Draw the Line in the Sand and Learn to Set healthy Boundaries

When I was about 11 years old, my mother gave me a button that read, “I just said no and I don’t feel guilty.” Geezzz. Setting healthy boundaries though needed and necessary is often a difficult task for most people.

Yet, let’s face it – without healthy boundaries, people find themselves in situations they wish they didn’t. They say yes when they really wanted to say no. All those “yes” responses means overextending ourselves. Healthy becomes unhealthy. Quickly.

How do we feel when we overextend ourselves? Exhausted, irritated, and angry. These feelings can lead us to not only engage in unhealthy behaviors and lifestyles but take our anger out on others in an attempt to quell that internal simmering anger and irritability at ourselves for not saying no when given the opportunity.

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Because I used to be one of those people, until I wasn’t (well, not perfectly but no longer have a need for that button!), I truly understand the challenges and the guilt that often accompanies saying no and standing up for yourself.

In addition to time, practice, patience, determination, and an investment in yourself, concrete action steps are necessary to setting necessary and healthy boundaries. Saying no and setting boundaries in small doses is a skill that can be developed.

1. Move yourself to the top of  list. That’s right. Honor your schedule, needs, and values. Know what they are. Equally important, know what they are not. I realize there are times times when we have to do something even if we don’t want to. We cannot escape all of those times. But even those times need limitations. Get in the habit of when asked to do something, ask yourself if this something that you want to do or feel you should do? Big difference.

2. Examine your motive. Have you thought about why you always say yes to things that you really want to say no to? Do you struggle with someone being upset with you if you set a boundary? Are you afraid they might not like you if you say no to them? Why do you continue to say yes to things?

We are all motivated and driven by different things. Find out what drives your behaviors and examine your feelings attached to those behaviors. The answer may just surprise you. Is this a fear, feeling or a fact? Most likely a fear or feeling. Think about it.

3. Hit the pause button and take five. Hit the pause button by not allowing yourself to do your usual “knee jerk” response of yes. Stop and think. Again, is this something that you want to do or feel you should do. Would it be so bad to take a few minutes and telling that person that you will get back to them once you check your schedule? Do you have to answer them at that moment? Probably not. Think about it. And then get back to them.

Giving yourself the necessary time and space to make a rational, not emotional decision is a game changer. A decision that in the end will make you feel empowered – even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment. Eventually it will.

4. No backpedaling!. Honor your initial response of saying no and don’t change your mind based on feeling guilty because they will get used to that behavior and expect it again.

What to expect. Spoiler alert! It ain’t always pretty. 

1.) Some backlash from people who are surprised by your change in behavior. After all, you are changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game without giving them notice. Your “no” will come as a surprise. Their reaction, most likely in displayed agitation OR silence, will speak volumes about how they feel about your response. They want to keep doing the same dance with you. It serves a purpose – for them. Don’t give in.

2. Recognize that feeling bad or “guilty” for setting boundaries – especially in the beginning- is normal. Expect it, recognize it, and learn how to move past it. Initially, people feel they are doing something wrong, by not saying yes. But you are not. You are taking responsibility for your life, your decisions, your path, your time.

3. Expect the ol’ change takes time. Yes it does. Don’t expect that setting boundaries will occur naturally, quickly, or overnight. You will have many fits and starts. That’s ok. Patience is key. Staying true to your investment in this change is key.

4. Remember, when you start setting boundaries, people will be put off by this and will likely ask you again with the hope that you will change your mind. Based on your previous behaviors they probably counted you “in” before they got your official answer. Can you blame them? Don’t you do the same to others? That’s ok. Stay true to what you want to do.

Many people struggle with setting their own boundaries. When a person starts to set healthy boundaries its a reminder to those who don’t, that they don’t.

