Family dinners are fun. Right?
Hmm, not always and not for everyone.
Most of us have been to family dinners, gatherings and celebrations, where (some specific) family members are more intrusive than others: they keep asking personal questions in front of everyone, they feel entitled to know our private secrets, they treat our life as theirs. You get the point here.
This year, it will be different.
You are not allowing people to bulldoze you with their indiscretion.
This year you are not giving permission to people to comment, share or have an opinion about the following:
6 Types of boundaries you can set
No comment on your body
Or your face, your diet, your hair, your weight, neither negatively nor positively.
The new movement about body neutrality focuses on how a neutral perspective about our body is making us feel more in peace about our self-worth. We don’t need to love our body in order to feel worthy/ respected/ important. Our body is just a vessel that carries all the important functions we need in order to exist and survive.
No comment on your personal life
Intrusive relatives cannot ask you why you are still single, when you are going to get married, how your love life is going, why you broke up with your ex partner, etc.
Letting people in our private life and relationships, means that we entitle them with the right to have control over it. We grant them permission to say what is right for us and what is not. Sooner or later, we will suffocate in this controlling relationship, we will grow resentful, and eventually we will grow apart from this person.
No comment on whether you will have children or not
The "old school" of family said that your relatives had every right to ask you about your plans for having a family. However, now things have changed and you don't allow people to ask you when you are going to have children, why you haven't got children yet, when they are going to become grandparents, how come their neighbors already have two children and you don't, how risky it is to have children at an older age, the clock is ticking, etc. That's none of their business.
Couples who don’t have children are those who either can’t have children or don’t want to. In both cases, an outsider’s comment about their having children or not is extremely disrespectful and in many cases a hurtful reminder of their infertility or relationship challenges.
No comment on your sexual life and sexual preferences
We are grateful that we live in an era where there is freedom to express different sexual orientations and sexual preferences. (At least, it’s better than it used to be. We still have some way to go.)
However, having a relative commenting or being passive-aggressive or sarcastic about your dating life, your partners, your sexual orientation, is not respectful and they should not feel that they are allowed to do so at any case. It is your life and there is a clear red line that you are drawing here.
Discriminative comments about race, sex, colour, religion, politics are not going to pass as "jokes" or as "respect to other people's opinion".
Family dinners are not a podium for political, religious or ideological conversion. If people want to discuss these topics, they should do it in a respectful way, taking into account that: 1. Not everyone shares the shame beliefs, 2. Racism is racism. It’s not about different perspectives.
No physical contact without consent
No one has the right to hug you, kiss you, touch you if you don't feel comfortable.
Especially now that everyone feels stressed about the coronavirus spreading exponentially, you have every right to say that “This year I am not doing hugs”.
But also generally speaking, no one gets to touch you, hug you and kiss you just because they are relatives. There’s no right granted to them via DNA.
How to set boundaries with family: 6 Examples
1. First of all, you need to convince yourself that these boundaries are important. If you don't grant yourself permission for these boundaries, how do you expect that others will respect them?
2. Practice boundary-setting. Think about what you will say, how you will say it. Write it down. Make it yours. Use your own language, not some robotic, canned responses you found online. Most importantly, figure out the WHY of this boundary.
3. Prepare your environment. Bring it up at a neutral time. Call the person that feels more intrusive to you, explain to them why you want things differently this year, and kindly ask them to respect your personal space.
4. Expect resistance, but be firm and confident about your boundaries. There is nothing wrong with you setting them. Contrariwise, you are trying to protect your relationship with people that matter to you.
5. Remind yourself that you are not responsible for other people's feelings. If they don't like your boundary or if they feel rejected or annoyed, it's their feeling, and they have every right to feel as they want to feel.
6. Prepare for the worst. Some people will totally tune into your wishes and they will understand why you are setting this boundary. They will appreciate your honesty, and they will see how your way is a more respectful way of connecting with others.
Some others, though, will push back, will push harder, will disrespect you even more, will display passive-aggressive behaviour. When this becomes too taxing for your mental health, prepare yourself in order to exit the relationship with those people. Grieve about this loss, but remind yourself that in the long run it will be better for you.
Holidays and family dinners are opportunities for connection and fun.
Not disrespect and stress.
This year it will be different.
Your needs are valid.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.