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Rebuilding Relationships: Boundaries

What do you do with relationships that you have tried to mend, but they remain broken? Once you honestly assess the relationship and realize you are neither magnifying nor minimizing your responsibility in the brokenness of that relationship, you may need to accept the reality that changes are necessary.

To assist you in honestly assessing a particular relationship, ask yourself the following 14 questions:

  1. Do you expect this person to protect you emotionally?
  2. Do you expect this person to hurt you emotionally?
  3. Do you allow this person to hurt you emotionally?
  4. Do you allow this person to manipulate you?
  5. Does a part of you feel safer whenever this person is in control?
  6. Does a part of you only feel safe when you are in control and not this person?
  7. Are you manipulating this person through your depression?
  8. Do you have a habit of discounting or minimizing your own needs to this person?
  9. Do you prevent this person from knowing and filling your needs?
  10. Do you derive your sense of self-worth from your ability to meet this person’s needs?
  11. Do you actively promote yourself as a martyr in this relationship?
  12. Do you avoid solving problems in this relationship?
  13. Are you unable to relax and have fun in this relationship?
  14. Are you afraid to be truthful in this relationship?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this indicates an out-of-balance relationship that you should mend or modify.

Sometimes we are in relationships with extremely negative people. They are our primary drainers. Sadly, these individuals are often members of our family, who through family ties feel they have a right to act as an emotional, physical, or financial drain on our lives. If you continue in these same kind of draining relationships, your ability to overcome depression can be seriously compromised. When a draining relationship brings you to a continued state of depression, it is time to change that relationship for your health and well-being. This can be a significant decision, not to be taken lightly.

In order to help you determine if a relationship is one you need to modify, consider whether or not this person is at the source of, or contributes to, your negative patterns, perceptions, and deceptive self-talk. If this is the case, you will want to modify your relationship with this person, if not eliminate it altogether.

If this person is a member of your family, it may not be possible for you to cut off contact. Wherever possible, you should attempt to mend this relationship, hopeful of change from the other person. If you have tried and have made the changes you feel able to make, yet it still remains a significant drain on you, then you will need to modify the boundaries of that relationship.

Communicating these boundaries should not be done in a confrontational manner. Boundaries should be stated in a natural, matter-of-fact way. You do not need to apologize or feel guilty about setting boundaries. They are normal and healthy for all relationships. Generally, when you are mending a relationship, you are setting boundaries for your own behavior. When you are looking to modify a relationship, you are setting boundaries for the behavior of others.

SOURCE: Chapter 5, “Family Dynamics,” in Moving Beyond Depression by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.

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