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Boundaries Don't Have to Mean Cutting Someone Off

May 19, 2023
Drawing of an isolated, lonely person

Boundaries often get a bad rap. Some people misunderstand their purpose and assume that setting boundaries is about selfishness, cutting people off, or ending relationships. But that's not the case. Boundaries are in the service of love and relationships. They are about creating an environment in which love can thrive and grow, not about putting an end to every love relationship. Let's explore this concept further.

When we don't have boundaries in our relationships, we may experience pain and suffering, often feeling controlled or manipulated. One of the most common scenarios where this occurs is between adult children and their parents. The adult child, who may have grown up under a controlling and enmeshed family dynamic, might decide to completely cut off contact with their family, thinking they've now established boundaries. However, this is a reactive response, not a proactive one.

Reactive boundaries are when we end relationships just because we're in pain, have had enough, or can't take it anymore. In some cases, this might be necessary due to abuse or extreme toxicity. But in many situations, a better approach would be to work on establishing boundaries within the relationship instead of ending it entirely.

It takes courage to engage in the conflict that may arise from setting boundaries within a relationship. It involves stepping up and expressing our feelings, wants, and needs – not just bailing someone out or giving in to their demands. Boundaries are about giving ourselves and others the chance to reconcile, communicate, and work through issues.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of someone claiming to set boundaries and then cutting you off without giving you a chance to reconcile, know that this is not what boundaries are truly about. And if you're the one doing this, it's essential to understand that this approach doesn't serve you or your relationships. By avoiding conflict and not building the necessary skills to set boundaries within relationships, you'll be ill-equipped for future relationships.

The process of setting boundaries within a relationship is a progression. It involves talking, establishing physical boundaries, confronting and resolving problems, giving choices and consequences, and sometimes even involving other people. Just like diplomacy in international relations, we don't jump straight to "war" – we first attempt to resolve boundary issues in a peaceful manner.

Boundaries serve to purify and protect relationships, allowing love to flourish. While you cannot control another person, you can influence them to change. But this influence only occurs when you stand up to what needs to be changed. Reactive boundaries might offer temporary relief, but working on boundaries within relationships is the key to long-lasting, healthy connections.

Boundaries are not about cutting people off or ending relationships. They are about protecting love and ensuring that it can grow and thrive. Instead of resorting to reactive boundaries, let's strive to establish and maintain boundaries within our relationships, ultimately preserving and enriching our connections with those we love.

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