Resolve to be Less “Nice” & Set Better Boundaries for the New Year

male-actor-emotional-mask-2515-bsJanuary is the month for setting goals and intentions for the new year. It can also be about learning to set new boundaries. Some people think of boundaries as negative things, ways of keeping people out of something…but really, boundaries are for protecting yourself, they’re there to keep you and yours safe and sacred, even from your own “good intentions.” For those of us who fall into the trap of being people pleasers, boundaries are essential, because we will tend to overstep our own limits in order to take care of others at the expense of ourselves. So one goal for the coming year could be about learning to set and enforce one’s personal boundaries.

Be direct in your intentions and boundaries

Another new year’s resolution may be to learn to be more direct in stating one’s intentions. For example, I may have the intention to set a boundary regarding last minute visits – I may now require that people give me at least 24 hours’ notice when they want to visit, so that I can clean my house. This protects my peace of mind, because I overly stress about people visiting while my house isn’t clean. However, the people in my life can’t read my mind. They can’t know that I have this new intention and boundary, unless I tell them. Another challenge for codependents (aka people-pleasers) is that we’re afraid of hurting others’ feelings and we believe that being direct has a much higher potential to do so. So we try to be subtle, throw hints, beat around the bush. But this leads to disaster. So when I set a boundary, I need to be very clear about what the boundary is and what the consequence is for crossing it.

Consequences versus punishments

By consequences, I don’t mean punishments. That’s another common misconception. Consequences are the results of actions, with no inherent positive or negative judgment. For example, the consequence of dropping an uncooked egg is that it will likely break when it hits the ground. So the consequence of my new boundary is that I will say no to any last-minute requests for visits to my home. That may hurt some feelings, but I can express my boundary in the nicest and most respectful way that I can, and then allow the other person to have their feelings. I am responsible for protecting my own boundary, while others are responsible for their own emotional stability. How someone else reacts to my respectfully stated limit is not my responsibility.

Being “nice” can be hurtful

In sex and relationships, too, the impulse is to “be nice” and to try to spare someone else’s feelings when we’re not really interested in the same thing. We wind up hurting ourselves because by “being nice,” we leave a lot of room for misunderstanding, so the other person can get the wrong idea. Later on, when the truth is revealed, everyone gets hurt because of how long the lie was allowed to remain in effect, and was perhaps reinforced. This happens a lot in the bedroom, in situations where one partner is not getting sexually satisfied but is afraid to let the other partner know that they’re just not doing it right.

An Example: How to discuss different dating motivations

Another common situation is when two people are dating and one is hoping the relationship becomes something that the other is just not into. For example, one person wants kids and the other doesn’t. It’s okay for person B to tell person A:

“Hey, I’m happy to hang out and have fun and spend time together, but I want to be clear about the fact that I’m not interested in having children and that whatever develops between us is not going in that direction.”

Being clear about one’s intentions and boundaries helps everyone to be able to make mature adult choices about where to put their energy. If person A evaluates person B’s statement honestly, they may come back with:

“Okay, that’s cool. I’ve been lonely, so I’m happy to have someone to hang out and cuddle with occasionally, but I need to be clear that finding a partner to marry and have kids with IS my priority, so I will also be dating others and wish not to be tied down to anyone else.”

Cool, now things can proceed with everyone on the same page. Or, person A might evaluate the situation differently:

“Okay, that’s cool. While I think you’re a neat person and I’d love to get to know you better, I am pretty focused on finding a partner to marry and have kids with, so if you’re cool just doing lunch as friends occasionally, I’d like that.”

What are your New Year’s intentions and resolutions?

The old fashioned question, “What are your intentions toward me?” when talking to someone who wants to court you had a lot of merit. It used to be that people dated with the express intention of finding a lifemate, someone to marry and start a family with. Today, of course, many people are not interested in marriage and many are not allowed to marry. There are a lot of other reasons for people to date, socialize, flirt, etc. So it’s important to be clear with yourself and with those with whom you’re interacting – what are your intentions?

Learning to set and reinforce personal boundaries and learning to state your intentions clearly and directly can both lead to more responsible and fulfilling relationships, with yourself, your partners and friends, and everyone else with whom you interact. This is your opportunity to set an intention and resolve to create healthier relationships this year.


About Inara de Luna

Inara de Luna is a bisexual, polyamorous, kinky pagan who is also a Relationship Coach and a Sexuality Educator. She is a Gender, Sexuality & Relationship Diversity Specialist, with training and experience as a Marriage & Family Therapist. Inara is a sex positive activist, a published author, and a national presenter. She prefers to support those whose identities fall outside the mainstream norms. For more information, you can find her online at or on FacebookK/a>.