I’ve struggled with setting boundaries with family and in my romantic relationships all of my adult life. For a long time, I didn’t see that I had a problem. Isn’t it natural to sleep with an ex after not hearing from them in 6 months? I mean, he sounded so sweet on the phone and he asked to come over nicely. Isn’t it just cordial to wait for your date at a bar when he’s an hour late and “on the way?” The poor guy came all the way from the tippy top of the South, South Bronx! Or was that the North? I’ve never been great at directions.
Yup. I hear it now. I know that I have a major problem with setting boundaries. I’m trying to undo this learned behavior. And setting boundaries with family isn’t any easier, especially when you come from a typical Latinx family.
Hear My Childhood Woes
Growing up with a single mom and two siblings, we lived in close quarters. From my eldest sister, who can be a total Bossy Pants, to my very Dominican momma (no locked doors and no lip, either, niña!), I had no room to set boundaries. I am the middle child. The second in command although I just try to run my own life. That’s not the case for the matriarch of my family, who crosses lines that I’ve drawn in the sand frequently, despite how deep I dig the stick.
Exhibit A: When I attended college Mami found a pack of condoms in my dresser. What was she doing in my dresser, you ask? Rummaging. In her mind, it was her God-giving right as my momma, despite my very American protestations.
“Mami, why are you looking at my dresser anyway? I’m an adult and that’s an invasion of privacy.”
“Que privacy, ni privacy! La que mando aqui soy yo.”
Translation: she’s the boss and privacy is for white folks. And no lip, either, niña!
I Have Like Two Moms
My eldest sister also loves to be in control. Often times she is so consumed with her chaotic work and family life that she doesn’t even realize when she’s overstepping. In all fairness, her life is no fucking joke.
I can be reasonable, but I still see and feel when someone talks over me or when I’m interrupted. I also know that I do this to others and they probably feel as unheard as I do.
Learned behavior is a bitch to break. And like many of my friends, who have called me out on my terrible habit of interrupting, I’ve made it perfectly clear to the folks in my life that certain patterns need to change.
I’m setting boundaries with family like a fucking grown up.
Boundary: You will not force me to communicate when I want distance.
Boundary: You will not push me into submission or try to change my mind.
Boundary: Your life will not take precedence over my shit.
My life shit? It’s heavy and thick and stinky. It manifests itself as a limiting belief that seeps into my psyche and sprouts feelings of self-doubt and a scarcity mindset. My life shit includes feeling that my words don’t have value. That my feelings don’t matter.
I’m Actually Responsible
I know that my baggage is mine to digest and to work through. That my triggers, which include being ignored, talked over, backed into a corner and put in a box, are mine to disarm. So I set boundaries to help me cope, as I should. That’ll teach ‘em, I think. I follow through for a while. I don’t pick up the phone when I rather not converse. I stand up for myself when I feel unsupported. And sometimes, I revert to what I know as do the people in my life.
When the boundaries in my life stop being honored I now choose step back. I remind myself that the line in the sand is drawn so that I can grow as needed. And if I ever find myself sitting at a bar, waiting for a man to show up, I find the patience in my heart to forgive myself. I walk away much faster than before. And I try again.