Boundaries are more than lines on a map. Boundaries are about respecting each other’s limitations. But when it comes to family, boundaries create all kinds of feelings like rejection, fear, shame, and guilt. In reality, boundaries with family are no different than with clients or vendors. Clear communication about what you are able to provide and what you can handle or not handle is a gift worth giving to yourself and those around you.
In this episode, JoyGenea and Michelle discuss their varying degrees of success with family boundaries, how to spot a need for boundaries, and how the holidays can remind us why boundaries are so very necessary in relationships.
SNL Video referenced in the podcast. Michelle was right, it is a 2018 video.
JoyGenea mentions in the show about watching someone have a nervous breakdown. This is a very good video about a mental breakdown. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HC3uUGCJpqs
M: Hi Everyone I’m Michelle owner of BadCat Digital.
J: And I’m JoyGenea and I own Solutions by JoyGenea. Welcome to If These Heels Could Talk.
M: Today on our show we will be talking about family, boundaries and potentially the holidays but this should have applications beyond. We happen to be recording this during mid-December, the throes of the holiday season so it brought the topic to mind, but it is something we’ve been planning on discussing.
J: It’s always on the list and this weekend it’s really interesting. I heard a really good speaker his name is Jeff Sackitt, really great guy, and I happen to stumble across a video of his and he talks about the fact that we forget to have conversations about the fact that the holidays are potentially, equally good and bad.
J: Immensely stressful.
J: And immensely loving and caring so as much as the meter goes into happiness, joy and so forth we maybe are not having enough conversations about the counter balance of that.
M: Right. Well and part of it is the pressure to feel the happiness, joy, and take advantage of the season and take advantage of people not being at work all at the same time.
J: And all of the Hallmark movies and all of the marketing that tells us it’s for some reason looks like this.
M: So Matt Damon did a Saturday Night Live skit I think in 2018, somebody will correct me I’m sure, that just kind of popped around again because it’s the holidays. It’s a dad during the holidays with all of the family there and all of the different things that happen and trying to put together toys in the middle of the night. It’s this beautiful kind of dichotomy of a scene where it’s this couple kind of relaxing and having a glass of wine after the long day with all of these montages split in of the craziness and there’s a lot of it. Fighting. Anger. Political conversations that go nowhere. Just anger anger anger and resentments that build up and come out at the worst times and then you know on top of it all somebody at the dinner table smells a little. Just about every time.
J: It happens.
M: It happens. It’s a lot of rich food.
J: It is.
M: So somebody is gonna smell.
J: Or it’s just not gonna sit with their digestive system.
M: Right, right. Exactly.
J: Oh yeah. Its gonna come around.
M: So on top of everything else were eating poorly. We’re not working out. We’re not practicing self care in whatever way because there is very little time.
J: Probably not drinking enough water.
M: Absolutely. So all of these things we do…
J: Foods that nourish our brain.
M: All of these things that we do when we’re rational in our lives to create balance, we’re not doing.
J: That’s true.
M: On top of everything else. So family and boundaries. This is a hard one for me. I really struggle with this. I have a little antidote from this past weekend so we were leaving my parent’s house. They live about 4 hours away.
J: Oh yeah.
M: We were leaving my parent’s house and we were happy to go. It was my brother’s wife just graduated from nursing school, we’re so proud of her. She is amazing.
J: That’s awesome.
M: And with 2 kids and a job and all of this other stuff she graduated from nursing school,
J: Heck yeah
M: which in and of itself is just a massive accomplishment. So I was really excited to go and celebrate that with everybody. Then we were leaving and my mother asked me if I wanted the leftover paper plates. Really simple, right?
M: I don’t want the leftover paper plates. She thought we could use them at the office maybe I’m sure.
M: And she said would you like the leftover paper plates? I said no thank you, and she said, “oh, you guys don’t use paper plates.” Because that’s the only reason that I might not want them. There aren’t other reasons, like I also have lots of leftover paper plates from events that we hold at the office and we purchase them for the office and so there are substantial stacks of paper plates.
J: I’ve seen them. She’s ready.
M: And so it’s that communication that typifies this whole thing for me is that everybody is coming from a different perspective.
J: Nicely said.
