Kenya Foy
Updated May 18, 2020 @ 4:23 pm
Credit: Cristian Newman / Unsplash

A thin line exists between a relative who’s genuinely concerned about your well-being and a family member who’s way too involved in your life. Various cultural guidelines dictate how we deal with our loved ones, but you are absolutely allowed to set boundaries with family members, particularly ones who repeatedly cross the line and behave in an intrusive manner that leaves you weary, resentful, and wondering whether it’s time to cut ties.

Whether you’re dealing with parents who just don’t understand the fact that you’re a Grown Ass Woman™ who can make up her own mind about her life decisions or a nosy, know-it-all family member, establishing firm, non-negotiable boundaries is a clear-cut sign that you not only deserve to be cared for, but that you’re fully capable of doing so on your own terms.

Standing up to your relatives isn’t easy, but it’s totally worth the anguish you might experience when putting your foot down. Look at this way: Failing to establish and maintain boundaries with overstepping relatives could be a way that you’re ruining your own life.

But the good thing is that it can totally be avoided if you come up with ways to set and maintain boundaries when your relative pushes too far.

1Give yourself permission to be your own shield.

While entitled relatives may feel like you should simply spill the deets on the basis of genetics, give yourself the OK to do whatever you need to do create a safe space, whether it’s online, over the phone, or in person. Once you give yourself the go ahead, setting boundaries can be done with ease and in a way that aligns with your values.

2Limit the personal details you reveal.

To a person who acknowledges and respects boundaries, it’s abundantly clear that receiving info about what’s going on in your life doesn’t give them carte blanche to take over and give you detailed instructions on when, why, and how to proceed. However, a family member who is constantly minding your business will feel invited to do just that.

You can’t stop their need to be meddlesome (where’s a lip-zipper when you need it?), but you can control how much you confide in them. Implement a don’t ask, don’t tell your family policy when it comes to sharing super personal deets, like the argument you had with your boyfriend or how much you spent on your upcoming luxurious vacation.

3Block them on social media.

Yep, we said it. But brace yourself: Blocking your family on social media is widely regarded as a radical act. It all goes back to the popular (and very wrong) notion that you owe your relatives a few pints of blood and a kidney just because you share the same DNA.

Limiting or completely ceasing contact with your family online might cause an all-out war, but at least you’ll have peace of knowing that the offending relative is no longer directly privy to what you post.

4Be upfront about your boundaries.

Use direct language like, “Hey cousin, discussing my sex life is totally off limits,” or, “I don’t feel comfortable disclosing how much money I (don’t) have in my checking account.” Say exactly what you mean, particularly if your intrusive relative doesn’t respond to subtle hints or changes in behavior.

5Don’t be swayed by anger, guilt trips, or a sense of entitlement.

There’s a great chance that you’ll encounter some anger when you set a boundary, Psychology Today reports. You might find yourself on the verge of caving out of guilt because you don’t want your relative to feel rejected. In reality, you’re not rejecting them: You’re only telling them which behaviors work for you and which ones don’t.

No matter how upset a family member gets at you for drawing a clear line about what you will or won’t accept, there’s no rule that says we must accept toxic behavior from loved ones.

6 Have back up on hand.

When dealing with a pushy relative, many people discover their boundary-building muscles aren’t used to being flexed, therefore any attempts to stand up for themselves buckle under the pressure.

Don’t feel bad if this resonates with you. However, do make sure you enlist the help from a therapist or friend to let you know that you’re fully capable of standing up for yourself.

Depending on your bloodline, family can be full of built-in friendships or overflowing with various pain-in-the-butt types. If you’re struggling with one of those pain-issuers, hold your ground in the hopes that they’ll eventually get the message that your boundaries are meaningful and unwavering. If all else fails, it may be better to love them from a safe, balanced distance.