Last week we talked about what marriage is and isn’t. One of the topics that come up every time we talk about relationships is boundaries. On a weekly basis, we get emails and comments that mention family and friends who are, in a word, interfering with relationships. Every week, we write people back telling them to ‘stop it’. And yet, we still get them. Is anyone listening?! We will discuss this topic again but this time, we will also provide you with what to say to people in the future.
Today, we will deal with meddling families:
1. How to deal with a family who just shows up
When you are raised in a family that lacks boundaries, you may encounter that when you are married they just show up or maybe continue to ignore your boundaries. Just showing up at your front door or barging into your home uninvited is a very common thing with these families. Any attempt to control this behavior is met with anger and outrage and usually a dose of vitriol for your spouse who obviously made you say that. Tell your family, in a respectful manner, that you and your spouse have rules. These rules include calling before showing up. If they would like to come over, please call first.
2. How to deal with a family that laughs at you when you tell them to call first
We know this happens. The first time you tried to set a boundary with a family who has none is usually met with shock and retaliation. You must stay firm. You must continue to repeat the boundary. Your growth has two ways of affecting your family of origin: you either outgrow them or force them to grow with you. In this case, reminding them that boundaries are similar to respect is important since the words may get lost in translation. Do not cave. Do not back down. Butch up and continue to set the boundaries.
3. How to deal with a family who insults your spouse
This is a major boundary violation. Many times in families that lack boundaries, saying hurtful and nasty things about people is common. Sometimes they cushion it with ‘just kidding’ or ‘just calling it like I see it’. Your response to these needs to be swift and clear. That kind of talk about your spouse is not O.K.. Walk out of the room if you need to make a point or ask them to leave your home. They must understand that being disrespectful to your spouse, even if they are not in the room, is not allowed.
4. How to deal with a family who just won’t stop
Amputation of a sick limb is drastic but necessary if a person is to survive. In families, distancing oneself from toxicity is sometimes very necessary. You are not stuck with your family. You have a choice to stay around the toxic fumes or distance yourself for your own health. In a marriage, when your family becomes so toxic that it interferes with your happiness, distance is the best remedy. We never recommend cutting anyone off but in these cases, distance and very limited communication sends the message that you mean business. You are sending a message that you are growing and changing and they can either accept and grow or be left behind.
So, to recap:
1. Set a boundary.
2. Set a boundary again.
3. Disrespect will not be tolerated
4. Distance is your friend.