When I was getting my doctorate at New York University a long, long time ago, I met a new guy and wanted to introduce him to my friends. We were in our late 20s, this person didn't look or act like anyone I had ever dated, and my friends weren't happy.
After a group dinner, a close friend said:
This guy is a symptom of something bad that's happening inside you. You don't feel worthy or something, and all he's going to do is prove to you that you aren't worthy and I don't want to be around to watch that. Call me when it's over.
And with that, she disappeared into the sunset.
Now here's the thing. She wasn't wrong. But I couldn't see it.
Another friend, who had similar feelings but a different interpersonal style, stuck around and made a rule: Don't talk to me about your headaches with so-and-so. I know what's going to happen — hell, EVERYONE KNOWS what's going to happen, and I'm not your person for that.
Fast forward to after the breakup, when I go to the second friend for comfort. She says . . .
That's what you get for dating stupid people.
I kid you not.
And now you have a window into my friends! They've got themselves some boundaries, and they were giving me some and modeling how to set them.
But alas, I was a late bloomer.
I was REALLY Late to The Boundary Games
It took me until disappointingly recently to learn how to say no and to advocate for myself. Guess what I don't have to do?
Give a bully an explanation.
Believe someone when they say it'll be different this time.
Give people a 10th chance because they've decided to "work on" themselves. Good for you! The world will be a better place! But I have no obligation to deal with your future better self! 😊
Self-care is all the rage, as it should be, and I want to make sure boundaries get their rightful spot atop the list of things you can do to take care of yourself. Particularly during the holidays.
You don't have to go to the family gathering with you-know-who. You don't have to make nice with anyone to keep the peace.
My maternal grandmother threatened suicide if we all didn't show up to holiday dinners. Imagine that. Nobody called her out or called her bluff. And my uncle was a Nazi sympathizer and my grandmother was Jewish. The grown-ups taught us that being under the same roof sharing a meal was more important than the horrible things us kids had to be subjected to (I'll spare you).
Parents, for real, you have one job. Protect your kids.
Making Up for Decades Without Boundaries
I'm here to urge you to put your mental health before any gathering because you deserve to do that. Don't let anyone tell you something or someone is more important.
You're not being selfish when you know that someone isn't good for you and you therefore decide to opt out of them. That's healthy.
With that said, people don't like it when you grow into boundaries. They want the old you back; the one they could walk over or gaslight or worse.
But anyone who doesn't respect your boundaries can be archived from your life. Maybe they get resurfaced later, maybe not, and you owe no one a timeline.
Finally, forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It's liberating, and you do it for yourself. But some people cannot or will not forgive, and that's okay. Forgiveness isn't a prerequisite for moving forward.
May you find your boundaries.
May ease find you.