Constructing and maintaining healthy boundaries is vital to our mental health. This doesn’t mean it won’t make you feel weird and even a little extra sometimes, but this is because most of us were raised to believe that any kind of self-care is selfish.
And it’s not easy to quell that inner voice, but it’s worth the time and effort to do so.
That fear is understandable, especially if you expect pushback from your people, but it’s essential for your well-being to set boundaries. Learning how to set boundaries is a form of self-care.
Without boundaries, you may feel taken advantage of or imposed upon. To avoid that, you’re prioritizing your own comfort over the comfort of others, and that’s more than OK to do.
Maintaining a healthy emotional space is crucial for your mental well-being. Using these phrases will help you set boundaries with your partner, friends, coworkers, and even strangers.
Here are a few phrases you can use to set and fortify your boundaries in a relationship.
This simple little two-lettered word is the undisputed king of boundary markers.
And remember that ‘no’ is a full sentence. ‘No’ is your answer, full stop. No elaboration is required.
When my kids were small, I crafted a sign for our kitchen bearing the slogan, ‘No means no.’ I don’t know what they hated more, that plaque or me singing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” while pointing at it.
It’s important to refuse things that don’t align with your values, or that you lack the time or energy to deal with. Learning how to say no can help you avoid feeling resentful and maintain a healthy balance in all of your relationships.
Learn to say no, and say goodbye to engaging in activities you don’t enjoy, like lending money to people who don’t pay you back, spending more than you really should on stuff you didn’t want to do in the first place, and going places that make walking hot coals look like a good time.
So, master the fine art of saying no, and never get sucked into babysitting or going to a movie you know you’ll hate ever again. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
2) “Let’s just agree to disagree”
There comes a time in every long, drawn-out debate that you just have to accept that neither party is budging and any middle ground will remain uncharted territory.
I’ll be honest. I start to get bored by that point, so I’ve learned to say: “I value your opinion, but I’m not willing to change my mind on this,” before my disdain becomes all too obvious.
Life’s too short to bust a gut trying to move an immovable force. Being an immovable force myself on certain issues, I know exactly how futile that is.
3) “Let’s take a break and come back to this”
Your patience is shot, at least for the moment. You have two choices. You can either:
- Escalate the situation and refuse to concede that you’re simply not getting anywhere, or
- Make the conscious decision to back burner the issue temporarily so both parties can pause and reflect.
If you’re both deadlocked and it’s essential that you reach some sort of compromise, you’ll need to be brave, grasshopper.
Your partner’s solution is that you should just give in. You feel pretty much the same way, only it’s your partner waving the white flag in your mind.
Clearly, you both have work to do.
Try to hammer out a mutually acceptable agreement in good faith. Be ready to give a few inches to eventually gain a few yards.
4) “I’m not obligated to explain myself to anybody”
This is one of my favorite boundary markers because it’s fun to watch some people’s heads explode when you won’t make them the exception to that rule.
After I grew up, saying this to my mother drove her up the wall. And I probably took more delight in that than I should’ve.
But no matter how you slice it, it’s no less true. You’re an adult, and therefore accountable to yourself alone. But hey, mom’s gotta mom, right?
5) “You’ve given me plenty of food for thought. Thanks.”
That sounds so much nicer than ‘please, please, please stop talking before I start screaming,’ doesn’t it?
I’d have to make a concerted effort not to let any sarcasm slip in, but that’s a ‘me’ problem. Because if you can pull it off, and with a warm smile no less, you’ve constructed yourself the perfect out.
You’ve exhibited gratitude and respect. Insincere gratitude and respect, granted, but sometimes it’s called for. And if it means maintaining your hard-won peace, it’s definitely called for.
6) “I am speaking”
It sucks to have to state the obvious, but when someone insists on interrupting or talking over you, you’re left with little choice.
Unless you’ve been performing a soliloquy and they’re just trying to get a word in edgewise, it’s perfectly appropriate to diplomatically tell your loved one to mind their manners and wait for their turn to talk.
And if you get the chance to remind them about using their indoor voices, definitely jump on it.
Creating boundaries can start with a “gut feeling” that can help you determine whether you have the time or energy to deal with the request versus when you should say “no.” You just have to stop and listen to it.
Good boundaries free you to live life on your terms, and what could be more fulfilling than that?
But always remember to treat others the same way you expect to be treated. If you insist that your partner, family, and friends respect your boundaries, make certain that you’re extending them the same courtesy.
It’s never a bad idea to check in with any of your nearest and deàrest and ask if they have the emotional space available for you to vent before you dive in.
When you behave in this manner, you’re showing people how you want to be treated. Hopefully, they’ll take the hint!