178 - The Basics of Boundaries

Anxiety can rear its head in the form of some weird gut feelings or nervousness, or it can be a full blown panic attack. This week we talk about the full spectrum of how anxiety and anxiety disorders show up in our relationships, how to cope with them, and how to comfort a partner who is experiencing anxiety.

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You can order Dedeker's book, The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory: Everything You Need to Know about Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Alternative Love by clicking here.

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Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.

Our theme music is Forms I Know I Did by Josh and Anand.

Please send us your feedback and questions to info@multiamory.com, find us on Instagram @Multiamory_Podcast, tweet at us @Multiamory, check out our Facebook Page, visit our website Multiamory.com, or you can leave us a voicemail at 678-MULTI-05. We love to hear from our listeners and we reply individually to every message.Let's look at the fundamentals of boundaries. Boundaries are one of the most powerful and important tools for having healthy relationships, but it’s one that is often misunderstood and misused. 

If you want to support our show, the best way is to become one of our patrons at www.patreon.com/multiamory. In addition to helping us continue to create new content and new projects, you also get extra rewards and exclusive content and discussions.

You can order Dedeker's book, The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory: Everything You Need to Know about Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Alternative Love by clicking here.

This week's sponsor is Quip. If you want to give one of their electric toothbrushes a try, plus get a free refill, check them out at tryquip.com/Multiamory.

Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.

Our theme music is Forms I Know I Did by Josh and Anand.

Please send us your feedback and questions to info@multiamory.com, find us on Instagram @Multiamory_Podcast, tweet at us @Multiamory, check out our Facebook Page, visit our website Multiamory.com, or you can leave us a voicemail at 678-MULTI-05. We love to hear from our listeners and we reply individually to every message.





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Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about the fundamentals of boundaries. Boundaries are one of the most powerful and important tools for having healthy relationships, but it's one that is often misunderstood and misused. In fact, I might say, it's actually the most commonly misunderstood concept that we talk about on this show.

What do you two think?

Emily: Yes, definitely. People conflate them as the same thing over and over again, like a boundary rule, an agreement. What are all these things? They mean the same thing when perhaps they actually don't.

Dedeker: Yes, I found myself explaining it again and again to clients and to listeners of the show and reiterating it. To be fair, earlier when we were prepping for this episode, I did do a little bit of googling to see what's kind of mainstream coverage of boundaries. A lot of the mainstream coverage of boundaries is also really confusing and kind of vague.

Emily: Surprise, surprise.

Dedeker: Yes, I think easily misconstrued as well. It's a little bit frustrating, but then at the same time I understand why the term boundary gets thrown out kind of willy-nilly about all kinds of things.

Jase: I feel it's almost like in a lot of cases people have started using it just as, this is the hot new word for rules, or this is the hot new word for relationship expectations or that it's, this is the word people are using now. Rather than realizing, no, it actually is a separate, distinct thing that as we'll talk about in this episode, it has pretty specific uses and pretty specific purposes that I think people don't always understand, which is why we want to do this.

Emily: You all said that the last time we talked about this it was Episode 67 or something or 68.

Jase: Sixty-something.

Dedeker: We've referenced boundaries many, many times throughout episodes, but the last time we actually focused on it was Episode 68, which was 200 years ago.

Emily: Yes, it was. I even kind of wanted a bit of a refresher because we were kind of all trying to stump each other and saying, "What about in this scenario?" "What about in that scenario?"

Dedeker: Yes.

Jase: Totally trying to come up with the simplest possible ways to explain it, and then it's going to be an hour-long episode. That's the simplest way to explain it. Trying to distill down some core principles. Yes, like Emily said, sort of testing each other to be like, does that still work in this situation? To see which guidelines are metaphors or rules held up to that testing.

I'm excited to get into this. Let's start out like the very basics.

Dedeker: We'll just go piece by piece here. Everyone has boundaries, whether they know it or not. You have boundaries, if you're listening to this right now, you have boundaries, you just maybe don't know or maybe you're very aware of it. Everyone has physical, mental and emotional boundaries, professional boundaries as well. Sometimes people can have financial boundaries.

I don't want to get too into the weeds there and start getting confusing right out the gate. Sometimes people use different language for boundaries. Sometimes people may call them deal breakers. I think that's what I see most often in pop culture is figuring out your deal breakers around relationships. It's not always going to manifest as the thing that means you got to pull out of the relationship or you got to not date this person or whatever.

Sometimes it manifests in that way.

Jase: I think often it does. I think actually a deal breaker is not a bad starting place for understanding boundary.

Emily: Interesting. There are a lot of boundaries that are really common ones that people don't even think about, that they just throw out there or that they just believe this is common knowledge in the type of relationship that I'm in. For example, someone in a monogamous relationship automatically probably wouldn't be in a relationship with someone who is sleeping with other people. That would be a deal breaker for them. If you're cheating on me, or if you're sleeping with someone else and I want to be in a monogamous relationship with you, then I'm not going to be in a relationship with you, if you're breaking that deal.

For other people, they may decide, "I really need proximity. I need someone to be close to me in terms of proximity and so therefore I won't be in a long distance relationship with them."

Jase: Right, and I think people will talk about that as a deal breaker. If maybe I like this person, but I'm not willing to be in a long distance relationship, that's a great example of a boundary. That we might not need to think of it as such, but it is.

Some others, not to go too heavy too quickly on this show here, but some others that I think a lot of people take for granted would be that I won't be in a relationship with someone who non-consensually hurts me. Someone who's physically abusive, most people would go, "Yes, of course. That's not someone I would stay in a relationship with." That's an example of a boundary that we often don't even think of it that way.

