• Keeping Friends

Good Boundaries Make Good Friendships

Published: September 5, 2008 | Last Updated: August 30, 2021 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
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Good boundaries make good friendships just like fences make good neighbors. If you don’t set boundaries, you’ll start to feel resentful.

QUESTION

Dear Irene:

Hi, I have a friend who doesn’t have very good boundaries. I live in a small town. I am a fairly private person who is social but also likes my alone time.

This friend has stopped by my house when I don’t answer the phone and once she comes over, doesn’t leave until really late.

I have no idea how to tell her nicely that it is now time for her and her children to leave. I really value our friendship, but she and her children are very intense and I don’t want to spend every waking moment with her. I think she would spend all the time in the world with me if she could.

Any advice? I want to be able to get together with her without being with her for the rest of the day. Also, she seems to get irritated with me and think something is wrong when I don’t do what she wants or I fI don’t see her for a couple of days.

Signed,

Anonymous

ANSWER

Dear Anonymous,

The most satisfying friendships are built on a foundation of balance and reciprocity. It sounds like your relationship isn’t balanced; your friend covets more of your time and space than is comfortable for you. Yet, you allow her to show up at your home uninvited—and permit her to stay past her welcome. That’s a recipe for a fractured friendship to come!

Sadly, she doesn’t have the sensitivity to sense when you’re busy or have had enough of her and she seems unable to read your nonverbal cues. In cases like this, you need to be more explicit and tell her something like, “I hope you won’t take offense but it’s getting late and I have an early appointment in the morning” or “I have to get the kids to calm down before bedtime” or “I have to start cooking dinner.”

Another tactic might be to set boundaries by scheduling your time with your friend so there is a firm beginning and end. For example, you might say “I have about four hours before I need to take care of stuff. We’ll have to wrap things up by 2PM” or “Why don’t we meet at the park for an hour or two?”

Acknowledge (to yourself) that you may have boundary issues as well. You need to start to establish ground rules so you don’t wind up feeling angry and abused. Since you really seem to like this friend, it’s worth the risk of explaining how you feel. Tell her that you treasure her friendship but need more alone time for yourself and your family.

Admittedly, I have only heard a little slice of a long story and I suspect your discomfort over this boundary may be just the tip of the iceberg. I suspect that there are other ways in which she is insensitive to your needs and that you feel like you are giving more than you’re getting. Let us know what happens.

My best,

Irene

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (4)

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  1. Twentieth Century Fox says:

    Hi, Anonymous,

    I think a person can actually be very blunt, without being at all unfriendly, as long as you can still be cheerful, regretful, and brisk.

    Living in a city where it is not usual to “drop by” unannounced, I have no trouble discouraging people who are starting down this path. Greet them warmly at the door…”How nice to see you, what brings you over this way, etc.” Just stand there, do not invite them in, and say, with a regretful smile, “I’m sorry I can’t invite you in right now…I’m running late myself, and I just have to keep moving this afternoon.” (Notice no specific excuse.) If there is silence instead of an apology, let it hang in the air for a minute. If they need another push, say “You have my number, don’t you? Well, call next time, and I’m sure we can find something that works for both. But right now I need to excuse myself and get back on track. Nice seeing you, though. Goodbye!

    And staying too long? Don’t wait until you are becoming impatient. I have actually said, “Gee, the time has gone by fast. I’m afraid I’m going to have to kick you out pretty soon so I can get a couple of little jobs done before tomorrow. It’s been wonderful having you, thank you for coming, etc. etc.”

    Hope there is something here you could try in these situations.

  2. Irene says:

    Thanks for reading and also for your post.
    Best,
    Irene

  3. sagar says:

    hi good information

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