Let’s talk about setting boundaries as a stepmom.
My husband’s ex lived with me for 3 very long months. (You can read more about that experience here.)
How on earth could I get roped into that? Allow me to explain…
She was caught in a bind and didn’t have a place to stay, and my husband, Kevin, asked me if I would be open to it on a very temporary basis. For context, she and I were very good friends at the time, and we even ran a business together.
But still, I wanted to scream “NO!” How awkward! We had only been married for 6 months, and in that honeymoon period, his ex was going to move in with us??
Even though every fiber of my being was saying “No,” I said “Yes.”
I didn’t think I could say “No.” I didn’t think I could be the one to tell Kevin he couldn’t see his daughter everyday.
At the heart of it all, I didn’t believe my needs mattered as much as everyone else’s.
I believed I had to suck up my own feelings and things that made me uncomfortable in order to make everyone else feel more comfortable.
Those 3 months were miserable for me. And they definitely weren’t ideal for the target of all of my emotions: Kevin.
I learned this lesson the hard way so you don’t have to: YOUR NEEDS MATTER.
You get an equal vote, stepmom. You deserve to feel at peace in your home. You do NOT have to suck it up so everyone else can be comfortable.
It is imperative that you set boundaries and take up space in your life. If the thought of setting and enforcing boundaries makes you as squirmy as it did me all those years ago, allow me to set the record straight on some common misconceptions about setting boundaries.
Setting a boundary is about you, and only you.
Boundaries are what we are and are not okay with. We set boundaries to protect ourselves when someone else’s behavior has the potential to disrupt our inner peace.
Your boundary shares how you will take back that control and prioritize what you’re needing, even if the other person can’t do that for you.
Setting a boundary is not an ultimatum.
Ultimatums include a threat or retaliation. While a boundary does have a consequence for noncompliance, it is not intended as a threat, a means of retaliation, or any other action that works against peace.
A boundary is not communicated with spite; it is a means for protecting yourself, and once set, it will deepen your relationships.
Others will respect you more, and they will trust your word. Because you’ll be interacting in a way that is more genuine and built on a foundation of trust and comfortability, there will be no need for ultimatums. Communication will be far more transparent, direct, and connecting.
Setting a boundary is not passive aggressive.
When setting and enforcing boundaries, it is important to say what you mean and mean what you say. If you are setting a boundary and hoping no one calls your bluff, you’re missing the point.
We set boundaries to protect ourselves and have stronger, more genuine relationships. Not to passive aggressively communicate or get others to do what we want.
Build your relationships on a foundation of trust and transparency, which will allow love and respect to flourish.
Setting a boundary does not function the same as a rule.
When we set a rule, the onus is on the other person to comply. However, when we set a boundary, the onus is on us to enforce the boundary.
This is how you eliminate the concern of others not respecting your boundaries. The onus is no longer on them to respect your boundary; you’ve given them no choice.
For example, if you say, “Don’t come in my home.” the onus is on the other person to comply. If your boundary is to meet the co-parent on the front porch and not allow them to walk inside your home, you’ve taken the onus of enforcing the boundary yourself.
For the most effective boundaries, find ways to take the control back for yourself instead of framing your boundaries as rules.
Setting a boundary is not a punishment.
In the same way that a boundary is not passive aggressive, we don’t use boundaries to punish others.
If someone else’s behavior is affecting you, then communicate to them the behavior change you’d like to see and then set a boundary to protect yourself from their choices. We don’t punish our partners, co-parents, in-laws, etc. They are adults and deserve to be treated with the same respect we’d treat other adults in our lives.
The motivation behind a punishment is the same emotion that often leads to resentment. Rewrite the narrative by taking back control and setting boundaries to protect yourself from others’ influence and actions. A boundary is not attention-seeking.
Avoid being the boy who cried wolf by only setting boundaries when you truly need to protect your peace. If you want others to respect you and your boundaries, don’t use them as bait for attention.
Setting a boundary is not manipulative.
Just like a boundary is not an ultimatum, a boundary is not intended to be manipulative. We don’t set boundaries to manipulate others into doing what we’d like for them to do.
You can always request a behavior change, and set a boundary to protect yourself if the other person doesn’t abide by your request. That’s imperative for finding a life of peace as a stepmom.
But you should never use your boundaries to be conniving or manipulative. That is a surefire way to lose trust and respect from others.
Setting a boundary is not about choosing sides.
When you set a boundary with your partner, it’s important that the focus is on you and what you’re needing to feel at peace. Not on the other parent, your stepchildren, your in-laws, or someone else.
You’re not asking your partner to choose sides by setting a boundary. You are acknowledging what you are and are not okay with, and setting a boundary to protect yourself.
Because you can’t control how your partner will behave, your boundary is how you protect yourself and your peace. You’ve chosen you; your partner doesn’t have to.
Need additional boundaries help?
I remember how helpless I felt when I said “Yes,” knowing I really wanted to say “No,” to Kevin asking if his ex could live with us.
If you’re stuck not knowing what your boundaries are, how to take back that control, or how to communicate and enforce them, I can help! Join our life-changing course, Better Boundaries Blueprint!
Or, if you prefer more individualized support, apply for stepmom support coaching!
I see you, stepmom. I remember how difficult it was learning how to step away from my people-pleasing tendencies and into a more boundaried lifestyle.
You deserve peace and happiness, just as much as anyone else in your family.
P.S. In case you need reminding: It’s okay to take up space, stepmom.