Another one that could come up would be if you have a close relationship with your parents would be like, "I won't be in a relationship with someone who isn't respectful to my parents." You start dating someone, maybe you think they're really great, and they meet your parents and you feel like they're very disrespectful to them. It's that same like, "Dang it. I like this person, but for me, that's a deal breaker." That's another good example of a boundary. Like, "I won't be in a relationship with someone who does that."

Dedeker: Yes, later on in the episode, we're going to get more specific into the distinction between boundaries, rules, agreements, other things like expectation standards, values and things like that. The important thing to hit here is the fact that boundaries are something that are only made by you. You make the boundary, you apply it to yourself, into your own behavior and it's enforced by you.

This is in contrast to something like rules. A rule is a restriction that either you place on someone else or someone else places on you. An agreement is something that two or more people decide on together, whether in the context of a romantic relationship or not. The really important thing is that we'll probably end up saying a billion times today is that boundaries apply to your behavior. They are about you, they are about protecting you.

Jase: Right, not about affecting someone else's behavior.

Emily: It's probably one of the best tools at your disposal for keeping yourself really safe and for maintaining things like your integrity, your core values and your dedication to those things. Again, if a boundary is violated then you yourself make the decision about whether or not that relationship is something that you want to stay in.

It doesn't present necessarily an ultimatum to your partner, but just rather, "Is it worth it for me to keep on with this relationship or is it a violation of my core values?"

Jase: Right. Let's get into actually talking about what makes a boundary, what actually is that? What we've gotten to so far is that it's something about your own behavior. You could think of it as a rule, but only applied to yourself. I think that often can confuse people. The metaphor that I came up with earlier when we were talking about this is, if you imagine that a boundary is like an inflatable balloon around you. Like a big inflatable hamster ball, or maybe an inner tube that you're wearing around you. That's kind of like a bumper--

Emily: It keeps you safe.

Jase: Yes, it keeps you safe from outside things. Say, you have this boundary, and someone comes along and starts to push into that, starts to do something that for you is not an acceptable type of relationship to be in or an acceptable situation to be in, that then they start pushing into that and just like a balloon, your reaction would be to bounce away from them in order to keep that balloon from popping or to keep them from getting you.

It's sort of this first barrier, but you are the one who changes. You are the one who moves away from that situation or away from that person to keep your balloon or your inner tube intact around you. Rather than being something that's just rigid and people bash up against or something that you use to push other people with.

Emily: I think it's a really radical thing to be looking at yourself in these instances, rather than kind of blaming something on someone else and saying, "You did this to me." Rather, "What is my boundary? What is my value? What am I going to do about it in this instance?" I think that that's a nice change of thoughts in regards to your relationships with other people and how you deal with things that occur within that relationship.

Dedeker: Yes, and for our listeners, I beg you to be patient with us because we are going to get more into some specific examples of healthy boundaries and maybe not so healthy ones and stuff like that. For now, we're going to go through this philosophical exercise first. I find the concept of boundaries to be a very empowering concept because I really like the idea of, "I can keep myself safe in a way that doesn't necessarily rely on other people, where I'm not at the mercy of someone else's behavior all the time. I can make the choice to protect myself, I can make the choice to be in a situation where I'm much happier and much healthier instead of just feeling like I'm at the whim of whatever my partner chooses to do or not do and I'm helpless.

Jase: Right. Sorry, did you have something to add?

Dedeker: No, go ahead.

Jase: I was just going to say but to make a distinction that this isn't to say that boundaries are something that will keep you from ever getting hurt or that if someone does hurt you that it's somehow your own fault. That's not the case here, those are sort of two separate things. In the in the example I gave, you want to be real heavy about it, if someone actually being physically abusive to you in a relationship, the fact that they did that to you doesn't mean that was somehow your fault because you didn't have a good enough boundary or a strong enough boundary or something.

The boundary is just about putting the power on yourself to get out of that situation to enforce, affect your decisions based on what's happening around you and with the people around you. This is definitely not to say like, "Well, it's your own fault." I do want to make that very clear distinction here that this isn't some excuse for saying you can't complain about any bad things that happen.

Dedeker: Right. Some people are clear on their boundaries than others. Some people will be very upfront about it at the beginning of a relationship. For instance, a person who's looking for monogamy maybe when they start dating someone, they will be very clear like, "Hey, I'm looking for a monogamous relationship I can't be in a committed relationship with someone who's sleeping with multiple people, that's my boundary." That's just how it is.

I think about that, it's when you sign up for iTunes and it forces you to click agree or disagree on the terms and agreements. It's like you can't get around that, they're letting you know this is what the terms are, this is what iTunes boundaries are and you have to agree or disagree if you're going to get into a relationship with iTunes and what a relationship it is, let me tell you.

Other people may not be as forthcoming, not necessarily for bad reasons. Some people maybe won't be aware of their boundaries or maybe they just don't want to come to a first date and unload all of that and that feels more like some sites you sign up and you have to go looking for the terms and agreements and investigate what it is that you signed up for.

I think our previous episode on movies on the mnemonic of different questions to ask a new partner is a good exercise for helping to suss out some of these things, a person's boundaries around certain things. Definitely, go check out what episode if you haven't already.

Again, if someone isn't upfront with you about their boundaries, that doesn't mean that they don't exist. It just means that maybe you need to do a little more conversing, negotiation, talking in order to get that information.

Emily: Honestly, I will say because this came up when we were talking about this that often you may not be necessarily fully aware of your boundaries or other people's boundaries until they are violated in some way. For instance, you may not know that you have a really big boundary about people looking at your text messages over your shoulder or going into your email and looking at your emails or something like that until an ex or your current partner decides to do that and then you feel something very intensely about that situation and it may become a boundary of yours.

It's not always things that are intrinsically with you from the beginning of your life and that's always a boundary. It can change in form over time.

Jase: Now, to go back to what we were mentioning before just to clarify that is that the identifying part of a boundary is that it's something for yourself. It's something that you all by yourself unilaterally can uphold or enforce. It's not something that involves anyone else having to do something, it's something that can be 100% enforced by yourself.

I think sometimes people get confused about that and will try to call something that they actually mean as more like, I expect you to do this or I want you to do this or I want to be with these kinds of people, trying to call that a boundary because it's important to them. That's not actually a boundary because a boundary is just about what are you going to do to enforce that.

What we want to be clear about is that these other things, these values and preferences and expectations are incredibly important. In an ideal situation, you would be focused more on those than you are on your boundaries. The boundaries are like that last line of defense, that inflatable hamster ball around you to keep something from getting to the point that it's dangerous to you or that it's unacceptable to you without you realizing it, that the boundaries there is that kind of a protection.

These things, these values can be complementary to a boundary hopefully by seeking your values, you wouldn't even need to employ those boundaries or need to rely on those to protect yourself.

Emily: Yes, I think that's why we have spoken about them and more of the negative context like the boundary, as you said, as the last line of defense. Therefore, it's the thing that may be more the negative side of what we're talking about. For example, like a value that one may have is that they want to be in a relationship with the person who will lift them up, who will encourage them to grow, who will be kind and there for them. Therefore, a boundary that comes out of that value is that they can't be in a relationship with someone who puts you down, insults you or verbally abuses you. Again, yes, that's more of like the extreme example, but if that ever did occur, then obviously, it would be a violation of your value and thus your boundary.

Jase: Right, but I think it's good to point out that the value is like I'm going to seek out these types of people who lift me up and encourage me and make me feel good about myself. There's still a lot of gray area in the middle of just sort of neutral, where it's just fine, it's fine, it's not bad, but it's not great. That you can focus on that value of moving toward the thing you want, and the boundary is just there is that last resort of, if I realize I'm in a relationship or someone's insulting me or just putting me down, that's when I realize, "That's a boundary," I have to enforce this myself which means to leave that relationship. Not to say, "Hey, you need to change because this is a boundary." It's, "I have to leave because this is my last line of defense."

Dedeker: Right, it's enforcing your own behavior. You can also have professional boundaries as well like I mentioned earlier. Again, these can also be complementary. You can have the same way that you can have a value that helps dictate what kind of relationships you seek out or what kind of behavior you seek out. That's also complemented with a boundary that helps protect you from bad situations. It's the same thing with agreements like you could have an agreement, but then also having a boundary in place also protect you if an agreement gets broken in some way.

For instance, in my business as a coach and as a consultant, a client and I have an agreement that for X amount of money, we're going to talk for 50 minutes of coaching time or 75 minutes or whatever it is that they've booked. We come to that agreement that like for such and such amount of money, then we're going to come together and we're going to talk for 50 minutes, let's say. That's our agreement.

I have a boundary, a professional boundary that I won't let a session run longer than 10 minutes over time. That's something that protects me, it protects my time, it protects the value of my time, it protects my other clients from not having their appointments need to be pushed back because I talked to this particular person for 20 more minutes. That's my thing that I enforce on me. If I get into a coaching session and it gets to the 50-60 minute mark and if I'm expecting the client to change their behavior and to enforce this boundary, that looks like me sitting there being like, "Okay, I'm going to listen, but hey, can you please not go much longer? Okay, I'm going to listen, but can you please not go much longer? I'm going to listen, but can you please not go much longer?"

I'm not actually enforcing it, maybe I'm expressing to the client that I'm upset or I'm irritated or I don't like this, but I'm not actually enforcing a boundary. Enforcing a boundary looks like, "Okay, we're over time by 10 minutes. I'm going to wrap up the session for today and maybe let's book an extra appointment or whatever next steps are, but it's me enforcing my behavior and my behavior is, I'm going to choose to end this coaching session.

It would be so ridiculous if I didn't enforce a boundary and a client talked for like 30 minutes longer than the coaching session was supposed to be, I had to push back all my other clients, it totally threw out my schedule for the day and then I came to Emily and Jase and I was like, "Oh my God, I'm so annoyed. This person totally violated my boundary of not going 10 minutes over time and they ruined my entire day." If I didn't enforce that boundary, then--

Jase: It wasn't a boundary.

Dedeker: It wasn't a boundary, it was just a preference. I just threw away this tool that could have protected me and my whole day.

Jase: That's another good example though that before going into that there was an agreement of we're going to talk for 50 minutes or however long it is. Again, ideally, if everyone's honoring the agreement, we don't even get to the point where the boundary needs to get involved essentially. It's just like, "Yes, we'll just do what we agreed to do." There's some leeway for things not to go perfectly with the agreement, but the boundary doesn't kind of come in until later.

Dedeker: Right. I'm also not using that personal boundary to enforce the client's behavior. I'm not saying to my client like, "If you go over 10 minutes over time, then I'm going to be real mad," or, "If you go 20 minutes over time, then I'm going to not talk to you again." I'm not trying to rein in the client, I'm trying to rein in my own behavior essentially.

Jase: I think the other thing to point out with this is that in the examples we've given so far, boundaries have been, I won't be in a relationship with someone who does this, which seems pretty severe. People are like, "Wow, can a boundary be a little less than that?" Well, we'll get into some more of these later when we do our exercise at the end, but it could be an example of like I get very upset if someone yells at me. Then a boundary for that, for you could just be, I'm going to leave the room. I'm not going to stay in the room and talk with someone who's yelling at me. That it doesn't have to be like, "I will not be in a relationship with someone who ever yells at me."

Do you see what I mean? Maybe for you that is, needs to be I'm completely out with anyone who would ever yell at me. There is degrees, you can set it wherever.

In Dedeker's example, it's not like, "I'm going to drop this client if they go 10 minutes over and I have to enforce this." It's like, no, I'm just going to end this session. That's an example of like a very minor and therefore I think easier to enforce kind of a boundary. Another one that comes up a lot in especially monogamous couples who are opening up a relationship is--

Emily: Open relationship.

Jase: Yes, is saying, "I need to be introduced to someone in person before you sleep with them." You can go on dates on your own, but before you have sex with them, I need to have been introduced in person, like you need to bring them to meet me. That, like as it's phrased right there; "I need to be introduced," that's a rule because you're saying, "You have to do something, I'm telling you anything you have to do."

Dedeker: Also, that's a rule, it's very easy clearly can be broken.

Jase: Right and there's a clear way that can--

Emily: In a moment, whatever, yes.

Jase: I do want to point out that that way of phrasing it is not a boundary and people will often confuse this one and say that's a boundary; "If it's a boundary for me--" No, that wording right there is not because again, the rule for a boundary is it has to be something that you yourself can take action to enforce it. If we were to rephrase that as a boundary, it could be something like I won't be in a relationship with someone who has sex with people I haven't been introduced to. Now, think about that.

Dedeker: Whether that's a healthier or unhealthy boundary or not.

Jase: Well, think about it for yourself as more the question I think, is like, if that's the boundary version of it, would I actually do that if my partner did end up say they were out on a date and it was just going really well and they ended up having sex and came back like, "I know I'm sorry, we had agreed to this other thing, but in the moment, I really wanted to do this and it was great." Would you really right now just leave them over that? Because if it's a boundary, yes, you would. Or if there would be some other way for you to enforce that. That's I think a good example of a thing where it's we want to call this a boundary, but is it really? Are you really willing to take action yourself to uphold that boundary or is this maybe something else?

Emily: Yes, because I think like more often than not, it would probably be a preference, for example, saying I really prefer to meet a new partner in person before you sleep with them because it's going to help me feel much more comfortable, it'll make me be able to see them as a person, not be so worried about this random human out there sleeping with you that I know nothing about. It kind of humanizes them in a way.

Dedeker: Yes, but again, with the preference thing like if you state this as a preference and then your partner again, maybe in the heat of the moment, they have sex with someone new and then it's going to be a huge falling out because in reality, it was them breaking a rule, then it's not a preference then it's a rule.

Jase: Something worth pointing out about rules is the thing with rules is I always want to ask people the question when they say, "We have this rule or this rule," is, okay, what's the consequence for breaking the rule? Often people don't have an answer for that. That's another key difference is that a boundary is always enforceable because you're the only one who needs to do it. You don't need power over anyone else to do it, it just dictates a choice that you will make about your own actions like leaving that relationship, leaving the room, not living with someone anymore.

There are different ways that you could enact that boundary for yourself, but with a rule like this rule, I need to be introduced to someone in person before you have sex with them. I don't know how you would enforce that. If that was broken, I'm really upset. If that's broken, you have to sleep on the couch for a week. I'm like, how do you enforce that in a way that will actually feel like that's good? Which is why maybe this would be better as an agreement.

Emily: Yes, for example saying, "We're both going to introduce any new partners to the other person before we have sex with them." That's an agreement again that two people make in the relationship together. They're agreeing it's going to go both ways; you're going to introduce your new partner and I'm going to introduce my new partner before I have sex with them.

Dedeker: I still have questions about that agreement though because, again, I get that two people are coming together to agree it still feels like a rule to me. I feel like that still has the implication that if you don't do that, I know it's going to be trouble because we can agree that if you sleep with someone without telling me your ass is grass, we can agree on that. That doesn't mean that it's like a healthy agreement.

Jase: I think of it that's part of an agreement, that's part of any agreement. Even if it's just you agree that you're going to pick the kids up after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Any agreement, it is possible that the other person will not do it and you will be upset and there will be fallout and if there were enough of these, it might lead you to break up or something.

This isn't to say that like wording it the right way or making it the right thing will make it so no one ever does anything you don't like. That's not the point of this. I think that's why I would encourage people to use more agreement language because then it's like, "Hey, we said we do this thing and you didn't. I'm hurt by that, let's have a conversation about that. Do we need to adjust this agreement, do I need to adjust my expectations? Is this relationship going to work out?" This isn't a guarantee that you won't have a problem, it's just saying, "Hey you, we agreed to do something and you didn't," versus a rule saying, "You can't do this."

To me is like well that if you can't enforce that, do you see what I mean? It's like a subtle difference of like a rule is phrased as if there's going to be a consequence. Whereas an agreement's more of, obviously, there's a consequence, but it's more personal. It's more like, "You hurt this relationship because we agreed to do something and you didn't."

Dedeker: Sorry, I think I'm too jaded by working with people who've come up with some really really manipulative crappy agreements and so, I feel nervous about just saying just if you put the language of "we agreed" that that makes everything okay.

Jase: That's exactly what I'm not saying.

Dedeker: I think it requires--

Emily: May I interject here?

Jase: Yes.

Emily: Thank you. Overall with all of this, I think it is really important and like you said, Dedeker, because sometimes these agreements or these rules or boundaries can come from a place of not being good to yourself or to your partner. I think it's incredibly important to do the internal work and ask yourself why and where these things are coming from because again, it may be because your ex-partner did a huge boundary violation and that therefore it became a boundary like they did something kind of unforgivable and so, therefore, you know I'm not going to do anything in a further relationship that would violate this boundary again.

For example, in this thing, you may not want your existence to be hid from a new partner. Maybe your old partner didn't tell anyone that they were polyamorous before they started sleeping with someone and then they just slept with them and then, later on, they were like, "Actually by the way, I also live with the person," and so, obviously that's shitty and you don't want that to happen again. Maybe that's why this boundary is in place, but I think it is really important to ask yourself that in all of these instances like, what are my internal fears or insecurities that are dictating these boundaries that I have.