M: And its really,really challenging to create a boundary that’s not going to invalidate somebody else’s perspective. So how do I and maybe how do you cuz I actually think you are really good at this. How do you create boundaries especially with family that doesn’t engender long term resentment?
J: You are authentic and honest.
M: I would prefer not to take the paper plates.
J: And so you said no. And then she got to choose how that felt and how she reacted.
M: It’s so dumb.
J: It had nothing to do with the plates. Ok, if this were counseling I would tell you right now, it’s not the plates.
M: It’s not about the plates.
J: It’s not about the plates. It’s about a whole bunch of other things that you’re not communicating. That are just present. And just like her response to the paper plates has everything to do with where she’s at right now and your relationship and where it’s at. And it had nothing to do with paper plates. But that’s the holidays.
M: And I understand all of that but in that moment in time there’s really not time, space, and energy to delve into the what is the paper plate thing about. So how do we walk away from that.
J: Here’s a couple of thoughts that come to mind, could you have said “Oh I heard what you just said. This is not rejection. I truly just don’t need the paper plates and I think it would be great if you donated them to Goodwill or something.”
M: Wow that’s a higher self that I didn’t have access to that day.
J: Or just acknowledge what came back from her.
M: Maybe laugh.
J: Yeah and say wow I heard that. “I’m still not gonna take the plates but I can see they mean a lot to you. How can we resolve this for you?” Just laugh about it and be like ok. So often human beings just need to be heard.
M: Yeah. That’s true.
J: And when it comes to family we don’t hear each other.
M: Its true. We have all of these shortcuts for communicating. Some of which are healthy and productive and some of which aren’t. And so at the holidays I feel like that just flares up and the closer you are with a family member, I think for me the harder it is to draw boundaries because you want to say yes. But you kind of don’t.
J: Right. I was just gonna say yes isn’t authentic yes.
M: I want to say yes for you but I don’t want to say yes for me.
J: You just want to make her happy. And that’s a childhood lens is what I would tell you. Life is thru our filters and our lenses. That’s just a childhood lens that comes up in that space.
M: But it’s true for other family to. I mean it’s not just, we’ll not get into the whole Freud, it’s just my mother thing.
M: That’s not what it is.
J: It’s more people. Yes, I agree there are more people that guilt. Barrels up. From the innards. And I’m like I’d love that. What do I do now. WE all have that.
M: So other than the holidays I feel like this comes up in a lot of different ways and as family around us ages and they’re wanting to give things away.
M: That I don’t want. Creating those boundaries is a challenge. Creating boundaries around time and travel is a challenge. It’s really difficult for me as a professional in the throes of a career running a business to understand how a person who is retired can be busier than I am. Like these are things that are difficult for me and so in general family and boundaries is it really just that I know what to do but I don’t want to?
J: There’s guilt.
M: Oh yeah.
J: And shame.
J: And then there’s some anger.
M: Ah huh.
J: So it’s just emotions.
J: And then the beauty of the holidays is you sprinkle on top of all of that anxiety.
J: Anxiety glitter on top of all of this.
M: I think we need to call this episode Anxiety Glitter: family at the holidays.
J: Ooo I like that.
M: Yeah. So this is how we plan this guys just so you know behind the curtain is all completely by the seat of our pants.
J: Not entirely.
M: Not entirely. There’s a little planning.
J: But that’s really what it kinda gets to be. And then on top of the fact we don’t see each other a ton so when we do get together we think we need to do all of this stuff.
M: And have magical interactions with each other.
J: And the reality is you’re actually asking somebody to put on this hat and this hat and this hat.
J: And they might not have the mental capacity to do that and if you didn’t have those conversations in advance with that figured out, really that’s not the best day for them either.
J: You’re coming in hot and strong . You want to have a business conversation then maybe you want to have a conversation about money because maybe you borrowed money from somebody in family, boy that never happens.
M: That never goes well.
J: It just doesn’t. If we could prevent you from doing it we would. Like in this conversation right here. Avoid at every level.
M: Family and money.
J: It’s tough. It’s really tough. But so you try and have those conversations while alcohol is flowing, while bad food is being consumed that’s not healthy to the brain and then while we’ve got that sprinkling that glitter of anxiety on everything. And then we go wow how did that digress
M: So quickly.
J: Yeah. Not Shocking.
