We apply the term “boundaries” to relationships quite a bit, but do we really know what a healthy boundary actually is and how it looks like in relationships? Boundaries separate you from other people. It defines your own personal space and helps distinguish your unique identity from others. This concept is relatively easy to grasp when the other person is a casual acquaintance or a coworker. However, you may find that it’s not as easy to define the closer you are to the person, especially if it’s family. In this episode, Frederic Gobeil and Christy Whitman dive into the dynamics of creating healthy boundaries and how to maintain that within yourself, as a couple, and between family.
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Below is a transcript of the video and audio above. The paragraphs and sections are alternated between bold / not bold for ease of reading along with the video or audio.
Creating Healthy Boundaries As An Individual, Couple Or Family
We are talking about creating healthy boundaries, not only for yourself as an individual but also as a family. We’re going to get right into that because that’s one of the things that changed things for us individually as a couple and then also as a family.
Family boundaries could be on the brother or sister side or family boundary, meaning mother or mother-in-law or father or father-in-law. Often, there are situations that come up and we grow up to respect our mother. I respect my mother-in-law and my father-in-law. Sometimes we feel like we need to ask permission for certain things that happened in the couple with mothers-in-law or even my mother, for my example. I had to learn how to determine what my needs are, what my wants are, what my preferences are in order to say to my mother, “This is working out. This is not working out, mom. I need your help with this but this is when it stops. I don’t need any more help after that.” For example, we want her to babysit the kids, “We need your help from [9:00] to [3:00] and then at [3:00] go home.” She understands that at [3:00], we need our time. We need our space. We’re coming back from whatever we’re doing. We want to relax and we want to stay home and be together. It doesn’t mean after that for her to stick around and be with us. Not that we don’t love her, we do but now she understands that.
We’ve set the boundaries. It’s us that had to set the boundaries, whereas before we didn’t.
Before, I feel like she might not understand that. She might feel like we’re throwing her out. She might want to stay with us and maybe eat with us and have dinner with us. Long story short, she gets it. It’s not a question of asking permission. It’s a question of understanding what we prefer, what we want and then stating what we want.
If you have people in your life that get involved in your relationship like I know his mother and my mother-in-law, when we’re in conversations, if she’s visiting us in town and she hears us talking about Jack, our puppy, and what we need to do with him or our son, Alex, or other things, she’ll say, “What we need to do.” We’ll say, “No, that’s not we, that’s us.” We, as in you, I and Frederic, don’t need to take care of getting the dog trained. We do, it’s our dog. That’s even verbally setting boundaries that that’s not your place. It’s not what you need to be involved with. I’ve had to say that to my mom too. She’s like, “We need to do something about,” I’m like, “No, mom, this isn’t we. This is a Frederic and I thing.” Parents tend to get very over-involved or bring their selves into what your family business is. It’s up to us to share what’s okay and what’s not okay.
We had my uncle who I love very much invite us over for Father’s Day celebration. He wanted to celebrate with all the fathers. The old me, out of respect for my father and respect for my mother because it’s her brother, I would have said, “Sure, we’ll go.” I said, “Let me get back to you. I need to talk to Frederic about it.” That’s a way of saying no, of being able to create a boundary. It doesn’t have to be a mean no and it doesn’t have to mean like that. It can be, “Let me get back to you. Thank you so much for the invitation. I spoke to Frederic about it and for different reasons, it didn’t feel good for us to go.” It’s not an assumption that because we’ve been invited, we have to go. Because we’ve made that boundary, I had discussed it with my mom. I said, “Because it is Father’s Day, and the boys want to celebrate with Frederic and I want to celebrate dad and other different reasons. These are the reasons we are not going to go.”
She didn’t try to talk me into it or say, “You should,” because she knows that as we’ve been going along and creating our boundaries saying, “Thank you for the invitation. That’s not going to work for us,” we stay solid in that space. We are teaching them what our boundaries are. Not only did I not get pressure from my mom to like, “Your uncle invited you. You’ve got to go. The whole family is going.” She was like, “We’re going to go.” It’s like, “Have a good time.” That feels better for us and we don’t feel obligated. I was able to call my uncle back and say, “Thank you so much for the invitation. We’ll have to get together soon. That night is not going to work for us. We’ll get you with the kids soon,” because he wants to see the kids. It’s an opportunity to stop and say, “What works for us?” Because an invitation comes in or a family thing that’s happening, it doesn’t mean you’re obligated to do those things. You could take a minute and ask yourself, “What do I feel like doing?” That was the first question before I even asked Frederic. For me, it feels like a no. I shared it with Frederic, “Here’s the situation. We’ve been invited. I feel this way. What do you think?” He was able to sit with himself. You can speak to that.
