Sometimes it’s hard to know when to set the final boundary in friendships and relationships before releasing people. The truth is there is no perfect formula to when to let go of someone you love when the relationship is no longer working for you. The simplest question however is to ask yourself “Is this healthy for me?” If the answer is no, then you might consider setting the final limit for your friend or loved one for behavior shift before moving on. Warning: there is a difference between boundaries set for your own serenity and mental well-being and ultimatums set to control another person. Let’s look more closely at this.
Setting boundaries is like putting up a fence. The other person can see past the fence, however there is a gate that delineates a place of safety for you. With this gate, you are asking them to respect you by not passing through the gate unless permission is specifically granted to do so. The gate can be opened, but only by you. The gate is there to protect you, not to control them. In this way, boundaries are firm but flexible. If a person jumps the gate, they are clearly trespassing and violating your safety. A wall on the other hand is generally built to control others (to keep them in or out). There is no door or window to see inside or look outside. The wall cannot be easily trespassed. There is not even an intercom for people to ask permission to pass. A wall not only keeps out unsafe people, it also keeps out potentially loving and supportive safe ones as well. This is what ultimatums with controlling subtexts can represent.
So, when is the relationship no longer healthy? This is a question that cannot be simply answered because it’s different for each situation and individual. However, when you are no longer feeling safe emotionally or physically in a relationship, then you may want to start considering how healthy of a relationship this is for you. Of course, feeling emotionally stressed in a relationship alone is not necessarily cause to end the relationship. However it is cause to begin to evaluate what’s not working and determine if both parties are willing to work to mend things and create a stronger and more safe space for the two of you.
Some mending simply requires open and consistent communication, while other repairs may take the help of a professional. There is no wrong route, there is only that which works and that which does not. Try different roads. If none of them work, then perhaps it is time to go your separate ways. Just understand that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Finally, if you decide that it is time for you to move on from an unhealthy friendship or relationship, reach out for the support of people with whom you feel safe. Having a strong support system gives you the courage to express yourself freely and completely. Having a support system helps you to move through the sometimes painful emotions that come with confronting the end of an important relationship.
Knowing when to end or mend a relationship is never an easy decision. However, having the tools to work towards a decision that you are ultimately comfortable with makes the process go a lot more smoothly.
For coaching on life or relationships, visit Dr. Clairborne at www.mbswellness.org.