Back when I was freelancing and working from home everyday (kind of like now), I had a friend that would call me and want to chat for hours. If I didn’t pick up, they’d call me repeatedly. If I still didn’t pick up, they would text me saying that some grand emergency was unfolding and me, likely 20 miles or so away from their physical location, was the one person they needed to contact more than anyone else. At first, I’d rush to return the 10 back to back phone calls and urgent texts as I wanted to always be seen as that friend that was around and available. That friend that could be counted on, depended on, leaned on. Instead of running towards my daily deadlines, I was gossiping and keehee’ing for hours about things and people that I truly didn’t give a fuck about. Oh, and those emergencies, they didn’t exist and clearly neither did the time and work boundaries that I thought I’d established.
When I was in a relationship, I had a lot of other priorities on my plate that needed my consistent attention. From my child to grad school to my demanding work life and my vibrant social life, I had a fairly full calendar at any given time. With all of that, however, I still found myself shuffling important priorities to the side in order to spend time in a situation that now I have zero attachment to. I’d skip a class, be late coming come to meet my ex for child exchanges, skip work events; all of that for me to prioritize someone else.
Back when I was pregnant, my relationship with my child’s father was on unsteady ground at times, as expected since we were in our early twenties, very poor, and pregnant with a child that neither of us had planned. Despite me flat out saying that interrogating me about my relationship like I am on the First 48 was both unhelpful and unwarranted as being heavily pregnant, poor, young, and in college was enough to deal with, a family member insisted on crossing those boundaries. Everyday it was a new, very nosey inquiry about my health insurance, my son’s father’s role, what he was doing, etc. It got to the point that seeing their name on my phone made me want to fold up like a beach chair.
I look back on these times now and laugh, really. The Latifah that I am today, 31 and pretty confident in my convictions, would simply say no. No we aren’t going to talk on the phone for hours and no, don’t call me in case of an emergency. Call 911. No I am not going to constantly rearrange my schedule and priorities to sit up in your face while everything that I am responsible for just turns to shit. No, family or not, I will not sign a permission slip for you to go on a free for all field trip through my life. This is especially true when your intention is to mine for information to wide-mouth cackle about it later. All three of those breeches were mostly my fault. I wasn’t clear about what was ok, I waited until I was overly frustrated and either lashed out or closed them out, and I didn’t follow the rules that I do now. If I allow someone to cross boundaries repeatedly, they are going to do it. If I prioritize another person over myself, whether I should or shouldn’t, they will continue to expect that behavior from me. I am in control of the type of relationships that I foster and allow into my life.
Setting boundaries is paramount and protecting my peace is a top priority. When it comes to drawing a line in the sand between my sanity and everything else, these are my rules:
At the first sign of unfavorable behavior, call it out
Immediately make it clear what is considered acceptable and what isn’t
If the boundary is crossed again, reiterate. Maybe they are hard of hearing
If the boundary is crossed, once again, they do not respect me
Either end communication or limit it to the bare, surface minimum
How do you deal with crossing boundaries and making yourself a priority?