For me, what comes up is another situation. It’s more when we have big families and we’re in places where it’s Christmas time for example, where we have a lot of family members that either come into town or invite us. We’re in a situation where we’ve got two, three days of parties or family members that we’re meeting. Those boundaries of what you’re saying are listening to yourself and saying to yourself, “Do I feel like going to every one of these occasions to see all of my family members?” For some of you who have big families, you want to be with your family, I get it. Sometimes it’s good also to see what’s inside and what feels good inside. I remember you were telling me when we were in Montreal, “I’m going to take a day for myself.” I would respect that of her because she would be able to figure out that she needed to rejuvenate and get her energy back in order to continue maybe seeing the next day another part of my family or her family even.
If there are a lot of things in a row, like when we would go to Montreal for the summer, there was his mom’s birthday, then immediately after there was Father’s Day, then immediately after it was his birthday and it felt a lot. I would have to check in with myself saying, “I’m going to opt-out of this one. You have fun with your family. You have fun with your mom, doing whatever you want to do. I’m going to take a me-day.” There’s a part of us and partly maybe even inside of you like, “How could you do that? Aren’t you obligated? Your husband is going to want you there. Aren’t your mother-in-law or your father-in-law going to be upset about it?”
They will ask questions, “Where’s Christy? How come she’s not with you?”
Are they going to take it personally? It’s something that in the beginning they might be questioning because I know that happened like, “Is she not feeling well?” It was a matter of, “No, she needs to take her alone time. She needs to refuel.” When you’re coming from a place of, “I need to self-regulate. This is what’s important to me. I want to take time for myself so I’ll feel refreshed and renewed.” You’re coming from that solid place. Not a wish you will, “I think I want to but maybe,” then there’s, “She’s not sure, let’s try to talk her into it.” When I come from a place of a decision that has been already made, whether it’s with my mother-in-law or my mother that, “This is what I’m doing. You have a great time.” I’ve trained them to understand that I’m not going to be there every single time, all the time because I need to self-regulate. Sometimes it feels good to participate in other times it doesn’t. That’s how we create healthy boundaries.
The love is still there. It doesn’t mean that her love is not there anymore. There’s no anger that’s with it there. There’s no resentment that is with it. It’s taking care of yourself.
Family boundaries are important because it’s important to understand that even in your own family dynamic with your kids, with each other, to be able to sit with, “This is a yes for me and this is a no for me.” The way you know that is if it’s a yes like, “I’m excited about doing that,” then go for it, do it. What we’ve learned from Karen Wilson is if there’s a little no, then it’s a no. If there’s a little question about it, then follow that insight, follow that guidance. Listen to what that no is. For me, when my uncle asked, I’m like, “That’s a little no. I’m going to sit with that.” The more I discovered it, I’m like, “That isn’t a little no, it’s a big no.” The more I allowed myself to feel that and it wasn’t about my uncles by their situations. For him to sit with it too like, “That doesn’t feel good.” We are able to come to that conclusion.
That’s not my preference. I prefer to be with my son and I prefer to be with celebrating with her. I’m going to call my father, I’m going to be busy anyways during that day. For me, to celebrate it, I want to celebrate it with my immediate family. That feels good for me.
Permit yourself to speak your truth. I see this with my clients all the time and we see that when the couples that we coach in our coaching coupling and the programs in our retreats, is that the wife or the husband or someone in the couple is afraid to say how they feel. They’re afraid of the reaction of the other person. For example, in the past if I would have said, “My uncle invited us to this party or whatever with all the uncles and cousins and everybody, do you want to go?” He felt no inside. He felt, “It’s my day,” but he didn’t communicate that to me. He held that inside and thought, “She’s probably going to want to go. I’m just going to say that’s fine.” He’s not true to himself. We end up going and there could be some passive-aggressive sideways anger or something that comes out.