Dedeker: Okay. As in, maybe, your boundary is that you don't want to be in a relationship with someone who hides your existence from other people, that's why it feels like a value to you to be able to eventually meet in person, your metamour or your partner's partner.

It's interesting because I feel like if you do uncover that boundary for yourself, I think that means that it's easier to be more lax on that particular rule that maybe when you realize that, it means like, "Well, maybe that doesn't mean I need to meet them every single time before you're going to have sex, maybe it's just important to me as a value like I would just really want to be able to meet them, meet the people that you're engaged with at some point.

Jase: I want to be sure that I'm not being hidden from them. I do want to be clear to respond to what you were saying earlier, Dedeker, that I actually don't think this is a good agreement to have in a relationship.

I think, like you said, more of a preference, I'd like to meet them at some point, sure, why not? I would prefer to meet my partner's partners.

I guess what I'm getting at is just that none of these things are going to solve all your problems.Just because something's in agreement or just because it's a rule or just because it's a boundary isn't going to solve all your problems. It's more I just meant it as an example to clarify what those different things could be used for and that maybe you would decide that's an agreement in your relationship and then at some point someone doesn't do it.

You might be upset about that, you have a conversation about it and maybe as part of that, hopefully, you realize, "Okay, maybe this agreement wasn't a reasonable one for us to have," or maybe not even reasonable, but just, "This isn't the best agreement for us to try to have. Let's adapt this. Let's change it to be something else," whereas I think a boundary would be something that's not like, "Okay you crossed this boundary of mine, let's talk about it and maybe re-evaluate and I will change my boundary."

That boundary is more, like we said, that kind of last line of defense your boundary might change over your life, but not because, "I love this person and they've crossed this boundary," that's what I'm trying to differentiate here. Because an agreement can kind of be renegotiated within that relationship, but a boundary is pretty fixed for yourself because it's about protecting yourself.

Dedeker: I'm going to change gears a little bit and just talk about weaponizing boundaries.

Jase: Such intense.

Dedeker: Well, I see it a lot, and I think I see it in the form of like ultimatums because I think the one dangerous thing with boundaries as that we can very easily lose sight of like, "This is supposed to be about me is supposed to be about my behavior," and we use that as a weapon to control someone else's behavior.

Now, the way that this looks is like, maybe you have a boundary like I can't be in a relationship with someone who's dishonest with me. The way it gets used to though is essentially, coming to your partner and it becomes an ultimatum. It becomes, "You better stop lying to me or I'm going to leave you," and it's a very subtle difference because saying like, "I can't be in a relationship with someone who's dishonest with me," the enforcement of that boundary means like I can't be in this relationship and so I am leaving. Or I'm deescalating or I'm changing this relationship in order to protect myself. It's about my behavior, my choices, how do I protect me.

When it morphs into, "If you don't stop lying to me, I'm going to leave you," it immediately is not about your behavior, it's about the other person's behavior and there you are using a boundary like holding a gun up to their head and threatening them and saying like, "If you don't stop this behavior, if you don't change this behavior then I'm going to punish you by leaving."

I think this is where people get tripped up a lot also with boundaries is because they think this sounds like a punishment or if it's like, "I'm not going to talk to you or I'm going to go into the other room or I'm going to leave the relationship," that sounds like a punishment and it can be very easily twisted and used as a punishment, but again, I think that's why it's so important to check yourself like, "Am I doing this because I'm hoping to change the other person's behavior, or am I doing this to protect myself and keep my self-safe?"

If you can bring yourself back to that question, that's going to help you stay on that path of actually keeping yourself safe, rather than falling into something that's more abusive or more toxic where you're just trying to twist your partner's arm into the behavior that you want them to have.

Jase: I think a clear difference there too and maybe another kind of litmus test for deciding whether something is a boundary or not is in that example it's like, "You better stop this or I'm going to do this," is it's, they're still doing it. It's a thing that keeps happening and you're allowing to keep happening whereas if it was a boundary, again, it's that inflatable hamster ball around you, if they push into that, in this case by lying, your reaction is to be pushed away, is to bounce back out so your boundary can stay in place.

Whereas an ultimatum you tend to stay in it and be like, "I'm going to do this if you don't do that," because you're trying to get them to change as opposed to a boundary which is more of like that last line of defense of like, "No, I have to get out of the situation because that's something that I'm not willing to tolerate in my life.

Another one that comes up a lot that, Dedeker, you mentioned this before lots of people bring this up is, the agreement that we will have unprotected sex with each other, but we'll use condoms with everyone else. It's popular to call this fluid bonding, someone pointed out to me years ago that that term is actually kind of shitty as a term because it's saying like, these are somehow the only fluids that matter even though we share a lot of people even just from kissing or whatever. It also sort of over romanticize something that's a little more of a technical decision, but whatever.

Fluid bonding we're going to have unprotected sex with each other, but we need to use condoms with everyone else. If your partner starts to not do this or they don't want to do this, the ultimatum version is that, "Well, you need to start using condoms with other people or I'll stop having sex with you." Or, "I'll break up with you," or whatever it is. I'm going to threaten you to try to get you to change your behavior.

Whereas the boundary version of that, in this case, doesn't have to just be breaking up. It could be I won't have unprotected sex with someone who's having unprotected sex with someone else. Either I won't have sex with them at all, or it means I will use protection with them if they're not using it with everyone else and again, you'll notice it changes from "we" to "I" because you're only talking about your behavior of, "I won't have this type of sex in this circumstance," so that then they can choose to do it or not and your own choice is clear without your boundary having to be collapsed.

You're not letting them pop that inflatable balloon around you because your boundary is actually one you can enforce. Whereas if it's trying to just get them to change, you have no power to actually change what anyone else does.

