Setting boundaries could help save dysfunctional family relationships
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Setting boundaries for dysfunctional families

Setting boundaries could help save dysfunctional family relationships

9 Oct 2018 FAMILY

By: Natasha Archary


Blood may be thicker than water but it can’t put out fires on unstable family relationships now can it? Boundaries. Something every family needs or the cycle of having everyone in your business will continue.


Your family may mean well, it’s highly unlikely that anyone’s blood related family member would actually wish them ill – although it’s been known to happen. But if you feel undermined, have people prying into your private life, getting involved in decisions sans personal invitation or if you feel your family is just too much then you have to put your foot down.


Why boundaries are necessary

Family boundaries

Where do we begin? Does this sound familiar? At the last family gathering, how many times did you have to shield yourself from the unsolicited bombardment of judgement?


“When are you settling down?”

“No kids yet, but you’re married five years, what are you waiting for?”

“Shew, you have three and another one on the way. How can you afford all these kids? Maybe you two should try a good contraception?”

“Stop dressing so provocatively and you’ll find someone. Men don’t want to marry a woman who reveals her body to everyone.”

“Are you ever going to find a better job and buy a place of your own or is staying with mommy and daddy the long term plan? You know your cousin (enter benchmark’s name you need to match upto) just bought his own apartment. Yes, he did, in Bryanston too. You see he’s doing very well.”

“So your husband cheated, honey every woman’s been there. You just stick it out so you don’t lose everything and raise your children in a broken home.”

“Oh, you’re single again? Remind us how many people you’ve dated this year alone?”


Question after question, rant after rant, blatant invasion of privacy after insane brandishing of shock which for some reason they feel entitled to have about your life.


Can people just mind their own “perfect” existence?


Is your family the cause of your depression and anxiety?

Family boundaries

We all need our family as a strong support system to help us get through some of the tough times that life hurls our way from the fiery pits. But if your family brings you down with more negativity, you need to, for your mental and emotional state, create some distance between them and the sanctity of YOU.


None of this is healthy. The prying, the unnecessary manipulation, the guilt-trips, the pressure to keep hitting these marks they feel you need to live up to. It’s enough already.


This perfectionist family mindset, where you have to just live the textbook, pristine and moral life is the reality most young adults face. You dread these mandatory family reunions. You have this bottled up anxiety because you know it’s coming the minute you walk in. The uncensored judgement just rushes at you, because they’re your elders and that means they have the right to.

Read: Societal pressures to get married before the age of 30

Do they though? Invalidating family who use the whip of perfection, pointing out your flaws, highlighting every mistake you’ve ever made, create children who question their worth on a daily. As a result, they become adults who are insecure, jealous of another’s success, incapable of loving and being loved and so the cycle of destructive relationships that’s prevalent today ensues.


How can boundaries help?

You create these invisible barriers that you don’t allow people to cross. Ever. Telling a loved one that you respect their input but unless you ask for their valued opinion, it’s not needed. Setting a clear standard for how your family engages with you, what you will and will not allow is your perogative.


Taking back control over what you fill your mental space with and taking a firm stance on how you will be loved is not a bad thing. For many, the criticism from the older generation is a form of love. It shows that they care about you, that they want you to make something of yourself. To protect you from failing. Against society looking at this black sheep of their family with disdain.


For many, it’s the only way they know and understand love. This is why so many adults hide the emptiness they feel, shielding themselves from being broken any further.


The book Boundaries by psychologists Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend sheds light on how to enforce or place boundaries. There’s so much pain, hurt, anger and resentment that we could feel powerless to even express how their actions affect us. But we need to, because we’re not all cut from the same cloth.


Realise that you’re not being disrespectful, ungrateful or spiteful for wanting a realistic expectation to base your identity on. Aren’t we self-critical enough already? Don’t we deal with our own insecurities about our relationships, parenting, careers?


Expect your critical family to take the news that you’re going to live your life according to your own rulebook with a level of uncomfortability. They will need to learn how to stay in their own lanes.


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