WWMUD: My husband says boundaries push people away
How to explain the way boundaries improve relationships
Dear MU, my husband insists that boundaries do nothing but push people away, and I don’t know how to explain to him that it doesn’t feel like that to me. (And if people feel pushed, that isn’t my problem–especially if the alternative is continuing to deal with their nonsense.) How can I explain this to him in a way that he might understand? – Brie, on Instagram
A healthy boundary is truly designed to make a relationship better—but the person on the receiving end might not be able to see that. The key lies in the intentions of the boundary-setter (in this case, you). Let’s illustrate with a story.
Bob and his muddy boots
Say your husband’s friend Bob, a nice guy whose company you enjoy, visits frequently, but always wears his muddy shoes inside the house. You’ve hinted that he could take them off, but he’s ignored the hints and your husband doesn’t notice, so Bob keeps tracking dirt all over your floors, carpets, and sometimes couch.
So the next time Bob knocks on the door, you open it with a sigh. “Hi, Bob… come in.” He walks in with a big grin, mud all over his boots, and moves in for a hug. But you’re already angry because you just washed the floors, so you give him a short hug and a terse, “Jeff is in the kitchen.” You immediately head upstairs, because you will seethe with rage if you have to watch your gorgeous carpet and floors get muddied again.
You pace around upstairs annoyed that you can’t even enjoy your own house because of Bob’s rude behavior. Bob walks into the kitchen to find your husband Jeff and says, “What’s wrong with Brie? She seemed really out of sorts when she answered the door. Did I do something wrong?” Jeff has no idea, and now they’re both confused. You stomp down the stairs to get a snack, Jeff asks, “Hey babe, you okay?” and you snap back, “I’m FINE,” and now they both think you’re mad at them and don’t know why.