After years of seeing and helping patients with boundary issues, I began researching the topic to gain clarity and information. Many of my clients need assistance in setting clearer boundaries in relationships. They complain that they often give too much to others, feel depleted, and have trouble saying “no” to others.
For example, Nina, 50, a client of mine (fictitious name) often spends endless hours running errands for her mother, Susan, age 75. Even if she has her own work to do, or is feeling tired or overwhelmed, Nina will agree to pick up groceries for her mother, or spend time talking with her about her medical issues. She has trouble setting boundaries for fear of appearing selfish but it is having a negative impact on her job and health.
While it’s important to care for others, the way Nina does for Susan, we all need to practice self-care and learn to set healthy boundaries so we don’t become exhausted or resentful.
An expert on boundaries, therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab, took to social media to spread the word about her observations and solutions. Her post “Signs That You Need Boundaries” clearly struck a chord with her followers, but reached an even larger audience when the post went viral.
These are the Glover Tawwab’s Signs that You Need Boundaries:
- You feel overwhelmed.
- You feel resentment toward people for asking for your help.
- You avoid phone calls and interactions with people you think might ask for something.
- You make comments about helping people and getting nothing in return.
- You feel burned out.
- You frequently daydream about dropping everything and disappearing.
- You have no time for yourself.
In processing the “overwhelming response,” Glover Tawwab wrote that her “posts online show me how much people relate to the need for boundaries.” Indeed, she had tapped into a relatable dynamic in the lives of so many people and couples, and her pragmatic, straightforward approach led her to host weekly Q&As on Instagram where she is able to interact directly with a wide audience.
The response to her posts seemed to give a sort of permission to people looking to unpack and understand their boundary issues in a new, healthy and constructive way. Moreover, it unlocked the power of recognizing our shared experiences, demonstrating how much we can learn about ourselves by learning about others.
Glover Tawwab presented boundary issues in approachable terms, highlighting the fact that we all have “triumphs and fails” in our journey toward building and sustaining healthy relationships. She discussed the difficulties and risks in setting limits in our lives, but successfully reframed those scary hurdles by focusing on the positive impact of setting boundaries.
Her philosophy is simple and gives people the tools and perspective to view the practice of setting boundaries in a positive light. While establishing healthy boundaries might be uncomfortable — even painful — at first, Glover Tawwab provided clarity around the end result, showing her followers the light at the end of the tunnel.
Being mindful of effective and honest communication, self-evaluation, and the realities of taking action on setting boundaries both big and small, Glover Tawwab provided a sort of checklist to recognize boundary issues (“You feel overwhelmed,” or “You feel resentment toward people asking for your help,” for example).
But in addition to helping her followers recognize the telltale signs of boundary issues, Glover Tawwab also broke down the ways in which the setting of boundaries is easier to achieve. Ultimately, when writing recently about her Instagram experience on Maria Shriver’s website, this seasoned therapist put this all-too-common problem in perspective: “People don’t know what you want. It’s your job to make it clear. Clarity saves relationships.”
As with her philosophy and strategies for helping patients, clarity indeed rules the day. In the end, Glover Tawwab distills the hope that we all need in the emotionally wrought and often challenging process of setting boundaries, writing that “the more you do it, the easier it gets — especially when you experience the peace of mind that follows.”
Working with individuals with boundary issues, my take away from Glover Tawwab’s valuable insights is that becoming clearer about our own boundary issues is the first step in change. For many people, it’s a life long journey that’s worth the effort. For instance, in my work with Nina, I’ve facilitated her process of setting boundaries and still being a loving daughter to her mother Susan, but it’s a work in progress.
Find Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry