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How you can set boundaries with a friend 💚

JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,224 Part of The Furniture
edited January 17 in Help Desk
At any given moment, the staff team is having at least one conversation with someone here about a relationship they have with someone that has become challenging or demanding. This could be due to: disagreements, hurt feelings, high support needs on one or both sides, and more.

It's also not uncommon for those of you who have made friends here to connect away from this community (e.g. via text or meetups). We made a whole thread about that :tongue:

If you're reading this and thinking 'is this about me?', it's not. We have more of these conversations than anyone will realise, and there will also be situations like this that we're not aware of. This is broadly aimed at everyone it might apply to, so don't read into the timing or anything too much.

So, if you have a relationship with someone, and maybe you've decided to take it away from The Mix, but it's become difficult or burdensome: what can you do about it?

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🔒 Keep your communication within this platform

There are a lot of safeguards here that you won't have if you communicate privately. The thread linked above goes into this in more detail so we won't say loads on this, but please trust us!

🙋‍♂️ If a group chat has become uncomfortable for you, it probably has for others

Chances are, other people just don't feel able to say it. Sometimes all it takes is one person to say 'hey, I'm not sure the dynamic of this chat is very healthy' for more people to come forward.

🚧 When setting boundaries, use 'I' statements

If the relationship has gone beyond what you're comfortable with for any reason, an honest conversation with the other person is usually the healthiest way to resolve it.

When you do this, try to use as many 'I' statements as possible. An I statement is one that frames the situation in terms of how you feel and what you need, rather than making it about the other person. This can help avoid the conversation becoming heated or defensive, making it more productive overall.

For example, notice the difference between these two statements:
  1. You're needy and you're asking too much of me
  2. I can't give you what you need right now

Notice the difference in tone? This is also a tried and tested conflict resolution technique!

🧘‍♀️ Sit with the discomfort

These conversations are uncomfortable by nature. Allow that to happen and trust that the result of the conversation will lead to a healthier relationship for both of you in the long run.

If the person you're setting boundaries with responds negatively at first, allow them to have their reaction and don't put pressure on yourself to fix that. Once people have had time to process a difficult conversation, they tend to feel differently and might even come around to your perspective.

⛔ Assert your boundaries if you need to

You might find that the other person simply doesn't agree to adjusting your relationship, and they aren't willing or able to respect the boundaries you're trying to put in place.

If this happens, there are ways to be firmer. You can:
  • set specific times to chat or meet up, so your interaction is boundaried
  • mute/archive the chat you're in to give yourself peace of mind
  • block the person if you feel the situation isn't resolvable

You don't need to feel guilty about blocking. You can send a supportive message before you take this step if it feels appropriate, making it clear you care about the person. For example, "I care about you and I know you mean well, but our relationship doesn't feel healthy for me right now so I'm taking a step back."

If you're talking in this community, you can also DM @TheMix, and we can intervene on your behalf or chat to the other person to make sure they're respecting your boundaries.

💚 You are not a crisis support worker

A big thing people come to us about is a friend coming to them privately in crisis.

Repeat after us: I am not a crisis support worker.

Being there as a friend is one thing. But there's a reason why dedicated crisis services require a lot of training and supervision to work on: it's difficult and requires a lot of support to do long-term.

If your friend is at breaking point, here's what you can do (click the spoiler):
What you can do now for the person in crisis

So when someone is currently in crisis, the first thing we recommend is urging them to contact crisis services themselves - Samaritans, Papyrus, Crisis Messenger, 999 or A&E.

If they don't want to, that's okay. It's not your responsibility to keep them safe, and sometimes the best thing is to allow someone to make their own decision. People tend to be more capable than we give them credit for, even in crisis, and it's okay to give them and you some space.

Another option is to contact 999 for your friend yourself. We would only recommend this if you think they are in immediate danger and need emergency services to intervene directly.

Keeping you safe

Your wellbeing and emotional safety is important too, which means getting the support you need.

You can contact crisis services to ask for help supporting someone else, and they'll happily chat to you.

If you feel you've reached the end of what you can do, it's okay to say that and set some boundaries for now. That might mean saying something like "I care about you, and I feel that I've done what I can as your friend right now, so I'm going to take a step back from this conversation"

A more substantial boundary-setting conversation might be needed afterwards, but saying this should give you the space you need to step away in the now.

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Mods usually close threads like this, but we thought this might be an interesting one to leave open. I imagine everyone here has had to manage some conflict in a relationship at least once before.

Feel free to reply with any thoughts on the post, or ideas for navigating difficult relationships. :)
All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
Matthew_04lunarcat522RiverLoz
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