M: Into a big fight about paper plates. And I will be clear it wasn’t a fight it was a short conversation and then it was over. But I can tell it’s 24 hours later and I still am thinking about it.
J: You are still feeling guilty.
M: I still feel guilty for not taking this stack of little tiny silver plates.
J: What do you feel guilty about?
M: OOOOOO. I think I consistently and constantly feel like I make my mom feel bad when I say no. And so I feel guilty about making her feel bad. So just like you said that it’s not a rejection I just don’t want the plates. And I had done well the day before when she gave me some essential oils
J: Oh how nice
M: That I have very little use for. It’s not my thing so you know you will probably end up with them
M: but she gave me some and then said oh but you don’t have a diffuser and I said no and I don’t need one.
M: Because I just knew that that’s what her next step was to go buy me a diffuser.
J: And you will probably get one for Christmas.
M: Well I was very clear
M: Thank you I don’t need one cuz she walked away and she said well then I will have to and didn’t finish the sentence and I said and I don’t need one thank you. And so I think I was pretty clear about that.
J: See there you were adding a boundary.
M: So that I added a boundary but then the next day just wasn’t there. J: It’s a new muscle.
J: I think that’s the thing we have to understand like when you start to apply boundaries with your family it’s a new muscle.
J: And we were talking about it a little bit earlier life is timing and sometimes you need a time out from your family.
M: That’s true.
J: I’m not saying run away. Like if it’s unhealthy and you’re being abused yeah you get to take the whole timeout till you’re done with life. Like you can choose that. But if they are just extremely annoying and you just truly don’t like everything that comes out of your mouth pretty much just is vomit of anger and anxiety and so forth, those are signs you need a family timeout. They’re probably not enjoying your company and you’re definitely not enjoying theirs.
J: Sometimes you have to take a few years off. And it does hurt people’s feelings. And Christmas morning you get up and you feel bad. I remember one time I was so not in the headspace to appreciate my in-laws. This was years ago in my twenties. And we got up Christmas morning and were supposed to go down there and I just remember looking at my ex and saying it would be in everybody’s best interest if you went without me. I know I am not going to be kind and gracious today. In my head I woke up hating these people. You know two hours in a car and when you get there.
M: Two hours in the car and then there’s snow or something that kind of blocks or makes the trip harder or like you get a flat or the car doesn’t start right or the heat’s off or something.
J: And the thing was when he came home he had a great time. He had a great time he brought home some food for me which was great and I recognized and we had the conversation that he and his family actually had a much better time because I wasn’t there.
J: Being judgey and being the crabby person. I had somehow digressed to and blaming them, really what I was stuck on was I was blaming them for something that I had some ownership in. But it’s always much easier to say it’s somebody else’s fault.
M: Oh absolutely.
J: So I was in my twenties and I was definitely stuck on it’s all your fault, so not. But I’m really glad I stayed home. It was really hard.
M: It’s hard to say that and that’s another thing with this like dealing with your own family is one thing but dealing with a partner’s family is something else entirely.
J: Oh yeah.
M: Cuz you’re just along for the ride.
J: Well and how, I am gonna segue us really quickly here how do we equally respect other people’s boundaries and our family.
J: So my father has a pretty strict boundary. He actually does not appreciate any of us coming home for the holidays. It’s immensely stressful for him.
J: It’s also really challenging as a child to never go home for a holiday. Everybody’s talking about going home and oh I saw my parents. I get the Hallmark movie goggles going.
M: Home for the holidays.
J: Every once in awhile. And be like ah but I’m missin out. I’m not.
J: And I’m respecting his boundaries.
J: And we have conversations about the fact and we do have these. That his boundaries aren’t my boundaries and I have needs also as his daughter and once or twice a year I do need to physically see him and get a hug from my dad.
J: And that’s where were at right now. We’ve negotiated that out. And I love when I get to see him. I would love to see him more but that doesn’t work for him. Realistically. And it has taken me few years to come to peace with that. And that’s also something I think we all forget everybody in the family is probably needing to establish some boundaries and some agreements and it might not feel good for you.
J: I mean I immediately took it as rejection.
M: Absolutely, I think anybody would. I think it’s a really natural initial thought.
J: But that’s not what it is.
M: No. It’s what he needs.
J: Right so I could have what I want…
J: while he’s super anxious and miserable and I’m walking around waiting for him to just have an anxiety meltdown.
J: I got what I wanted.
M: Which was to see him but now you get what you don’t want with it, which is to see him have an anxiety meltdown.
J: Right. And then feeling guilty for that. I’ve decided it’s much easier to call my dad on the holidays and have a lovely conversation with him which he totally knows I am gonna do and I need. It’s great.
M: Yeah, I am getting better at setting up boundaries not because of me though I’m getting better at setting up boundaries because my spouse needs them greatly.
M: And I, in order to maintain and keep our relationship healthy, have, clearly communicated what his limits are what his boundaries are and
J: Good Job
M: especially to my family. Not that he doesn’t like people in my family but that’s not what this is about.
M: It’s not about that. Itss about I don’t have this amount to give so if in one day we’re gonna drive for 4 hours, sit around chatting or visiting whatever that looks like with food all over the place for three hours and then there’s going to be some sort of social event that goes well past the bedtime, then I’m gonna have this much.
J: Right. I got about 4 hours.
M: I’ve got 4 hours or I’ve got 3 hours I’ve got 2 ½ how should we spend it?
M: And then we’re negotiating and deciding that which makes it much more intentional.
J: So in a lot of ways he’s….
M: He’s driving the conversation.
J: Which is really healthy for everybody.
M: I think it is to this point. My fear is that it is creating resentment between my family members and my spouse.
J: So have the conversation.
M: So I need to have this conversation with my family members.
M: And I feel like I need to do that without him there.
M: Because I want them to understand this a little bit better.
J: The rules are you manage your people.
M: And that’s something we have been very clear about in our marriage as well. Those are your people, you manage your people.
J: And your people don’t get to poop on me and your people do not get to say nasty things behind my back.
J: Like if any of that happens you manage your people.
M: Yeah. And I think that’s a fair expectation for a partnership. I think it’s healthy.
J: It’s one that typically has to be negotiated though cuz you don’t realize it.
J: You don’t realize your boundaries with your family until you add a significant other.
M: And that’s when from the outside they start to look in and there like why is this and why is this, you know. And they feel the discomfort possibly. So you were talking about going 4 hours away. We drove 18 hours.
M: Oh my gosh.
J: To get to my brother and it was funny by the second day or something, you’re not bright-eyed and bushy tailed at that point by the way.
J: And the second day his kids were so excited that we were there and so and they’re young. They’re 6 and 4 and so they’re fighting about just about everything and it was so funny he’s like what would you love to do with the kids tomorrow? And I had to set a boundary. I said I would love to play a really simple game with them and if they start to fight with each other I need you to negotiate that. And he was like really? And I said yes cuz I can tell my negotiation style and yours are very different.
J: And they are your children and I watched you and you’re amazing. He was a preschool teacher for years. Like he’s so good.
M: Fantastic. Well and I don’t know about you.
J: I didn’t want to screw it up.
M: As a 40-year-old who never had small children in the house my tolerance is relatively low. And I work really hard not to judge or try or you know. Like I’m not interested in making the people around me with children feel bad that their children are there, that’s not what I’m interested in but my tolerance level is low.
J: oh gosh no
M: The noise and the energy is a lot.
J: Well after watching him for a day and half being slightly sleep deprived even I recognized what he had I don’t have.
J: And I’m like I don’t need to set off world war 3 between these two cuz I don’t have the appropriate communication style.
M: Cuz this isn’t my thing, I don’t know how to do this.
J: And so it was perfect he just sat in the other room and he was doing other stuff but all of a sudden when a huge fight broke out I’m like Hey hey. And he walked over negotiated it out we went back to the game. I’m like thanks.
M: Thank you for participating.
J: Yup and then he went back to what he was enjoying doing which was a little time off and you know getting some stuff done. I recognize and I loved that he kind of asked what you want to do and I went ahh I would love to do this but I don’t know if I have this skill and I’m going to need your help. My mom is also phenomenal so I was with him and my mom. My mom is a gifted mother. Is one of her greatest qualities. It is her greatest quality. And so I’m watching her at these kids and it’s just like oh you are so impressive. I am a teenager kind of kid per say.
J: I get that. Like awkward, uncomfortable hormones I can do that.
