We are talking Personal Boundaries…essentially,- these are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. -Wikipedia
What no one ever explains to us is that by setting personal boundaries you are going to ruffle a few feathers. Toxic people, especially, do not like people that have boundaries and they become quite persistent as well as abusive when boundaries are set. It may start off as something innocent such as them making you feel bad about not being able to help them with something that they are quite capable of doing without your assistance or it may be something much more dangerous such as actual physical abuse. The fact remains that toxic people are manipulative and if we are honest with ourselves we can probably think of a time or two when we may have been the toxic person in a relationship.
I don’t think anyone ever intentionally decides to be a toxic person but lets face it life is messy and shit happens and we aren’t always at our best, which could be why most of us end up with a toxic person in our life. We innocently come across one (or they come across us) and we think “something is off with this,” but we shrug it off and think “nah, this person is just having a bit of bad luck.” You may have even thought to yourself; “I’ve been there, done that and snapped out of it. This person just needs a bit of support.”
There are several types of Toxic People and therefore, I am going to break this segment on Boundaries down to the main types of TP’s and suggestions on how to deal with them.
The Time Waster:
We are talking about your time not theirs. They seem to have all the time in the world if you can see past their frenzied muppet on acid antics and schedule. Time wasters always seem to be helping others and so it is easy for them to rope you into things. You may have met at a social function got to talking and found out that you both have to be in the same neighborhood at the same time…someone suggests carpooling or meeting for a coffee. Next thing you know you have spent an entire day running around doing all sorts of things and none of it was what you needed to get done and to add insult to injury you have been roped into hosting a get together or working an event that you aren’t even associated with.
Time wasters talk a lot and rapidly and a “yes” that was for a comment or question three questions ago some how lands right where you don’t want it too which is why you are hosting the ladies auxiliary luncheon at the Bethesda Baptist Church a week from Tuesday. Never mind that you aren’t a member, nor Baptist and Bethesda is an hour drive from where you live and you have a previous engagement on that day. Once you realized how you got into this you most likely tried to talk to the time waster and explain that the “yes” they heard was in regards to their comment/question “I am starving. Would you like to stop and eat somewhere?”
Lets not forget that during the days frenzy you never did stop to eat, something always came up that prevented that; several phone calls (their phone not yours), another errand (again…theirs not yours), a dear friend’s car has broke down and they need to go pick them up NOW. The time waster, when you try to excuse yourself from duty, acts put out, angry or perhaps even cries, inducing you to a point of guilt or shame and so you go ahead and host the event. What you don’t know was that you just opened Pandora’s Box. You will find yourself being put in awkward positions frequently until you put your foot down or just stop associating with this person. Don’t worry, they are used to it and will move onto some one else soon enough after they have tried to make you feel shamed or guilt-ridden.
This person counts on meeting “victims” in group settings. I have noticed that by being in a group it is less apparent that they talk constantly and rapidly the other members of the group act as a buffer and distraction. You are busy so it is harder to notice individual traits as opposed to group dynamics. Their Modis Operandi is to overwhelm, hence the frenzied action packed whirlwind and the constant verbal barrage. It is easier to overwhelm to get a yes than actually persuade you to help out with something of no interest to you. This person is probably the easiest to get rid of. Do not engage…in any sort of verbal communication.
Don’t answer their calls, don’t stop to chat, just keep moving. They may try for a week or two but they will move on. Also, if you do get cornered say nothing. They can’t use your words against you if you haven’t spoken any. It isn’t even safe to say no. You may be prepared to just answer “no” to everything and then they sneakily add a, “Is there any reason why you can’t help me with….” That “no” was actually a yes in that case, hello Tuesday night Ladies Auxiliary at Bethesda Baptist Church, nice to see you all again.
My Time Waster is my mother. I think it goes without saying that it is my mother…so I do have to talk to her. I have learned to stand in the eye of her storm. I never answer her questions unless it is answered with a question of my own. Her, ” I am starving. Do you want to stop and eat somewhere.” Is answered by my, “Where and when would you like to stop and eat?” It has been an ongoing lesson in observation and understanding not only my strengths and weaknesses but hers as well. I took a good look at what was triggering a reaction and got to the root of it.
If your time-waster is a family member that you just can’t avoid by walking away and developing a no contact zone then I suggest you step back and assess what your triggers are with this person. How are they able to suck you into their schemes? If it isn’t readily apparent then I suggest that you take a break from this person for a reasonable amount of time and then come back to it with fresh eyes (remember my forest through the trees). You, often, just need a break to see a situation in a new light.
I realized that my issue with my mother was expectations (on my part not hers). I was expecting her to honor my schedule as she honored her own. Here is the issue with that expectation, we have two entirely different personalities which means that what we hold sacrosanct is completely opposite. I am an introvert, I prefer things to be done in a timely, efficient manner and I prefer it be a solo mission. My mother is an extrovert and time and efficiency is a bit too confining for her and groups are great. I can and do come across as an uptight task master and my mom can seem as flaky and wishy-washy as they come. Together, we have worked well on projects as long as I do not let myself be triggered by what I consider her insanity.
My mother may come across as an air-head but she is actually incredibly brilliant, she lacks focus; I am extremely focused and lack a sense of freedom/playfulness that allows me to bring my vision to completion if things derail. We essentially balance each other out. My mother is aware of some of her idiosyncrasies but I don’t think that she has put enough of the puzzle pieces of her life together to draw the conclusion that she is reactive to certain situations. I, therefore, must be aware of me if we are to succeed in any endeavor or our relationship.
If you have a time waster that is not a long time friend or family member…as I suggested earlier, make it a no contact zone. Resistance is futile. If, however, this person is a long time friend or a family member then you will have to establish boundaries. It will be difficult, in the case of my mother I realized she doesn’t have boundaries and I am not certain she knows what they are. Verbal boundaries, I have found, do not work with her. For example, I usually make a trip home every Spring to help my parents with my grandparents, 2 months ago my mother asked when I was coming this spring and I informed her that I won’t be making the trip home. My reason for going home doesn’t exist any longer; three of my grandparents are now deceased and my schedule doesn’t permit a trip home at this time.
She has asked me every week since when I am coming home this spring, usually trying to induce guilt and shame after. I respond to every question she has except that specific one. I answered it and the answer hasn’t changed and it isn’t going to. If I answer…it begets a circular argument and I don’t have time for that. It is a non verbal boundary, if she persists it will become a physical one in which I will distance myself. It sounds strange but it works. My relationship with my parents has always been a volatile one and I can honestly say that since I have started setting boundaries our relationship has improved.
Next up…Drama Queens!