Dedeker: I have a lot of clients who ask about like the condom or the safe sex and how to frame it as a boundary and not make it into a controlling rule or something like that, and no one wants to hear this. I tell people, really, if you really are concerned about your partner having unprotected sex, your boundary is that, that is that, that you don't want to have unprotected sex with someone who's not having protected sex with other people, and so that means either you don't have sex or use a condom. That's the most empowering way.

You can choose to go the disempowered way and put all the power in your partner's hands, rely on your partner to choose to wear a condom or allowing your partner's partners to have safe sex practices. It's not to say that all these are bad people that you should rely on, but I'm just saying the more empowered way is that choice. If you really are concerned about you know having unprotected sex with someone who's having unprotected sex with someone else.

Jase: I think something that's worth looking at in that example is the fact that, that situation could change over time. It could be like, "Well, right now my partner is having sex with this other person unprotected, I might not like it, but because I have this boundary I'm going to use protection with them." Maybe a year or 2 down the road they're now using protection with everyone else and you can talk about it with each other and say, "Okay, well, this fits within my boundary now, maybe we won't do that. When the boundary is phrased this way, it's about your decision making and doesn't have to be an ultimatum of like, "We're through if you do this."

Emily: Okay, we've talked about a lot of things, given you a lot of different examples of the difference between a boundary, a rule, an expectation, all of those things. Let's look at a couple of other commonly said things in relationships and try to put them to the test and evaluate whether or not they are actually a boundary. The first one is going to be, "you have to sleep in bed with me every night person."

Dedeker: As in a partner person?

Emily: Partner person, yes. Like my partner who I live with, that person has to sleep in bed with me every single night, so what would that be?

Jase: They can't spend the night with anyone else.

Emily: Yes, can't spend the night with anyone else, can't stay over, if they are a little too drunk, no, they need to come home and spend the night with me.

Jase: Well, as it's phrased right there it's a rule because it's talking about someone else's behavior and what they can or can't do, right?

Emily: Yes.

Jase: I think the question I would want to ask for the person who wanted to make this rule is if you rephrased this as a boundary, would you still do it? I think this is true with rules because I think with rules, like we said, you have to have a consequence if you break a rule that often, I think the default sort of unspoken consequence for rules in relationships is, "I'll break up with you."

Like with the deal breaker example earlier of like in monogamy the rule is we're not going to sleep with other people, this sort of unspoken expectation is, "If you do, I will break up with you. I'm not going to be with you." If we have something we're tempted to make into a rule, I would ask you, would you actually enforce this if it were a boundary on yourself? With this example, the boundary version would be I won't be in a relationship with someone who doesn't sleep in bed with me every night. Then if that happens would you actually--

Dedeker: That may be true for some people.

Jase: Maybe, it is.

Dedeker: That may be true. If that's true about you, maybe polyamory is not the best choice for you, maybe monogamy is a better choice for you, co-habiting monogamy, but that could be true for you that you can't be in a relationship with someone, cohabiting with someone unless they're in bed with you every night.

Jase: I would bet for a lot of people interested in polyamory and some kind of non-monogamy, if they were really honest with themselves about that question, I'm not sure you would leave your partner over that. Maybe that would be hurtful, but I'm not sure that that would actually be a boundary. It's kind of evaluating, is it or not.

Emily: Yes, exactly.

Dedeker: Let's move on to the next one. One that we hear pretty frequently is someone saying, "I want to be prioritized with scheduling."

Jase: Like what?

Dedeker: Maybe that manifests in a number of ways, maybe that means I want to have the majority of nights a week with you or I want to make sure that I'm with you on all the major holidays or at family events.

Jase: I've also heard this one of like, if I'm ever really upset, I need you to drop everything and come to me regardless of what your other plans are.

Emily: Yes, the phrasing of all that doesn't really seem like a rule, it seems more like, this is what's expected like you're you're acting someone to do this for you.

Jase: You could phrase it as a rule, but yes, in that phrasing, it would be more like an expectation. Again, I would ask the question of if this was a boundary, it would have to be phrased by something you yourself would do. The boundary version would be what? I won't be in a relationship with someone who won't always prioritize me over other plans? Again, ask the question like, Is that true for you? Will you really not be in that relationship in that circumstance? Or I suppose you could try to lighten that a little bit and be like, "I won't have children with someone who isn't going to always prioritize me over any other thing in their life."

I'm still not sure that's the healthiest of boundaries to have, but you could have it and if that really is true for you. That's not something I would do, then maybe it could be a boundary. I think often people will call this a boundary of like, "You always have to prioritize me," when really it's not. Because they're trying to just get the other person to change their behavior rather than saying, "This is crossing a boundary therefore I have to take action to keep my boundary intact," and do whatever; leave or not live with this person or not have kids with them or something, right?

Another one we hear a lot, the super common almost to the point of being cliche is, we're going to have sex with other people, maybe date other people casually, but we won't fall in love with anyone else. What about that? What do you think about that one?

Dedeker: With that phrasing, because it emphasizes on we, then it sounds like an agreement to me, just agreeing that we're not going to fall--

Emily: Because you both are doing that together and both not falling in love with other people.

Dedeker: I feel like we could get into the weeds on this one, and we have on the show before, of talking about realistic of an agreement that it is or anything like that.

I feel like with this one, and actually with all of these that we just mentioned like with being in bed with me every night, with prioritizing my schedule, with not falling in love with someone else. For me, I feel like to actually suss out a boundary from those things, it comes down more to what's the fear behind these things. Maybe the fear is I'm afraid that my partner is going to neglect me or I'm afraid that my partner's never going to see me or I'm afraid that my partner is not going to give me the time that I need to have a healthy relationship.

