For many men, boundaries are a significant issue – or more specifically, a lack of boundaries.
This is likely due in part to the fact that a lot of men – especially Nice Guys – don’t actually know what boundaries are. Even Dr. Robert Glover, a marriage and family therapist and the author of No More Mr. Nice Guy, frequently admits that he’d never even heard of boundaries until he found himself in a therapy session, trying to figure out how to navigate his second marriage.
When we were children, adults could do whatever they wanted to us, and we couldn’t stop them. We were helpless, even when people used us, abused us, or neglected us. And quite often, the people who treated us the worst were the very people who were put on this planet to take care of us.
Most of us grow up having no idea what personal boundaries are, let alone how to set and maintain them.
Many of us associate love with being treated badly. Nice Guys in particular think they must put up with shit to get love.
RULES FOR SETTING BOUNDARIES
Most men overthink the concept of setting boundaries. But setting a boundary doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be done simply and eloquently.
Dr. Glover lays out two primary rules for setting boundaries:
- Boundaries are not about getting anyone else to be different; they’re about getting you to be different.
- Your power to set a boundary is determined by your willingness and ability to remove yourself from a bad situation.
As a child, you never really had the ability to remove yourself from a bad situation. As an adult, you almost always have the ability to remove yourself. It’s more likely that you’re not willing.
If you’re not willing to remove yourself, you have no power.
“A lot of men are afraid to set boundaries because it feels unnatural and because they’re afraid someone will react negatively,” explains Dr. Glover.
“But if you’re conscious, if you’re in your higher masculine self, you can set boundaries with love and integrity. And the more conscious you are, the more elegant and inviting your boundaries will be. The most loving boundaries lead others into their own higher consciousness and into deeper connection with you.”
When men first learn to set boundaries, they often come on too strong or become what Dr. Glover calls a “kamikaze boundary setter.” But you can avoid this by simply staying conscious.
If you don’t take things personally and you’re not attached to an outcome, you can set boundaries from a truly loving place.
Boundaries, by the way, actually make it possible for people to get closer to each other.
“Think about it,” insists Dr. Glover. “If you don’t have boundaries, you basically have two options. You can avoid people altogether. Or you can build walls for protection. Neither one lets people get close to you.”
When setting boundaries, don’t defend yourself. It makes you appear and feel weak. You shouldn’t have to convince someone not to treat you like shit. Nor should you have to convince someone that it’s okay for you to do something that feels right to you.
The beauty of being an adult is that you get to do what you want. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a discussion or agree on a compromise. But decide what feels right to you and hold onto it.
If you are anything like I was, then you are probably racking your brain over how the hell to set boundaries. And you are probably overthinking it.
While setting boundaries may initially make you uncomfortable, it isn’t complicated.
There is no “right way” to set boundaries. Different situations may call for different boundaries. You get to decide when and how to set boundaries, and which boundaries to set.
That said, here are some examples of boundaries that you can use for reference:
Clear, Non-Judgmental Statements:
- Please don’t do that, it makes me uncomfortable.
- I’m going to hang up the phone now. Call me back when you’re in a better mood.
- If you want to hang out with me, you’ll need to…
- Let’s wrestle.
- Let’s dance.
- Come here, I need to tell you a secret.
Validating Another’s Point of View:
- I know you’d like me to stay home with you, but I’m going to hang out with the guys for a few hours. I like knowing you’ll miss me.
- I know there’s still work to be done, but I’m going home now. When I get back tomorrow, you’ll have my undivided attention.
Expressing Vulnerability that Invites Them into Higher Consciousness:
- Ouch, that hurts. Did you mean it to?
- When you do that, it does damage to your relationship. Is that what you want?
PROFESSIONAL BOUNDARY INVADERS
It’s important to remember that everyone has a shitty day. Occasionally, you may need to cut people some slack. But if someone consistently treats you badly, then you might be dealing with what Dr. Glover calls a Professional Boundary Invader.
Professional Boundary Invaders are often the people who are closest to you. It is likely a fused relationship from which you don’t believe you can remove yourself.
You can tell that you’re dealing with a Professional Boundary Invader if:
- They argue with every one of your boundaries.
- They justify their invasive and inappropriate behavior.
- They seem confused as to why you even have an issue with their behavior.
- They push through every boundary you set as if you never set it. (They might act as though you never even set one.)
- They are oblivious to double standards.
- They act like they are being victimized when you don’t let them victimize you.
If you believe you’re dealing with a Professional Boundary Invader, know that you can, in fact, remove yourself from the relationship. And you should.
“Get the hell away from Professional Boundary Invaders,” insists Dr. Glover. “Surround yourself with people who love you and who treat you well. Don’t hang around people who treat you badly. Life’s too damn short.”
GET BETTER AT SETTING BOUNDARIES
Keep in mind that almost all self-development work – particularly recovering from the Nice Guy Syndrome – is a lifelong journey. It’s a process. It requires practice. The same goes for setting boundaries. And that’s okay.
Here are some exercises to help you get better at setting boundaries:
- Where in your life do you fail to set boundaries? How has this served you? Write your answers in your journal.
- Do you have professional boundary invaders in your life? If so, write about them in your journal.
- Do you spend time with people who treat you badly? If so, write about them in your journal.
- Start setting necessary boundaries with love and integrity. Choose one or two of the boundary example above.
- Talk to a safe person (or people) about your experience setting boundaries. Ask for feedback.
When you get better at setting boundaries in your relationships, your relationships will get better.
Learn much more about boundary setting inside Integrated Man University. Get started with this free training.
Tony Endelman is an author, blogger, entrepreneur, certified transformational life coach, certified No More Mr. Nice Guy Coach and the founder of The Integrated Man Cave.