Motivational speaker and author Rachel Hollis recently shared 7 things that are helping her right now through this “dark season,” which includes her own divorce. One of them really stuck out to me: set your boundaries.
In her podcast, Rachel talks about how setting boundaries has been a crucial step in protecting herself from inappropriate comments, even from family and friends. She relays how many (let’s assume well-intentioned) family members have told her they “just want to understand.” To which she comments, they don’t get to understand.
You probably know when someone’s crossed your boundaries. But do you know how to proactively set them, so that they’re in place before someone can even tiptoe up to that line? Well that’s what we’re here to do!
When we think of setting boundaries, we usually think in terms of other people - our family, friends, the outside world. But that’s only part of the equation.
Boundary setting isn’t limited to other people. You need to set
boundaries with yourself, too.
Setting boundaries with others means establishing guidelines for how others may behave around you. Setting boundaries with yourself means establishing guidelines for how YOU may act around you. It means knowing when to pause that voice in your head (you know the one I’m talking about), and unplug yourself from the chaos around you. It means treating yourself with the same respect you require of others. And maybe more so.
So in honor of Rachel and of you, our loving community, here are 5 ways to set effective boundaries at a time when you really need them:
1. Protect your personal email.
One of the things that has helped me during a contentious family dispute has been to set up an email account designated only for the things related to my court case. This means emails from my own lawyer and everyone else who contacts me related to the case.
Having a separate email from my personal one means I don’t see all the negativity when I’m just checking to see if, let's say, the face masks I ordered have shipped. It lets my personal email account stay personal.
Let everyone involved know that you’ll no longer be receiving (or responding to) emails from your personal email address. Then stick to it - that’s the key. You’ve got to be vigilant. If people violate your rule, you can block them from your personal account if necessary. Just make sure they have a place they can reach you - especially if it’s the other parent of your child or your lawyer - and that you check that designated email account regularly. Doing this has been a game-changer in my own life.
2. Take a break from yourself.
We all need time away from other people. Even from those we love the most. But what about time off from yourself? We’re not suggesting you take a break from self-love; this is actually to encourage it. Because if you’re caught in a constant state of stress and worry right now, then you deserve a break today (cue the 1971 McDonald’s jingle 🎶🎶🎶).
It’s a lot harder to take a break from yourself than from other people. You can’t even go in the closet to get away. It requires focusing your mind and energy on something that truly takes you to another place. For some women, that’s reading a juicy novel. For others it’s an extra long run.
Whether it’s for 5 minutes or 5 hours, it’s so important to give yourself a break. Whatever is worrying you will still be there when you get back. So go enjoy a nice little vacation from yourself once in a while!
3. Don’t check email or texts late at night and early in the morning.
If you’re going through something hard, you’re probably receiving a lot of emails and text messages about it. Even if they’re important, they don’t need to be the last thing you think about when you go to bed or the first thing you see when you wake up.
I used to check my phone as soon as I woke up. 6 am, and I was already inundated with hostility. Once I stopped checking my phone between 9 pm and 8 am, I was able to go to sleep easier, and start my day in a better frame of mind.
There’s rarely a true need to check messages at all hours. If it’s an emergency, you’ll surely receive a phone call. (Note: If you've got young kids and they’re at your ex's house overnight, and you’re really worried he won’t pick up the phone to call if something happens, maybe you violate this rule on those nights. But when your kids are in your care, do yourself a favor and put down your electronics.)
4. Have a quick one-liner ready to shut down a conversation (inquisition):
When you’re going through divorce, everyone’s got something to say. Whether it’s to ask you what happened, share their opinion, or just offer support, chances are you’re hearing from lots of people.
But just because someone wants to talk about your life with you doesn’t mean you have to let them. The best way to avoid having an undesirable conversation is to have your words ready. Arm yourself with a short one-liner that you can pull out anytime you’re in an uncomfortable place.
If you’re not sure what to say, here are a few options to try out:
a. When you want to be direct: While I appreciate your concern, I don’t want to discuss it.
b. When you want to punt: I’m not ready to talk about it yet. I’ll let you know when I am.
c. When it's easier to blame someone else: My lawyer told me not to discuss anything while my divorce case is pending (even with you).
d. When you want to deflect: I’d tell you all the details, but then I’d have nothing left for therapy. (said with a smile)
5. Lose the dots.
Smart phones are so smart. They can also be really intrusive. Do you like those 3 little dots letting everyone know that you’re responding to their text that very second? Or that you’ve read their message but haven’t replied? I don’t.
Feel free to turn off those settings on your phone. If you don’t know how, google “how to turn off read receipts” and your type of phone (e.g. how to turn off read receipts on iPhone). And take back a little privacy. No one needs to know you’ve read their message until you’re ready for them to know. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Turning off the dots is a little more complicated, and requires you to either send texts by SMS only, or to jailbreak. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s not an episode of Orange is the New Black. Look into your options, and protect your privacy.
Once you come up with your own boundaries, be sure to reinforce them.There may be times when you’re feeling tired and not up for enforcing your own rules. But the more you stick to the boundaries you put in place, the more peace you’ll find.