I had a client recently who was struggling to set boundaries with their parents. They loved them, but found it difficult to say no and disappoint them. The boundary issue extended to other relationships as well- they felt guilty about not being able to help friends when they asked for favors. This struggle is common among people who have grown up in families where healthy boundaries were never modeled or taught. Boundary issues can lead us down the path of chronic guilt, resentment, anger and anxiety. This blog will help understand 5 common signs of unhealthy boundaries and how I help clients every day in with counseling in Tampa.
You can’t build better boundaries without understanding the signs of unhealthy ones, so let’s dive into 5 common problems I hear from my counseling clients every single day.
Feeling like your partner is controlling you
The feeling of being controlled by your partner is a sure sign that you are not setting or enforcing healthy boundaries. In order to successfully set and maintain good boundaries, it’s important for both people in the relationship to take responsibility for their own feelings and behaviors. Some common signs of your partner controlling you include:
– Being afraid to say ‘no’ or speak up about what you don’t want because of fear that your partner will get mad, yell at you, or threaten to leave
– Feeling like the relationship is one sided and they are always giving more than receiving
– Humiliation caused by a partner who criticizes them in front of family, friends, co-workers or even on social media.
Feeling like you have to apologize for everything
When you feel like you have to tip toe around other people’s feelings, it can make you feel like you’re not allowed to have your own. This is a common problem that many of my clients struggle with when they come for counseling. It starts out innocently enough; all we want to do is be nice and get along, but what happens over time is you begin to lose a sense of self. This can make you feel taken advantage of and cause a heavy emotional burden on yourself.
A lot of people think that setting boundaries means you’re not a nice person, but it’s just the opposite. You have to be strong enough to know what your needs are and ask for them so that everyone can get along in life instead of feeling like they’re being taken advantage of or walking on eggshells all the time.
Being afraid of what might happen if you say no
When you don’t feel heard it can be difficult to connect with a partner, co-worker or friend. Even worse is when you’re afraid what that person will do if you happen to say no.
If someone refuses or ignores the boundaries you’ve estabilished, don’t feel obligated in any way. These feelings can come from deep emotional trauma or simply by how we were talked to as a child by our parents (even if they did everything right).
You have a right to set boundaries and you always deserve respect when it comes to what happens next.
Having a hard time setting boundaries with others in general, not just one person
The first step is to start recognizing when somebody keeps crossing your boundaries, even if you don’t have a hard time putting them in place. If your relationships tend to be difficult or dramatic, that can be a very clear sign that boundary crossing is happening.
Some people have a hard time setting boundaries because they are scared to let go. They don’t want to push the person away or lose them altogether, even if it’s difficult. That can be especially true in romantic relationships where there is infatuation and dependency at play. But regardless of why you struggle with boundaries, this doesn’t need be the case. Working with a counselor can help you gain tools and strategies to both understand why you are having trouble with boundaries in your relationships and also to better implement those boundaries.
Constantly feeling guilty about something that happened in the past and can’t let it go
It can be difficult to let go of the past and move on with your life. The feeling of guilt can be overwhelming and it may haunt you for years to come.
If you find yourself constantly beating yourself up about something that happened in the past, here are some ways to set healthier boundaries so these feelings don’t linger:
- Do a brain dump journal nightly
- Engage in activities that make you feel happy and fulfilled
- Use a journal to write about the event from different perspectives or as someone else would see it
- Journaling can be beneficial for processing emotions, stress relief, reconnection with your body (and others), motivation and problem-solving. It may also help reduce feelings of guilt, shame and neglect.
Take the Next Step
If you’re ready to explore anxiety therapy, our counselors in Tampa will be happy to chat with you about your goals and the path that best suits them. We’ll work together to identify what’s most important for you and help get on track for success.
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