We don’t have to answer someone right there and then. We can say, “Let me think about that. Let me get back to you. Thank you for the offer. Let me see how that fits in my schedule.” There are lots of different ways to create space for yourself so that you can have the time to think and feel about the invitation or what’s being offered or the decision that you have to make. Give yourself enough respect. Honor yourself enough. Honor your couple enough to take that space and decide for yourself. Does this feel like a yes? Are we moving in the direction of yes or does this feel like a no? Is there a little bit of a no in there? If there is a no, then let’s discover this. The third thing is being honest with yourself, with your partner and saying, “I would prefer to be with my family. I would prefer not to do that,” whatever it is. You discuss this with preferences.
You are a couple of, we are a couple, but it’s not automatic that we have to do things everything together. We still are individuals that have their own needs that have their views on things. We still have to talk about whether each one of us wants to do what we all have planned to do. There were some times where she would tell me, “I don’t feel like going.” Sometimes I would respond to her like, “I want you with me in that space.” We would try and see what would work because I wanted to spend some time with her there. Maybe it’s like, “I’ll come over for an hour or two with you so that we can be together.” For her to take some time afterward with herself to re-energize, then she’ll leave after a couple of hours. In that, we had our communication and we felt good. We felt heard by one another.
You bring up a good point. He is himself like there’s a place where he begins and then there’s the energy between us. Even if we’re touching, I am still a separate entity. There are some couples that I know they do that with celebrities where the couples try to fuse their names together. We’re not two individuals that come into a couple and become one. He still is Frederic. I’m still Christy. I get to keep my name. He gets to keep his. We’re Frederic and Christy and we’re two separate total units with our own unique divine flowing through us, with our own unique experiences, preferences, wants and desires.
We have this beautiful energy that is between us and what we individually send out and into the relationship by the thoughts that we think and the emotions that we have. It comes back to us. That’s the third entity that we create as a couple. We’re not fused as one. That’s what we both learned. I remember growing up and we would go to an ice cream shop. The guy would say to my dad, “What do you want?” He would look at my mom and go, “What are you having?” She said, “I’m having chocolate chip.” He’d go, “I’ll have a chocolate chip.”
It’s a total fusion. That fusion, as Karen Wilson talks about, it is part of being in the drama triangle and it creates more drama. It creates stickiness. It doesn’t create a sense of freedom at all. You’re stuck in roles. You have to remember that you get to express how you feel, but before you do that, you have to take the time with yourself to ask yourself, “How do I feel about that? Give me a moment to think about that. What do I prefer? What would I want?” When you’re coming from that place and you can communicate it, not like, “Would you be okay?” It’s like, “I’d prefer to go for an hour and then take my own car and then I’ll leave when I want to. Does that work for you?”
“Yes it does or it doesn’t work for me. I would rather you come over and be with me.” There’s no drama in it as well. We could talk about it together. That’s the important part. If you want to have answers to your questions about family boundaries, if you want to know more, if you want to have the steps of how to recognize these family boundaries and the family drama together that’s associated sometimes with it all, go to ConnectedCoupling.com. Fill out our forms and we’ll get back to you.
The last thing I want to leave with is that it’s okay to be in a place of healthy selfish. We’re taught that we can’t be selfish. That means don’t only think about yourself. Healthy selfish is having enough time to honor yourself, to respect yourself, to feel yourself, to know yourself, to self-regulate. That’s a healthy selfish. We must do that first, starting with ourselves, in order for our couple to be healthy, our finances to be healthy, our careers to be healthy. Everything is an extension of ourselves and our deepest connection to our divine-self. Even taking time to connect with your divine-self is a healthy selfish. Practice being in the space of healthy selfish, self-love and communicate what you want. That is in the way of taking action from that place of honoring, respecting and loving yourself.
Speak your truth in an honest and loving way. That can be done.
In the next episode, we’re going to be talking about what to do with the kiddos. One of the things that have come up with our audience is asking us to talk about what do you do when kids get bullied? How do we handle it as a conscious couple? What are the steps that we take to resolve these types of things? How do kids have their own dramas? They have their own contrasts that they are going through. What do you do as conscious parents to support them but not be sucked into their whole stories? Go to ConnectedCoupling.com for more information. Thank you so much. We truly hope that these episodes are helping you move along in your consciousness, awareness, love and connection.
See you at the next show.