There is an old saying: “Good fences make good neighbors.” Having healthy boundaries in relationships is important for everyone, especially for people with a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Setting and defending boundaries allows you to protect your physical and mental health and focus on feeling your best while living with RA.
Setting boundaries can be hard. Your friends and family may not be used to you saying no or establishing limits for when and how you are available to them. They may expect you to have the same energy you had before you developed RA and symptoms like pain, fatigue, or stiffness. No matter what, you are entitled to establish the boundaries you need to maintain your emotional and physical wellbeing. Setting boundaries to take care of yourself does not make you mean or selfish – it helps you focus on what you need to do to care for your RA.
Here are a few tips for setting boundaries clearly and compassionately:
After setting boundaries, do not be surprised if you need to defend them. Some people will likely test your boundaries, especially when they are new. Expect some pushback and consider what a good response might be.
Here are some examples of boundary testing and possible responses:
After testing your boundaries a few times, most people will understand that they are well-defended and learn to respect them. If you have allies who understand the challenges of rheumatoid arthritis, ask them to help you defend your limits with others. Remember, you don’t need to apologize for setting good boundaries that help you stay healthy, manage your symptoms, and feel your best while living with RA.
Here are some conversations from myRAteam about setting and defending boundaries:
"Rainy day which has my lower back miserable. Hard to walk. I'm not going to the final day at Saratoga Race Track. I'm joining family for dinner after, a good compromise. This is how we deal with RA!"
"I too have been a caregiver. Now I am done and do not want to ever have to do it again. I could be so sick or so hurting and still had to tend to what they needed. I am hoping to concentrate on me and my house from now on."
"These two ladies were laughing at me because I was having a hard time serving myself lasagna. I've never had anything like this ever happen to me and it was devastating to me."
Have you successfully set boundaries that help you manage RA?
What tips would you recommend to help set healthy limits with others?
Share in the comments below or directly on myRAteam.