When it comes to relationships with family, friends, partners or people in general one of the most important yet hardest things to do is to set boundaries. Over the years I’ve learned the hard way how important boundaries are for your wellbeing. However if, like me, you are hyper-sensitive (emotionally) you may find it hard to establish and maintain boundaries. You may fear upsetting the other person or making them feel rejected as you know how that feels so you sacrifice your wellbeing to keep the other person happy and comfortable even if that means you feel uncomfortable.
I recently made a friend who was very sweet, a bit too much so for me though, within the first two weeks of us meeting we were texting and calling nearly everyday and he was giving me tonnes of compliments. I felt it was too much too fast considering I’d been alone most of the year but I didn’t know how to tell him to tone it down without upsetting him and ending the friendship so I didn’t say anything but after a while I started becoming drained and stressed out as I hadn’t allowed myself some space from him and eventually I started pushing myself away emotionally and just wanting to be alone. I knew I had to make it clear to him I was unwell and needed space so I did but in a “its not you its me” kind of way where I said I just wasn’t up for socializing and was tired which was true I just didn’t mention he was making me feel that way.
The last week it got worse, something he did triggered my abandonment issues and I started to split on him, now I started to feel tension in the relationship so I put up more walls but instead of telling him how I felt about what he did I started distancing myself from him, even contemplating cutting things off with him. I was starting to feel depressed because of all this and told him I was ill but again, not that he was the cause. Then he stopped talking to me altogether, no reply to my text, no call, nothing and this really annoyed me considering he was all over me not long before and I often replied to him quickly even if I wasn’t up for talking. He seemed to not take my attempt at setting boundaries very well and cut me off completely. My BPD went through the roof as this is why I would never set boundaries in the first place, in case people took it as a sign I didn’t like them and abandoned me.
We did start talking again after the weekend, it had turned out he had to change his number and I was texting the wrong one. It was a misunderstanding on my part but it highlighted how much I struggle with looking after myself in relationships. I had gotten so bad at setting boundaries and communicating my needs that, when he seemingly stopped talking to me, I got triggered and felt it was unfair that I set aside my needs and boundaries for him but he wasn’t doing the same for me. This is an unhealthy way of thinking as people need to set boundaries and have every right to have their needs met, by giving up that right and expecting others to return the favor, I put myself in a frustrating situation.
The moral of this story is that setting boundaries is a very necessary part of relationships, yes people may not take it well and try to violate them but you have a right to feel as comfortable and happy in a relationship as the other person. In hindsight I could have started setting boundaries from the beginning; stating clearly what I was and was not comfortable with but I was scared. Nonetheless it is what would have been best for the both of us, he would have known exactly where he stood and I would feel safe. Going forward in our friendship, I’m trying to learn how to better look after myself so that I can be a better friend without denying my own needs and feelings.
If you have BPD setting boundaries may not only be about communicating your feelings, it can also be about maintaining a sense of self. One of the key symptoms of BPD is “an unstable sense of self” this is because we don’t really know who we are in the first place so when we meet someone it’s easy for us to take more than just an interest in what they like, it often gets to the point that our whole identity revolves around that person, we like what they like, care about what they care about, behave how they behave etc. In the case I’ve been talking about, with this new friend, I found myself being more affectionate and outgoing than I am usually. I love people but I’m not the type to shower them in compliments and call them things like “darling” because that’s the type of thing that makes me feel uncomfortable yet I started being more like that because my new friend was.
This was a similar case for many of my friendships before this one, I was always who they needed me to be. Someone to provide shelter, someone to vent to, someone to make jokes with, someone to provide gifts and love or someone who was always on the end of the phone but I was never truly or completely me just showing sides of myself that person would bring out. Not sticking to my core self and continuously changing my behavior to fit the other person has left me feeling lonely, invalidated and confused, through no one’s fault but my own as I couldn’t draw the line between myself and the other person. Learning to set boundaries when you have bpd or identity confusion often means finding and sticking to your values and communicating what you will or won’t tolerate based on those values, thus drawing a line between who you are and who they are.
Below are some worksheets I found online that can help you, I suggest going to the linked website to get the full set of worksheets which go more in depth about finding your values and life purpose; https://tomillama.com/blog/setting-boundaries
I was going to write more on this topic such as “myths about boundaries” and tips on how to use them but this post is already quite a lot, if you want to see a part 2 of this post with advice and stuff then you can let me know by leaving a reply below, emailing me at Normalis2Mainstream@outlook.com, or tweeting me @Addict2L. Feel free to suggest any ideas for part 2 or share your story about boundaries 🙂
Thank you for reading,