Eventually, you will get to a place where you can say, “No button needed!” and will feel more comfortable drawing the line in the sand.

young sporty woman runing and jumping on meadow

Finding Your Way Back From Financial Infidelity

couple having a problem

Equally damaging to a relationship as any other type of infidelity, financial infidelity weds a deep sense of betrayal and deceit with a profound loss of trust. It shakes the foundation of a relationship.

Secret purchases on credit cards, borrowing money from a bank account or credit card, stashing money, and incurring debt unbeknownst from a partner or spouse, creates the web of financial infidelity.

Yet, it’s not just about secretly spending and hiding money. That would be too easy. It is much more complicated.

To understand the present, you must understand the past.

A person’s relationship with money – what money means to them, were they raised with money, how their parents spent and viewed money, how much they have or don’t, the amount and type of debt (credit cards, bank loans, student loans), if they are a spender or a saver, their income, both past and present, how they view their disposable income (if they have it or not) and how decisions are made about purchases, both big and small is integral to understanding financial infidelity.

The deep sense of shame they feel because of their secretive behaviors is the foundation of the infidelity. Shame is a powerful and painful emotion. Shame says I am bad person. I am flawed. Its these same feelings of shame keeps a person stuck in the vicious cycle of secrecy even though they know what they are doing is wrong.

financial papers on the table

You are not alone

Research conducted in 2012 by Self.com and Today.com who surveyed almost 24,000 men and women found:

  • Almost 50% of married adults admitted to keeping money secrets from their spouses.
  • 37% of men and 56% of women admitted to lying to their partner about money.
  • 63% of men and 70% of women agreed that being honest about money was as important as being monogamous.
  • 31% of couples had committed financial infidelity.
  • 1 in 10. That’s the ratio that people admit to having hidden credit card purchases, which have played a role in their separation or divorce, according to a report by Moneysupermarket.com and reported in the article, Secret Credit Card Spending and Divorce Linked in New Survey.

Warning signs

According to Adrian Nazari, Founder and CEO of CreditSesame.com, and further discussed in the Huffington article, Financial Infidelity: What To Do When Someone Cheats, there are three warning signs of potential financial infidelity:

  • Suspicious withdrawal,
  • Changing the topic when money issues come up,
  • A partner who wants to control the finances.

A person should also look for their partner insisting on secret passwords for online banking accounts and having separate credit cards.

Discovery and Disclosure

The awareness that the financial infidelity is much more complex and destructive than first imagined becomes more real. The betrayed partner experiences rage, intense anger, heartbreak, and immediate loss of trust for their partner. They ask:

What else could they be hiding? How could you do this to us? How could I have missed this? Am I that blind? (Blaming self) How long has this been going on? How will I be able to trust him/her again?

Getting to that place of recovery, overcoming the infidelity, and rebuilding trust is often a lengthy process but there are steps that you can take to recover and rebuild.

Steps to Recover and Rebuild Your Relationship  

1.) Full Disclosure. In other words, come clean and put your debt on the table. This entails coming clean and taking ownership of the debt and the infidelity. Apologize and mean it. A person’s willingness to examine their behaviors, take responsibility for their finances AND incurred debt and infidelity, and tackle the difficult feelings – the shame and embarrassment are vital.

2.)  Create a conversation. People vary in their relationship with and behaviors towards money. Again, ask: What is your relationship with money? What affects have your family’s relationship with money affected your relationship with money? Can you separate a want from a need? The answers create a context for understanding your partner’s relationship with money and helps provide an explanation, not necessarily an excuse.

3.) Review your budget.  I remain surprised by the number of people who have no budget (read, “fly by the seat of their pants”). They have no idea on how much money it takes to run their home, take care of their bills, and what, if any, their disposable income is.

4.) Set financial rules and goals. Make time on a regular basis to discuss money, bills, expenses, and short and long term financial goals for the future. How much can a person spend on their own – no questions asked? Who will manage the money and budget? What are the parameters for making joint versus unilateral decisions?