J: But small child type of
M: tantrums, needing things. That’s not my thing
J: Right. And constant entertainment. But I loved being around them. But again like we all so we have all these dynamics going on and it’s not for one day.
J: Cuz we’ve driven so far. Its gonna be for 3, 4 or 5 days
M: yeah its gonna be for like a week
J: and that makes it interesting
M: And all there is at the end of that week is another 2 day drive.
J: Right. Exactly. Then you get in the car and you drive in the snow
M: yeah of course
J: Add sprinkle of our anxiety.
M: Anxiety Glitter
J: Weather. In on there which is always fun. I always like to remind people to therese only one you and you can not be in 2 places at once.
M: That’s true.
J: So there is going to be times when you cant be at both Christmas events. You cant be at both families. You aren’t able to do both business Christmas parties. I’ve had that happen. My Christmas party and his Christmas party were on the same night,
J: Ok you go to yours. I go to mine.
J: Like that’s just
M: Yeah, Yeah you don’t want to try and do both on the same night and make everybody mad.
J: And not have any fun
J; Like you know what I mean. Who’s having any fun. You’ve just engaged with people and oh I gotta go. And then you go to the other spot. Oooo we just started connecting.
M: Ohh were so late
J: Yeah I’m like nope. We’ll just pick. And it will be just fine.
M: You know you could do a funny and just go to each others.
J: That would be entertaining.
M; That would be entertaining
J: I like that.
M: I don’t know anybody. Hi
J: Hi. You know what would be surprising is I think quite a few people would be just more then welcoming.
M: I totally agree
J: And if the women were smart they would try and get some dish on the others. Like if they were smart. Just say it not that I have ever done that. The other things I want to make I mention in this is just the fact that if you have ever watched somebody have a breakdown a nervous mental health breakdown. It will cure you of agreeing to do everything. I have actually witnessed a person breaking down mentally.
J: And typically what happens is normal processes stop happening and they start looping things together that don’t belong together.
J: For this particular scene sentences started to get blurred. Literally I thought they were kind of intoxicated at first and then. You would ask them questions and they answer
M: Other things.
J: Other things. That have nothing to do anything. Did you put the mashed potatoes out? I don’t know where the dog is.
J: And I’m like what the heck. And I realized the answers were coming from a space of what they were thinking.
J: Totally not present
M: In no way sensory presence
J; Right. And it took a little bit for us to figure out what we were looking at and then obviously get it help. Like immediately.
M: Am I terrible person for wanting to look that up on Youtube?
J: No no no. People should know what it kind of looks like because its interesting when it present.s
M: It’s one of those things like you feel like ah is that really something that you should look up and watch cuz it feels kinda voyueristic but at the same time.
J; If somebody actually videotaped it you should. My point being though once the dust cleared and you know some mental health professionals were brought in some dopeamine and some serotine was added. You know. After all that even it was like 2-3 weeks later wow when this person unpacked everything that was going on and they had way over committed.
J: And and gotten way in over there head and had no idea how to get out.
J: Their brain mentally said we can’t do this.
M; Just separate it and stop.
J: And so luckily it was really early on and we caught and you know like it got addressed right away and then she made some huge life style modifications. Too make sure she was not in that high of stress. Like it was pretty much all anxiety and stress related and it was fixable.
J: Families can be that stressful.
M: Well and I don’t think its because anybody is necessarily intending ill harm. I think family can be stressful because of those communication short cuts. Because you easily fall into patterns with individuals. Even people that you haven’t seen in years.
M: We’re headed to see people that I have not physically been in the same room with – family cousins and people that I haven’t physically been in the same room with for 8-10 years.
M: People who are a little bit older then I am who we didn’t spend a whole lot of time together as we were growing up after I was 12 so there last memories of me
M: Are of a child. And my last memories of them are of teenagers. So these are not are higher adults.
M: Coming together and we really haven’t connected since then. So part of me is like – ugh you know it’s kind of like those people like you knew in high school that you don’t know anymore and theres kind of a reason you don’t know them anymore
M: It’s because you just don’t have that much in common. And the other part of me wants to be open to the experience and say who are these people. I’ve really never met them before
M: So wanting that and wanting to be open to it but also having some trepidation about it I know that were still gonna fall into communication patterns. Things that we did when we were kids.
