If you've felt hurt in a relationship before, you've probably wondered, "How can I avoid getting hurt again?" Or even, "How can I have healthy relationships when there has been a history of conflict?" If you’ve recently reconciled a relationship, healthy boundaries are a way to keep your relationship from falling back into negative or unhealthy patterns of conflict.
For example, you may want to be close to your mom or your mother in law, but they can't help but give you unsolicited advice that makes you feel like a failure. Or, maybe you're the parent and your kid is now an adult, and they're making choices you do not agree with. How can you show your love and support while not compromising your convictions or starting more conflict?
3 PRACTICAL BOUNDARIES
You can think of healthy boundaries as guardrails for your relationship. What does a good guardrail do? It keeps cars from falling in the ditch! Maybe you had a relational smash-up this year, and you repaired it... but a guardrail or healthy boundary with that person will help keep it from steering off course again.
When considering healthy boundaries, ask yourself: What is the wisest thing for you to do in order to direct and protect this relationship? Here are three practical boundaries to get you started.
#1: STOP SAYING YES WHEN YOU WANT TO SAY NO
The first relational boundary you can set is to stop saying yes when you want to say no. The thing is, we often say yes when we want to say no because we think it is the nice thing to do. But in Matthew 13:53-59, we see that even Jesus had boundaries with his hometown of Nazareth. But Jesus wasn't always nice - so you don't always have to be, either!
The people of Nazareth thought they knew Jesus. But they knew Jesus as the carpenter's son. They didn't know Jesus the Messiah. Nazareth's cynical spirit meant they missed out on many miracles. In fact, Scripture says that the people even took offense at him. All that to say, Jesus never walked on eggshells or worried about upsetting people. He didn't cling inappropriately to them for approval. He knew when to say no.
#2: ENGAGE IN DIFFERENTIATION
The next boundary you can set will help give you the ability to pause, notice what others are feeling, and avoid getting into the same emotional state as the other person. This is engaging in differentiation, which is the ability to not become reactive to the emotions of others. For example, if a married couple is able to differentiate, it will help them remain close to each other without becoming reactive against each other during a conflict. They may never agree on certain topics - but if they can differentiate, they would still be able to listen to each other with empathy and try to understand each others' perspective.
In Matthew 13, when the people of Nazareth took offense at Jesus, we don't see Jesus' emotions spill over. He seems to remain calm and he simply acknowledges that "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home." (Verse 57). Likewise, it's not your responsibility to carry, absorb or even react to other peoples' emotional outbursts over difficult situations.
#3: GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION
Last but not least, to have healthier relationships, you'll need to give yourself permission to have needs, to embrace your limits, and to ask for what you want or need from people that are close to you. The truth is, you have thoughts and feelings that matter. Part of what makes relationships remain healthy is to speak honestly to people and share your voice when you need to. You may even give yourself permission to reassess some of the boundaries or fences that you set up, depending on the relationship.
We pray this message encourages you and helps on your journey towards relationship rehab!
To continue learning, check out the below related content and resources from Liquid Church:
- ARTICLE: Owning Your Role In A Conflict - We can always find something to confess when it comes to repairing relationships. Click here to read on.
- MESSAGE: Cancel Culture - When someone says something offensive, it's easy to get triggered. But Jesus models for us how to live in the tension. Click here to watch or listen.
- ARTICLE: How To Repair A Relationship. What relationships in your life are in need of some rehab? Click here to read on.