Hello everybody, welcome to episode 130 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Happy to be back with you another day with another question about breakup recovery; but I think at it’s core, this question is really much more about the value of how to set boundaries, which of course extends far beyond romantic relationships. What do you say we have a look? Here’s what’s on this viewer’s mind…
QUESTION: “I’m 21. My former partner broke up with me in January. Shortly after, they started to contact me again in ways that were very unhealthy for both of us but especially for me. Come April, I finally cut off all contact with them. I have grown in minor and major ways since then, ways that have helped me slowly progress out of this relationship.
A few weeks ago, my ex reached out to me making it evident they are still thinking of me and wanted to talk to me about something specific. After a good week or two of thinking about what steps to take, I let them know to stop contacting me and that I am not ready to hear them out right now.
I am obviously feeling a mixture of emotions, including self-victimization from my past hurt (and having someone who has hurt me reach out like this) but also guilt and anxiety for being so direct with them. How can I lessen guilt around boundary setting? And continue to move forward after this slump?”
Cutting Off Contact
I want to start by saying how proud I am of you for being the one to set such strong boundaries and cut off contact being that you were the one who was broken up with.
Usually it’s the other way around and when we’re broken up with, that state of desperation sets in that causes us to scramble and get our partners back. So for you to recognize that being broken up with was indeed a healthy thing for you is a really good foot to have started off on in terms of empowering yourself.
Had you not started off on such a good foot, then you probably wouldn’t have grown in the minor and major ways that you referenced.
With that being said, I think it’s important to remind yourself of that. If you want to feel less guilty about setting boundaries, remind yourself that the growth you’ve experienced would not have been possible otherwise, and therefore, continued growth in any degree will also be extremely challenging (if not impossible) if you don’t keep doing more of the same boundary setting.
Now tell me, do you not owe it to yourself to continue setting boundaries?
How to Set Boundaries
You do owe it to yourself. You owe it to yourself now and even more so in the future.
You mentioned being 21 at the top of your question, and at 21, setting strong boundaries tends to feel new and uncomfortable.
When we’re children and teenagers, boundary setting isn’t as much of a presence. We’re young enough that we’re regularly being told what to do (and rightfully so, it’s for our own good), we’re typically not as bogged down by mental health struggles that demand strong boundaries, and the nature of our relationships is usually playful enough that heavy subject matter worthy of having boundaries set around it is not present.
Setting Boundaries is Part of Adulting
But if you want a little homework assignment, go ahead and interview people older than you; people in their 30s, 40s or 50s.
I’m sure they’ll all tell you what I’m going to tell you, and that is that setting boundaries is a huge part of aging into a functional adult. It becomes an absolute necessity, especially once you’re out on your own and officially parenting yourself.
So the younger you can get comfortable with it, the better off you’ll be.
On top of that, setting boundaries like you are, with someone who you have emotional ties to, is extra good practice. That’s only going to make it easier to set boundaries with mere peons that come into your life in the future. And there will be plenty of peons.
If you want to continue to move forward and get out of this slump, I think you just continue doing what you’re doing. Maintain no contact and set boundaries accordingly should your partner decide it’s urgent enough to break no contact like they did this time.
Set Boundaries: Conclusion
The thing about breakup recovery is that comes with many ups and downs. There are many setbacks and steps forward occurring interchangeably.
For example, you were doing fine. You were progressing well due to the boundaries you set in April, then your partner interfered, and you feel set back. But that interference is over with and now you’re repairing again. “Two steps forward, one step back is still one step forward,” as one of our authors that we read from on Optimal Relationships Daily, Eddie Corbano said in an article of his that we featured recently in ORD Episode 772.
Feeling set back right now is natural, but it doesn’t mean that your initial strategy wasn’t working before or that it won’t continue to work if you reinstate it now. There’s no need to change anything up.
Use what’s happened now as reason enough to not feel bad about boundary setting, because if you hadn’t set boundaries before, what just happened with your ex would’ve happened a lot more times since April. You’re doing everything right — don’t let the brief emotional turmoil that’s come up because of your last interaction convince you otherwise.
Thank you so much to the listener for sending in this great and really timeless question.
I do hope this episode has provided you with enough reassurance that boundary setting is truly more pleasure than pain. It’s something I have a hard time with too, but this question actually gave me a little boost to set a boundary I needed to set in my life, so maybe we’re on this journey together now. So thank you for helping me today, too.
For everyone out there, please continue sending those questions in. They’re piling up and we love it. Email any question you might have to advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Don’t be shy. I appreciate you all coming in today. We’ll be back again soon to help another listener out, and I hope you’ll be here for it. Until then.