Woe Is Me! “When I Set Boundaries, People Think I’m Bitchy. Am I Doing it Wrong?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“My friend tells me that I struggle with maintaining boundaries, and she’s right. But when I started practising, she often misinterpreted my boundaries as rudeness. For example, when I respond to her texts less enthusiastically sometimes because I don’t have the energy, she thinks I’m not interested. One day, she got upset and gave me the silent treatment when I wrote “hahahaha” to her joke before she finished telling it. I didn’t mean to be rude, but it looked like that to her, especially because her anger had been building for a while.
Am I bad at setting boundaries? Or does my friend think that she can set boundaries and expect others to comply, without considering that she has to accommodate other people’s boundaries too?“
SA: Your friend seems high strung. You need to do what feels right for you. You’ll intrinsically know when you’re being selfish or rude instead of drawing healthy boundaries — when you feel that way, take a step back, re-evaluate and correct yourself. Also since you’re new to this whole drawing boundaries thing, it’s pretty natural for you to make a few missteps. Ideally, your friend should be patient and help you, not reprimand you.
If there’s confusion about what boundaries mean to each of you it would be best to discuss it frankly. No use misunderstanding each other and holding on to anger. You both need to learn to communicate better with each other.
SM: I think setting boundaries and being respectful of them is always tricky in an Indian context, because we grow up thinking taking space/setting boundaries is being selfish/inconsiderate. That being said, the key to setting and respecting boundaries is communication. There seems to be a lot of anxiety between you and your friend, in how you communicate about and perceive each other’s texts/actions. One suggestion is to sit down and have a confrontational conversation, explaining where you’re coming from, and understanding what hurt her. Once you’re more clear about it, things would become easier for both of you, and less open to misinterpretations.
BG: I think your friend is finding it hard to accept your definition of creating boundaries. Maybe it’s worth to sit down with her and talk this out because communicating your thoughts and intentions always helps to clear out the confusion. Both of you could list out your ideas of creating boundaries in this friendship and see how you can come to a middle ground where both of you can understand and incorporate what the other one wants.
AT: Uhm, tricky. Boundaries can look very different depending on who you are and maybe that’s the issue here. Their idea of boundary-setting probably doesn’t match yours and vice-versa. So it’s probably best to talk it out. It could probably also help you understand each other better.