client complained. Regardless, addressing the matter in front of an entire group of people doesn’t make the situation easier for you to digest.
Once you’ve been put on the spot, a dynamic has been created and it may lead you to believe you only have two choices:
1) stand up for yourself and address the colleague or manager in a way deemed aggressive or insubordinate
2) acknowledge the content and ultimately allow the behavior to go unaddressed
Neither option provides the freedom for you to exercise your own approach. Once you feel forced into a dynamic, it can be difficult to find the footing to help you exercise what feels right and authentic. But you don’t have to sacrifice your self-worth by operating within a dynamic you didn’t consent to participate in.
The third, but much less obvious scenario, is to politely withdraw from the situation.
Politely withdrawing allows us to reassess and find the confidence to express your needs. Scenarios 1 and 2 force you to operate within the dynamic that was created, scenario 3 provides the opportunity to remove yourself and regain equal footing in a different setting. Not liking how you feel, in response to certain behavior, is worth your time and attention.
It’s important to understand that you can’t protect yourself from the impacts of allowed negative behavior. When you allow negative treatment your self-worth is directly impacted. Your conscious mind will easily blame your boss or whoever created the situation, but your subconscious will hold you accountable. You are the protector, communicator, and advocater of your feelings. You are the exerciser of your boundaries. Allowed negative behavior is the seeds of guilt and shame.
To get out of the dynamic, express and request.
- Express how you feel: I feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, singled-out
- Request a reasonable remedy: Can we talk about this in private?
Your feelings deserve your respect first. It’s not always comfortable to exercise boundaries or express feelings to other people. When we do we’re allowing them to consent to care. This means they have the ability to choose to not care—and that can hurt. In an attempt to protect yourself from being hurt, you may try to convince people to care by making statements about what we believe to be logical or fact-based.
People don’t have to care about your feelings, you do. You’re the best person to stand up for you.
Consent to Care
Consenting to care means allowing someone the option to care about your feelings.
For example, with the conference room example, you might say: “Anyone would be embarrassed by being called out in a conference room.”
This statement is not implicitly true. Rather than addressing how you feel in return, the manager may argue the logic of the point. Their argument will translate to you they don’t care about your feelings. Communication has then become obscured.
Example: “I was embarrassed when you called me out in the conference room and I didn’t feel comfortable engaging that way.”
The second statement expresses feelings of embarrassment, allowing the other person to decide whether or not they want to empathize with that position.
Ending a Relationship with Someone You Love
The example about a manager is a clear example of how you may feel forced into certain behaviors. People feel forced into behaviors in all types of relationships. Once habits and patterns are established, they can be difficult to notice.
You may believe you can’t set a boundary with your parent, sibling, spouse, or neighbor because the dynamic has been set. Fear about what will happen in the relationship can hold you back from expressing your truth. But emotional resilience is about knowing that every reality is just a story we tell ourselves. There are options to manage through a situation and get your needs met.
Relationships never really end, they change. You’ll always know the person you knew before, but it will be different. Relationships are like plants. Sometimes they’re strong and growing, sometimes they’re wilting, and sometimes they die, only to be planted and growing again. Revisiting a relationship with someone who has grown is a possibility, but that doesn’t stop the grief that comes from having the change the relationship.
The Resulting Grief
Respecting boundaries is a simple way for someone to show they love and respect you. Boundaries are meant to protect your self-worth and emotional peace. Each person knows the right boundaries for themselves. When a loved one decides to debate or disrespect your boundaries, the impacts of continuing the relationship will be felt. But ending the relationship could result in a grieving process.
Grief looks like:
When you know the stages of grief you’re working through, you can find healthy ways to manage. Protecting your emotional peace gives you the space to build healthy supportive relationships in your life.
When you are ending a relationship with someone you love:
- Indulge your comfort, it directly impacts your self-worthy and quality of life
- Try to recognize when you’re placed in a dynamic and you feel trapped
- Respect your needs, don’t shame them away
You are your own greatest communicator and biggest advocate.