Yes, No or Maybe?: Understanding and Setting Complex Boundaries

He’d started a new business from scratch a few years ago, and came in for some support. He outlined his business plan (which was solid), explained his background (offered him the necessary experience and skills), and shared how people were simply not buying his product. Although he’d done everything right, he was not able to support himself and his family with his business. Todd came in to decide, should he close down his business?

As a child, her mother had been physically and emotionally abusive. She’d survived regular beatings and trips to the emergency room where she was forced to lie. In her twenties she cut off all contact with her mother and created a happy, thriving life. Recently a cousin called to share that her mother was in hospice care and would die soon. Joan came in to determine, should she go visit her mother?

His friends ran hot and cold with him. One week they’d all want to sit with him at lunch and hang out with him on the weekends. The next week everyone would be mad at him, and he’d spend lunch helping one of the teachers and weekends playing video games alone. “When do you know?” William asked me. “When is enough, enough?”

Often I’m asked what “the rule” is. When do you cut out a friend? When do you leave a marriage? When do you stop talking to a family member? If only it were that simple. Todd and I put together a 6 month plan for him to follow including attending a national conference, meeting with other successful business owners, and researching cheaper production options. After much processing, Joan decided she would not visit her mother. “I’ve said everything, there’s nothing left undone, and, to me, she died years ago.” Joan was able to feel her sadness and anger over her broken relationship with her mother, and move on. William and I, with the support of his parents, decided it was time to seek support at school. The school psychologist created a friendship group with this particular group of boys where they all could learn and practice more positive social and relating skills. What challenging boundary are you contemplating in your life?