We all have people we wish we could delete from our lives but just can’t. Whether it be ex-husbands who we share kids with or your in-laws that are unavoidable, how have you set boundaries in order to maintain distance (and your own sanity!) in the face of having to keep them in your life?
It's so good to stop and reflect at how far I've come with this - mine is around treating them how they treat me. 2-3 years ago in therapy I started to notice how certain people who are unavoidably in my life expected to be treated by me, when they don't ever extend that consideration and treatment to me. As we don't live near each other a lot of it is around phone & message communication, so the first thing is I realised they only get in touch when they need/want something from me, and relied on me to keep in touch aside from that, so now I only get in touch when I have to, and if they want to know more about my life & family they have to make an effort.
Also practicing not apologising for not showing up in the way they want me to show up in their lives. I realised I've been conditioned to mindread (and still so often get it wrong) so if they need or want something from me, or have a problem with how we're communicating, it's their responsibility to bring it up.
One more is that one of these people has a habit of every so often telling me they need to speak to me "urgently" when it's their sense of urgency, as opposed to something that is actually urgent. I'm ADHD myself, and they're neurodivergent too, and so I can very much relate to the feeling of urgency and feeling like you need to know/settle something asap. However I've learned that while it might be uncomfortable, when I have that sense of urgency in myself it is my responsibility to manage, not someone else's responsibility to respond to. So I am trying really hard (nearly four decades of conditioning to unlearn!!!) to catch myself out when they say something is urgent and to not drop everything, but to show myself the respect I show to others and respond in my own time.
One of my biggest ones I made last year was asking for friends to stop talking to me about having children. I’m single by choice and kids just aren’t on the horizon and I’m good with that. I love children but I’ve never had that urge to have my own, so I enjoy my friends kids instead 😊 I explained that I knew they were coming from a place of love and wanting to see me happy but that it was grating on me having to explain myself so often. They apologised and haven’t had it come up since 🙌
Growing up my parents had huge boundaries with my grandma (my dad’s mom). We had a “secret” phone number so she couldn’t call us (90s things), she was not allowed to visit us and my dad, sister and I would visit her biweekly but my mom was no contact with her. That was a consequence of boundaries not being respected (that part happened before I was aware of anything so I don’t know all the details but she would drop by unannounced all the time and expect my parents to drop whatever they were doing, give gifts and sweets to us children when they had asked her not to and I’m sure maany other things for them to enforce the consequences.. but in the memory that I was aware of that was how it was no exceptions until she died).
My husband and I moved to a different state to get some distance from family and work on creating our own life together. Within 2 months of us moving, my in laws put their house on the market and moved 30 minutes away from us without talking to us about it first. It’s hard because my father in law is gone for work months at a time so my mother in law often relies on my husband to take care of house projects and be there for every holiday and things since she’s alone. I wrote her and my father in law a letter and explained my reasoning for wanting to live out of state. I don’t speak for my husband, but I am going to continue to live as though I’m in a different state, visiting on occasion and planned on advance. I explained I can’t show up for them in the ways I might have previously and I need to figure out my life separately with just my husband. They weren’t happy and there was definitely push back and manipulation. But it felt empowering speaking up for what I wanted.
My SO's oldest friend is stressful and nearly always ends up being drama whenever we interact (with both my SO and me). More recently the friend has been reaching out to me for advice or to be a sounding board, which ends up being prolonged text conversations, even after I've tried to exit them. It's a small solution but I've muted their chats so I don't get any push notifications. So now I only see and engage when I intentionally check for their messages, and am not getting wound up with a false sense of energy due to the barrage of stress inducing chat pings and messages.
When you try to set boundaries, there are always chances to break them. Countries have boundaries that can be broken by invading. Boundaries can be set up for the land just for administrative purposes, but not with human minds. So instead of creating boundaries, you can accept people as they are. You don’t have to judge them. Simply coexist without imparting your wants onto them. This is my personal view.
I work with a girl I've known since high school and we've always been close. But after 18+ years of friendship, my therapist helped me realize how toxic she is. I limited our interactions to bare minimum and now see her only at work. When she's trying to pull me into her drama at work, I excuse myself to my work duties.