M; And so the warning signals of that to me are really hard to identify. And so for me I’m actually looking at relying on my partner on my spouse for keeping me in that higher self space. And we’re also actively planning time away from everybody while were there.
J: Good plan.
M: Because it would just be too much for him.
J: And for you.
M: And for me.
J: You just don’t realize it.
J: He’s just making it obvious.
M: He’s making it obvious but it is too much for me and would have been before but he gives me the cloud cover that I feel like I need.
M: But I shouldn’t need, but I feel like I need to be able to create some boundaries.
J: Yes and probably everybody there needs to do the same thing.
J; So everybody there needs to keep in mind of somebody walks away or you don’t see them for an hour or two hours they’re just getting air.
J: And that’s ok.
M: And that’s ok.
J: And it’s beautiful. And you’re right if you can stay in that space of inquisitiveness. Where are they now? What’s going on in their life? How can I be of support to them? In their current space. If you can stay in that headspace you will have a great time.
J: And you’ll meet new people.
M: Literally. And I like meeting new people.
J: That’s just it. So it’s just a new people space
J: With some old you know some memories.
M: Old habits.
J: Yeah and some memories kick up and you guys will laugh but then if you can bring it to present what are your goals. Like what’s going on in your life? Why do you get out of bed every morning?
M: What do you spend your time doing?
M: Yeah that’s pretty cool. So that I mean really I just kind of wanted to explain this with you because I really do perceive you as being much better at this then me and it is something that I’m working on and not falling into the guilt that I feel and not second guessing other peoples motivations for their actions. You know and feeling the rejection of what other people do. And finding that space of boundary for all of us.
J; I think you’re doing great.
M: Well I’m trying.
J; You have an awareness. That’s the first step and I would just strongly encourage everybody the more you can be clear about what your able to handle as you understand it. Without placing blame on anyone.
J: But just take ownership of your own abilities and what you need from this space the more everybody else can participate in it. They can read your mind any more then you’re reading their’s.
M: That’s true.
J: That’s the beauty of the relationship I do have with my dad. I got to learn really clear boundaries about certain things. Holidays in particular.
J: It is. Its been actually an awesome life lesson.
J: Look I was able not go poo all over my ex in-laws when it was much better for me to stay home and have a pity party which you know I did.
M: Can we also have a quick shout out to – cuz I know its your ex husband – to your spouse for not pressuring you to go in when you clearly stated you couldn’t. Because that’s something that in my first marriage I was unable to do. I pressured my spouse into coming to family things and now I feel pressure from my family to include my spouse in things but I am really clear that he gets to decide what he is able to do on any given day. And that I of course want his company but at the same time honor his limits.
J: Yes we have both grown.
J: In that area. And if you can spare yourself the first to second marriage process and just apply this to your current relationship.
M: I am disappointed you don’t want to go but I understand.
M: So have a great day and I’ll see you at 6. And that’s ok. Can we all just say that that’s ok.
J; Its ok. And guess what you can screw up.
J: You can screw up. You know what, it happens. Apologize. It’s never too late to apologize for anything.
J: So you just apologize and you clean up and you do better next time.
M; Yeah and I actually think that in this particular weekend I got better of the paper plates sceniro because while I did not take the paper plates I did pass along the Hillshire Farms Smoky gift set thing that I won somewhere that I didn’t want and that sat on my mom’s counter for 2 days. And now it’s there. Not here.
M: So I kinda feel like I won that game.
J: You did but should it be a game.
M: But it shouldn’t be a game and there shouldn’t be a winner because if there’s a winner then there’s a loser.
M: And so I’m gonna have to find my higher self in this and not do this anymore because my understanding that it is a game that we are playing doesn’t mean we’re both having fun.
J: Right and if you would like it to be different.
M; Then I can’t do it too.
J: You just found it…. Good job. I knew you would get it.
M: Why why why?
J: Because you get to be the leader in your relationships. And when you lead them in the direction you want them to go they go where you would like them to take you.
M: Why why why? Can’t I just be naughty once in awhile?
J: You can.. That’s what your relationship with your husband is for.
M: Wow, that’s a different topic. So that’s it for today’s episode of If These Heels Could Talk. W hope have brought you some new ideas. Encouraged you in a new direction and inspired you a little bit.
J: Thanks for listening.