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Boundaries in the Stepfamily Your Guide to Peace

Boundaries guide our behaviour in every setting. It's why we don't say to the ex-wife, "Isn't he great in bed though?".... awkward....

Boundaries can aso be created, by us, to protect us from unwanted or uncomfortable experiences and behaviour. I like to think of it as a window: it can be closed completely to protect us from all of the elements, or it can be open slightly, to let in a gentle breeze, but keep out the raindrops. And just because a window is closed, doesn't mean it's always going to be closed. Boundaries are meant to be revisited, and can be changed as needed.

Newcomb Marine and Korf say, "When used conscientiously, boundaries can provide you with the distance and protection from unwanted behavior, but you must continue to customize them for your unique situation until you find what works". They are evolving and fluid.

For stepmoms, boundaries are extremely important. But unfortunately, for many women who take on this role, it can be very difficult to create boundaries without guilt or pushback. Despite that, I encourage you to push through! Boundaries are your FRIENDS!

And even more important that creating those boundaries, is maintaining them. "[Boundary violations] are the emotional equivalent of having someone step on your toes. At the very least, boundary violations can be annoying; at worst, they can erode our self-esteem". The more we stick to our boundaries, we will see that over time, they are violated less and less.

How do you establish boundaries? Here is my 4 steps to establishing healthy boundaries. When you feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or the need for change, it is probably time to set a boundary. Let's go through the steps together:

1. Identify your inner thoughts.
What are you telling yourself that is preventing you from changing a situation, behaviour, or expectation? Are you projecting your assumptions on to others? Are you catastrophizing the situation that is giving you grief? Do you think that if by making your feelings known you'll be seen as a bad partner/wife/stepmom?

2. Challenge your inner thoughts.
Is this inner dialogue realistic? Do the people around you validate those feelings? What would really happen if you spoke up? Can you continue to feel this way forever? Ask yourself the "what if" question. What if you spoke up about how you're feeling? What if you asked for what you need from your marriage? Would anything negative happen, or would you be happier?

3. Establish and implement the boundary.
Think about what you need to feel happy, safe, and supported, and talk about his with the person/people involved. If you can't - for example, if you need to set a boundary to protect yourself against a high-conflict ex-wife - tell someone you trust about the boundary so they can help you be accountable to yourself.

4. Revisit and reevaluate.
Boundaries need to be strong, but also fluid. Revisit them to see if it is working for you and meeting your needs. If it needs to be modified or maintained, do that.

Don't fall into the trap of seeing change and then dropping the boundary. It's working BECAUSE of the boundary! Maintain it and make changes slowly. This is hard work, but the payoff can be totally worth it. Change comes with consistency.

Good luck with those boundaries!

For more advice from Erin : Be the Best Stepmom You Can Be

Erin xo