Boundary problems manifest themselves in every aspect of my life, especially in what I eat. I become compliant to my family's rigid meal demands, and I avoid asking anyone for help. These are just two of the most common types of boundary problems outlined by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
Most Common Types Of Boundary Problems
Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend have written multiple books on boundaries, so this is a high-level, big picture summary of the four most common boundary problems:
- Compliants say "Yes" to the bad. People who struggle with this type of boundary are chameleons who melt into the needs and demands of others.
- Avoidants say "No" to the good. These folks refuse to ask for or accept help. They build strong walls to protect their authentic selves and isolate behind the walls when they are hurt.
- Controllers don't respect other people's boundaries, and controllers come in two types - aggressive or manipulative. Controllers are often aggressive.
- Non-responsives don't hear the needs of others. They are often critical of others or hyper-focused on themselves.
I am a compliant avoider.
Building New Boundaries
By far, learning how to set boundaries has been the most challenging yet rewarding part of my recovery. I'm getting better at saying "No." Accepting help is still a work in progress.
So, how does this relate to food? My idea of healthy eating is low-carb, moderate protein and healthy fats. My family loves pizza, cookies, soda, and buffalo wings. For years, instead of doing what worked for me, I became a chameleon and ate their favorite foods.
Conversely, when I really needed a hand in the kitchen, I refused to ask my family for help. My teenager doesn't know how to wash a dish, and it's because I have never asked him to. Instead, I do the chores by myself and then grow angry and resentful.
The easiest way to get better at setting boundaries is to practice. Fortunately, my family gives me many opportunities to practice. Plus, setting boundaries on what I eat is hard to argue against. It's a very natural boundary. Food is fuel and is one of our most basic needs. When I put others' needs ahead of my nutritional needs, I am in deep trouble. Setting boundaries on what I eat is a regular focus for me. Before recovery, I would have never made a dish that my family wouldn't enjoy with me. Now, I make this amazing brown butter sauce often.