Maintaining boundaries with your extended family, especially when they live close by, can be difficult. While you are likely to want to take advantage of your close proximity to your relatives, you should not feel obligated to plan your life around their schedules. It is true that you can take steps to establish specific boundaries based on your individual requirements when the situation calls for it. There are even steps you can take to help you interact more positively with relatives who are particularly pushy in their demands.
Method 1 Keeping Balanced Relationships
1. Attending every family gathering does not obligate you to do so. The best part about living close to family is that you get to be a part of each other’s lives, which is a wonderful feeling. This includes participating in meaningful events such as birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, and soccer tournaments, amongst other things. Having said that, it’s important to remember that you are under no obligation to attend all of the events that your family members invite you to.
You are also not required to provide an explanation. Saying something like, “I’m going to head home and catch up on some rest tonight, but I’m looking forward to seeing Jimmy’s match next week” is perfectly acceptable.
It is important to realise that if you decline, you may face some negative consequences or even a guilt trip. Set forth your requirements respectfully, and if you are asked to justify yourself, remind them that they are not required to do so.
When faced with the prospect of declining invitations to family gatherings, many people experience feelings of guilt. Make a list of your values (such as “self-care” or “maintaining a sense of balance in my life”) and refer to this list whenever you are feeling guilty. Family is, without a doubt, one of your values, but it may be beneficial to remind yourself of your other values.
2. When you have the opportunity, lend a hand. Another advantage of living in close proximity to people you care about and trust is the assistance that you can provide to one another. Even the smallest gestures, such as stopping by a relative’s house after a snowstorm to assist them in clearing the driveway, can make a significant difference. At the same time, you are under no obligation to comply with every request made by a family member.
To the contrary, it’s worth keeping in mind that over-assistance can prevent someone from being able to take care of themselves to their full potential.
It’s perfectly acceptable to say something like, “I really can’t swing by right now,” for whatever reason you may have. if you’re still having problems with your router this weekend, I’d be willing to come check it out on Saturday.”
3. Inform older family members if they are becoming overly controlling in their behaviour. Sometimes your parents (or your in-laws) may believe they are more knowledgeable than you about a particular subject. People frequently continue to learn from their parents throughout their lives; however, there comes a point at which you are fully capable of making decisions on your own, particularly when it comes to issues of social boundary setting.
Shortly put, don’t be afraid to reassure ageing relatives by saying something along the lines of, “I really appreciate your desire to be involved in my life, but I’ve made up my mind,” for example. It appears that you are attempting to exert control over my life, and I do not require your assistance.”
Method 2 Establishing Clear Boundaries
1. Express how you are feeling. Finally, the boundaries that are appropriate for you must be determined based on your personal feelings. In other words, the better you communicate how you feel, the easier it will be to set and maintain boundaries.
Consider times when a family member’s statements or behaviour pushed your emotional or mental boundaries. These are the areas where you might want to set more specific boundaries.
When something makes you uncomfortable, express your displeasure by saying something like, “I feel stressed when you drop by unannounced.” Please respect our privacy by calling before you come by.”
2. Define specific boundaries. Most of the time, people who know each other can tell how they should act in each other’s presence. However, specific boundaries and needs to be discussed clearly and directly at times.
For example, perhaps you enjoy seeing a specific family member as often as possible, but they frequently overstay their welcome.
In such a case, make a clear request for a specific boundary.
Say something like, “Jared, it’s great that we can hang out a few times a week, but it’s also important that I get to bed by eleven every night.” I still want you to come over and spend time with us if we can say our goodbyes earlier in the evening.”
3. Insist on having your wishes honoured. Some family members may be resistant to boundaries without even realising it. For example, you could request that a family member respect a certain boundary. They comply the majority of the time, but occasionally violate the boundary you requested. In these situations, it is critical to reiterate your request.
Allow yourself to feel guilty or to question the legitimacy of the boundary you want to see maintained. If necessary, repeat your request.
Sticking to the boundaries you request will keep you from feeling taken advantage of or unheard, and will help your relationships with the relevant family members remain positive.
4. Establishing boundaries one step at a time is the best way to go. Setting and maintaining boundaries is a process. It’s important to remember, especially when there are a lot of things you want to see changed, that other people’s behaviour won’t change overnight.
Make a different, less stressful request first if you are uncomfortable requesting a specific boundary you would like to see established. This can make the other person realise how important it is for them to be aware of your feelings and desires.
Begin by asking your cousin to stop parking in your driveway every time they visit, as they are obstructing the sidewalk and upsetting your neighbours.
Requests like this, with specific, straightforward reasons, are an excellent way to practise setting boundaries.
Method 3 Dealing with Pushy Family Members
1. Maintain your composure while remaining respectful. If someone continues to violate the boundaries you have asked them to respect, it is critical that you defend yourself. Of course, it’s critical to remain respectful in order to keep the peace as much as possible.
For example, you could say something like, “I’m always happy to see you David, but we need some time to ourselves tonight.” I’ll let you know the next time we have visitors.”
2. Remove yourself from an escalating conflict. Trying to establish and maintain boundaries can sometimes lead to conflict between your values and those of a family member. Furthermore, you may both become emotionally invested in arguing about your point of view, in part because you want the issue to be resolved. However, it is sometimes best to simply walk away and let things cool down.
This is especially important when a family member is resistant to discussing topics such as healthy boundaries. It may take several conversations to reach them.
Remind yourself that the anger of others is not an excuse to compromise your values. You could even say something like, “I understand you’re upset, but I’ve been very clear about how I feel about this, and I’m not going to change my mind just because you’re angry.” Let’s talk about it again when we’re all calmer.
3. Reduce the amount of time you and your partner spend together. If you are serious about maintaining a boundary, you may need to spend less time around the violating party for a while.
For example, if you’ve talked to someone about drinking less in front of your children but they continue to over-serve themselves, you may need to ask them not to visit your home and/or avoid visiting theirs.
Though it may appear cruel, giving someone time and space to decide whether they are willing to adjust their behaviour to respect a fair boundary that you request is more than fair.
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