Then it feels like that goes to something much deeper and so maybe that boundary is a more general boundary of like, "I can't be in a relationship with someone who neglects me." Then, of course, it begs the question like, is your partner spending one night away neglecting you? It's like, "Well, probably not." Again, maybe it's uncomfortable, maybe I feel insecure, maybe I'm a little bit upset about it, but it's not actually violating this particular boundary about how I can't be in a relationship with someone who neglects me.

I feel like with the agreements that people make or the expectations or the values that people have, that can be another interesting way to access this too is kind of getting down to like what's actually the fear here? What am I actually trying to protect myself from? Then actually make a boundary that's actually about protecting yourself from that.

Jase: Before we go on to our exercise about creating your own boundaries, we want to take a moment to talk about some ways to join our amazing community here that we have as part of Multiamory Patreon.

Dedeker: Yes, if you go to patreon.com/multiamory, you can become part of our Patreon community as well as supporting the show. Our Patreon community is what keeps the boat afloat. Obviously, the financial support has totally transformed the way this show is run just for the fact that we're able to do live events and we're able to build our website, create more resources, do more outreach to people, create workshops and stuff like that. It has enabled us to be able to actually give back to that community in such a fantastic and amazing way.

There's that part of it, but then also, it has created this community that we're able to interact with and get ideas from people about what kind of stuff people want to hear on the show or get feedback on how we can make our show better. If you want to become part of that community and check out all the different incentives we have for all kinds of different levels, you can go to patreon.com/multiamory.

Jase: Yes, also, if you can just take a quick moment to write us a review on iTunes or on Stitcher, that will actually help a lot in getting this podcast out to more people, helping more people to find it to know some of this information. I know that at least for me, I would love more people to listen to podcasts like this, so that then there's more good healthy relationship partners out there to have. It's really self-serving for you to write us a review on iTunes or Stitcher is what I'm trying to say.

If you just take a moment to talk about what you get out of this show, it helps us show up higher in search results and helps make other people more likely to actually give the show a listen if they happen to come across it in their searches.

Emily: Our sponsor for this week is Audible. If you love to read books and if you don't necessarily have time to do so, if you have a long commute, a great way to still do book reading is via Audible via an audio book. If you go to audibletrail.com/multiamory, you get a free audio book and a free 30 day trial which is amazing.

You can even just try it for the free stuff and then cancel it and we still get a little kick back from that. It would really, really be awesome for you to try that and help us out a little bit. Again, go to audibletrial.com/multiamory and get your free book and your free 30-day trial.

Dedeker: The free credit for the audio book is for whatever audio book you want also. It's not like whatever they force you to take as the free sample.

Dedeker: Like only Oscar Wilde or somebody or only the classics.

Emily: Yes, exactly. If there's a book on Audible that you've been eyeing for a while, I definitely recommend doing the free trial, even if you just want to check out that book. That will still help us out a little bit.

Jase: If you're like us, you'll probably keep your subscription anyway because I having audio books is awesome. They have courses too, you could use that free credit to do online course in business or marketing or all sorts of things that they have in their library.

Emily: Yes, that would be fun times at Ridgemont High.

Dedeker: Oh my goodness.

Emily: It's fast times, anyway.

Dedeker: All right. okay, we're going to take you through an exercise, very easy three-step exercise as a starting point for figuring out what your boundaries are. Like we said at the top of the episode, sometimes you don't know what they are until a line has been crossed and then you're like, "Oof, yes, that's a thing."

Maybe that's been something painful in the past or maybe I need to get clear about this being a boundary for me or maybe it's very clear to you. We're going to take you through just the super simple three-step process, I really encourage you to write this down, this can be a good journaling exercise or just a general writing exercise to get again, a starting point for knowing what your boundaries are and you'll probably come back to this exercise many times over the course of your life.

Dedeker: Yes, the very first one is going to be figuring out what behavior from others runs counter to your personal values. It's a really good time initially to kind of figure out the lessons that you might have learned from past arguments, what sort of red flags you might have missed early on in a dysfunctional relationship.

An example, this isn't of me, this isn't my example, but it is an example. My father has a habit of always interrupting and talking over me when we disagree about something. That may be something you found in your past relationship or in your relationship with your father that continually irks you or feels like a violation of something within you. Something that you need to examine and explore.

Another example is my ex-partner often resorted to calling me names and using really abusive language when they were angry. Again, yes, that may be a catalyst for a boundary that you want to implement in a future relationship.

Then, another one is my coworker asked for a favor and loaded me up with a bunch of tasks that they were supposed to do and so I missed a deadline on my own project by doing those tasks. God, that sounds very much like something that I've probably done in my life. I'm really bad at saying no.

Dedeker: Really relatable though.

Emily: That's a good thing to be aware of; being able to say no in the future.

Jase: Then, the second step is to create a boundary, and again, try writing this down, that addresses that behavior. Remember, like we talked about that boundaries are placed on yourself, which means they're not something that's expected to change anyone else's behavior, they're about your own protection, not punishing someone else. It could mean, speaking up, it could mean removing yourself from a situation. It could mean ending a relationship entirely.

To use those same three examples here. The first one of your father interrupting you when you're disagreeing about something could be, "I will not converse with someone who repeatedly interrupts me." If someone's repeatedly interrupting me, I'm going to leave that conversation.

The next one about name-calling or abusive language will be, "I will not permit anyone to call me names or use abusive language toward me." Or the third one is about the co-worker. Emily, listen close for this one, "I will only accept extra work that still allows me to prioritize and complete my own work and projects."