5.) Seek professional help. It is imperative that both people have a willingness to seek outside professional help – be it a financial counselor and/or marital therapist. You will need a third party who provides an objective viewpoint and new skills and strategies you will need to get you through the tenuous times – and there will be many.

green road sign counseling divorce

Since the infidelity didn’t occur overnight, the problems will not dissipate overnight. The pain and suffering caused by one, will be felt by both. People want the bad feelings and problems to “just go away” and resolve quickly. It doesn’t happen this way. There will be a lot of “fits and starts”, improvements yet setbacks and relapses. Expect the betrayed partner to ask the same questions – more than once or even twice.

Remember that your feelings will be all over the place and will feel like you are on a roller coaster. You are.

Where there is hope

Despite the significant damage that can be caused on the relationship due to the infidelity, it doesn’t always lead down the path of complete dissolution of the relationship. Relationships recover. People forgive. People grieve the loss, hurt, and betrayal and learn how to move on from and live with the experience. Trust eventually returns.

Over time, disclosure, greater transparency, and a willingness to share feelings – both good and bad – provides the couple with not only the ability to trust again but an openness to resolve issues together before they become significant problems. The concerted effort made by both and their willingness to communicate more honestly and openly will be rewarding with hopes of saving the relationship.

12 Signs of Emotional Abuse

iStock Man Threatening Abuse

Emotional abuse. It’s insidious how it creeps into your life. Its one of those things that at first glance, feels innocuous. In the beginning it is not uncommon for a victim to innocently ignore the infrequent snide comments and put downs. This is because they occur sporadically and are often “peppered” with random acts of kindness – leaving the victim feeling confused and unsure. Forgiveness and oversights are common.

Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.” (Smith & Segal). Isimply (or not so simply) “chips away” at how we think, value, and esteem ourselves.

However, over time the road narrows between an abuser’s acts of kindness and emotional and verbal abuse. For those who have been there, you understand because moving from victim to survivor you found youself wondering “How did that happen?” and “How did I get here?” That’s how insidious it is.

But let me make it clear. You have done nothing wrong. Abusers are just that good.

I can deeply empathize with a victim of abuse in many ways. As a therapist, its very painful to watch, to experience, to sit across from, and to absorb. As a woman, these same feelings and experiences were once part of my life. My depth of understanding reaches far. And of course, to watch this unfolds breaks my heart.

Instinctively I want to protect them from further harm and tell them to run. But unfortunately it is not that simple, though I wish it were. I know we all have our own journey. My hope is through therapy and personal introspection, the necessary steps are taken to extricate themselves from their abusive and unhealthy relationship.

Here are some common signs of Emotional Abuse (though not exhaustive).

12 Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Putting you down  – in private but often in public. This is their attempt to shame you. Projecting their feelings of low self-worth on to you.
  • Embarrassing you in public.
  • Blaming you for their abusive and unhealthy behaviors. Using the “if, then”. If you didn’t do “this” then I wouldn’t do “that”.
  • Threatening to harm you or your family. Often.
  • Calling you derogatory names. Many times.
  • Making you feel bad or guilty when you don’t consent to sexual activity. Laying guilt on you that you “should” be doing this and if you really loved me, you would be having sex with me. Or “I will have to find it elsewhere.”
  • Gaslighting. A form of psychological abuse where false information is presented to their victim to make them doubt their decisions, perceptions, and judgements in their attempt to make you seem “crazy”.
  • Making you feel like you are always doing something wrong.
  • Isolating you from your family and friends. Playing victim when you want to spend time with family and friends. Stating “we” never spend time together. “If you loved me, you would want to spend time with me.”
  • If you do go out, making multiple demands on you through numerous texts and phone calls.
  • Stalking you.
  • Threatening suicide when you attempt to break up with them – “I can’t live without you”, “I will kill myself if you break up with me”.

Learn to recognize these signs (and many more) and set yourself free! Move from being a victim to a survivor.

Helpful links: 

Domestic Violence and Abuse. 

Wheel of Power and Control.