Help for Families

 

Step 4: How to Cope: Set Limits with Love

Step 4 (or Powertool 4) in the Beyond Blame System is about boundaries.When I asked members of my Welcome to Oz Online Family Community, "What happened the last time you tried to set limits with your family member?" they told me tales such as these:

  • "I told him he didn't understand my perspective; he told me I didn't understand his. It went in circles endlessly."
  • "She accused me of being controlling and telling her what to do."
  • "He made it seem like he was being my savior through all this, and at the end I apologized."

But you can learn how to set limits--and observe them!

Step 4, Setting Limits, takes the skills you have mastered in Steps 1, 2, and 3. And they require practice. Yet they are vital. Limits protect us from being or feeling controlled or manipulated. They bring order to our lives. In a relationship, limits ensure mutual respect and create safety.

When limits are honored, each party becomes more willing to share his or her genuine self, giving acceptance and trust the chance to take root. Trust leads to comfortableness, intimacy, joy, and feelings of connection—all those things that people with borderline personality disorder want so badly. So they're critical to your borderline family member, too.

 

Some Examples

Three Keys to Setting Limits

Most books discuss limit setting as if it were an event instead of a process. Setting limits has to do with mental preparation and planning. The three keys to mental preparation are:

  • Steering clear of FOG: fear, obligation, and guilt. FOG also comes up like little wisps of smoke during limit-setting conversations. If you don’t prepare for it, it can blur your vision and make it hard to see and remember what you want and need.
  • Trusting your own perceptions, feelings, and opinions—most significantly, those about yourself. You have the right to your own beliefs, even if they are different from those of a family member.
  • Refusing to rescue your family member from your limits, which gives mixed messages. If you always change your mind under pressure, you’re setting up a losing cycle.

Planning for Limit-Setting Discussions

Before you set limit’s it’s crucial that you create a plan that will act as road map and safety net. Each of the following five “Cs” is a component of the plan:

  • Clarify what your limit is. Be specific and start small.
  • Calculate how much does not having limits in central areas of your life costs you.
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Example

Here is how Jack set limits with his borderline wife Loreen. Loreen was an alcoholic with a history of suicide attempts. She was under the care of a psychiatrist and taking medications. Jack was also seeing a therapist, who helped him put some limits in place after not having any for many years. Jack says:

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