Dedeker: Moving on to the very last step is then determining, how is this boundary actually going to be enforced because it's one thing to say, "Well, I'm not going to let anyone call me names or use abusive language, or I'm not going to converse with someone who's interrupting me, or I'm not going to take on extra work, if it's going to be an obstacle to me." It's great to say that, but then often, I think people get lost after that point. They say that "Okay. Well, I'm not going to take on any extra work." Then, the only enforcement is, "Well, if I'm asked to do extra work then I just get really upset about it." Or, "My father keeps interrupting me so I get upset about it."

Just getting upset about it is not enough of an enforcement. There actually has to be some action here.

Again, enforcing your boundaries, it doesn't have to be dramatic, it doesn't have to be harsh, it doesn't have to be extreme. Of course, it doesn't have to be a punishment. It doesn't always preclude leaving a relationship, but the important thing is just that it's consistent, it's something that you can consistently apply, ideally across the board. We've talked about this in our relationship anarchy episode of, it's maybe a good practice to not switch your boundaries or switch your enforcement depending on the person in your life.

It's good to be consistent to your own values. Some examples. If my father interrupts me or talks over me during a disagreement, I'll remove myself from the conversation until we're both calmer. Again, it's your behaviors.

Emily: Halt.

Dedeker: It's halting, yes. It's, "Okay. Dad, I really need to call halt, I'm going to go take a 20-minute walk and then come back to this." It doesn't have to be, "If you don't stop interrupting me, I'm going to leave."

Again, like we talked earlier that that's going to be trying to punish the other person, trying to control their behavior, but, no, this is about your behavior.

With the verbal abuse, it could be if a partner calls me names or uses abusive language towards me, I will leave the relationship. That's one where I actually would encourage you to be a little more extreme in like, "I need to leave this relationship."

Again, it's less empowering if it comes across as, "I'm going to dump you unless you stop calling me that." Because, again, it's putting the power in their hands and you're at their whim to change their behavior or not change their behavior. If for you what's going to protect you is not being in this verbally abusive relationship, then, that's what's going to protect you and that's your boundary.

With the co-worker situation, if someone's asking me to take on extra work, I will negotiate an appropriate amount of that work or I will politely decline. Again, that's a thing where it's not even extreme, it's not even like if a co-worker tries to ask me to do extra work, I'm going to break up with them or never talk to them again.

Jase: I will quit my job.

Dedeker: I'm going to quit my job.

Emily: I'm going to quit my job, yes.

Dedeker: This is also a twofer where it's like, "Well, I'll be mindful and I will negotiate and make sure that I don't just give a blind." Or don't just say like, "Yes," and take on everything and not have any restrictions around it, I'll negotiate or I'm going to be honest and say, "Actually, no, I have these other things I need to focus on. Maybe next time."

Jase: Yes, then you take this and you put it to the test. Like we mentioned earlier, can this be enforced unilaterally? Can I enforce this all by myself without anyone else having to do anything to enforce it? Then, the second question is to ask yourself if this other person's behavior didn't change, would this boundary still protect me? Would leaving the room when someone's in a discussion interrupting me actually protect me from that behavior? Yes, okay, I think that would.

Would leaving this relationship if someone talks to me this way, protect me from that? Yes, I think that would. Evaluating, would this actually address the thing that you're trying to protect yourself from?

Emily: Yes. There is a last little word of warning regarding all of this. It is especially common for women to potentially feel selfish, not just women, anyone, but you may feel selfish about having a boundary. That's normal, but it doesn't mean that you're not allowed to have them and that you shouldn't think about them especially in regards to your values and the things that have happened time and time again in your relationships. Yes, I agree.

Dedeker: I just really want to drive home to think that I've seen, especially with a lot of clients of mine who are women. Just to bear in mind that people who were socialized to be women were often told like, we are the caretakers and we are the nurturers and we need to put everyone else's needs before our own and that makes it really hard to say "no" or to turn down doing something for someone else to enforce a boundary, because we're taught that having that kind of boundary means you're an uncaring, heartless bitch to a certain extent.

Again, I think it's common that people can feel selfish having boundaries regardless of how you identify, but it's just something that I've seen in particular with the way that we culturize women essentially when they're growing up that it's really easy to feel really guilty and selfish about having any boundaries whatsoever.

Emily: Yes, definitely be aware of that within all of this. Also, if you have not enforced your boundaries in the past and then all of a sudden you do start enforcing them, it may cause some tension, it may cause some waves to happen for better or for worse. Do be aware of that because, again, you may finally decide, "Hey, I'm going to start enforcing these boundaries." That may be a big surprise, I guess, to your partner or partners.

Dedeker: Yes, I think in contrast to what we were saying earlier, a boundary is not about changing someone else's behavior, it may still have an impact on someone else's behavior. You enforcing a boundary, it may end up having an impact. The intention is always supposed to be taking care of yourself first, but it may still affect the people who are in the relationship with you.

Obviously, if you choose to leave a relationship because you're not being respected or being verbally abused, that's going to affect your partner's mood and their actions or how they feel. It's going to affect them, but ultimately, at the end of the day, it's still just important to make sure that you're the most important person in this situation in as far as keeping yourself safe and keeping yourself emotionally and mentally healthy.

Jase: Well, I hope this helped. I know that this is something that we've struggled to find better and better ways to explain and to clarify. It's a topic that comes up just, honestly, so much in conversations, I have with people in person and online, just this topic of boundaries. Hopefully, by going through a lot of more specific examples and trying to come up with as many real-life ones as possible.

Also, we would love to have you join in on this conversation in our Patreon group. We're starting a new thing of a discussion group for each episode as it comes out. Again, if you go to patreon.com/multiamory, you can join that group and actually be involved in these really cool discussions where we get even more into this and people share their personal experiences and how they've applied these things in their own lives.

Dedeker: If you want to get in touch with us, send an email to info@multiamory.com or send us a message on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also leave us a voicemail at 6-7-8-M-U-L-T-I-0-5 or you can also leave us a voice message on Facebook.