Setting Boundaries

You Don’t Owe Anyone in the New Year

by Kenneth Medford III

Hi. Today, I’m not here to bring you statistics from verified sources or psychological studies from accredited doctors. . . ok, maybe a couple. I am here to tell you one, irrefutable truth: 2022 is going to be the year of the outings. COVID-19 locked us in our houses and delayed many a wedding. What is now looking like the tail end of COVID (fingers-crossed) looks like it’s going to lead to a baby boom and an inbox full of e-vites.

With all that information, I need you to understand that you DO NOT owe anyone your presence (or a present) at a single one of these coming events. You don’t owe anyone your time or money. (Unless, there’s like a contract.)

Here’s how and why you need to consider setting boundaries for the new year.

Boundary 1: Respecting Your Time

Financial independence can get you a lot of things, but it will never let you buy time. When you have to decide what you’d like to do with five to twelve hours of your weekend, what’s usually on your list? Recharging your battery with a Netflix show you’ve been looking forward to binging? Maybe studying for a class you’ve been putting off during the week because, you know, work is still a thing? Maybe you just want to hang out with your family and really get that quality time in?

I have a friend (a phrase you’ll see a lot throughout the rest of this article) that was asked to attend someone’s seventh. . .back up, read it again. Yes SEVENTH baby shower for someone. She was not informed that it was this person’s SEVENTH baby shower and spent five hours of her life somewhere she didn’t want to be with people she didn’t want to be around. She could have spent that time with her own two kids, her husband, and friends that came into town to celebrate her birthday the night before, but there she sat wasting time she would never get back.

Please understand, this is not to say that you can’t support friends and family having monumental, life-changing events, but you are not required to. You should spend time deciding what is important to you and your happiness. What activities and events fit in with your goals and priorities? If that doesn’t align with your friend’s seventh baby shower -we’ll get into ways to defuse that grenade instead of jumping on it later, but first let’s get into another important concern when it comes to these events.

Boundary 2: Respect Your Budget

We Navigators put in work to achieve our financial goals. We save, we invest, we create and stick to our budgets (maybe not in that order or as consistently as we should, but we’re doing our best) so we can afford the things we want and live how we want to live. Unfortunately, there are not many major life events (baby shower, wedding, birthday party, etc) that come with an. . .unspoken price tag. 

Example time.

I have a friend who took his wife and three kids to a wedding three states away. While there are many ways to mitigate the financial cost of a trip, that doesn’t completely eliminate the stress (financial and otherwise). After all, this wedding required the purchase of new clothes and, of course, a wedding gift. (Side note, there wasn’t even an open bar. Just. . .unfair.)

Planning ahead when you do agree

Essentially what has to happen is the SECOND you get that invite: reorganizing your entire budget to fit this in. Come on. That’s not how we HAVE to operate.

When you consider that you’re expected to either bring gifts, dress to a certain formality, or both, it’s easy to see how quickly a tight or even slightly loosened budget can get busted. With 73% of Americans ranking their finances as the number one stress in life, we should all be more aware of our own limitations.

Don’t allow someone else’s joy to have you sitting at a table with a pretty table cloth and beautiful centerpiece while you’re trying to calculate what bill you’re going to have to put off to afford a spot in the happiest day of their life.

Boundary 3: Respect Your Mental Health

Yes, this one counts too. Though intangible, it is no less important. Often, we’re motivated by public pressure to participate in events to our detriment. FOMO has made it in the Oxford Language Dictionary, and it’s costing us. It costs us money, time, and yes, our emotional and mental well-being.

Example time.

I had a friend who was invited to an ex’s wedding. After years of an off and on relationship, it looked like it was officially off. She got the invite and not only did she face pressure to attend, she felt the pain in her mind, body, and soul. I told her (like I’m telling you) she didn’t owe him her presence, and she was under ZERO obligation to go, despite history. Long story short, she didn’t go and BOY did that relationship fall apart quick.

Embrace the JOMO (joy of missing out)

Instead of allowing public pressure to motivate your behaviors, be intentional about how you spend your time. Consciously accept the invitations and choose the actions that make you happy. While my friend felt pressured to go, she protected her mental well-being and embraced her joy by missing out.

Anyway, the bottom line is, protect yourself. You don’t always need a “reason” to not go out. “No” is more than enough. But more importantly, employ “no” to protect your personal space and boundaries. Being able to give yourself time to work through what you need to work through is more than enough reason to sit out someone else’s joyous occasion.

How To, Respectfully, Dodge the Bullet and Say “No”

This is really it, right? This is what you really want to see. Just how do you explain to the bride/groom, mother/father-to-be, birthday boy/girl that you’re just not that into their event without getting excommunicated. The answer may shock you, but here it is. . .

BE HONEST

Keep it 110% real with them. If you don’t have the money/have budgetary restrictions, say that then. Don’t lie though, because if they hit you with, “I can cover your [insert expensive thing here]” then you’re going to that event. If you have plans that you fully believe cannot or should not be broken, say that. Don’t lie though, because if you’re posting on IG about how you’re bored in the house re-watching Sense 8 for the 5th time, you’re never going to hear the end of it.

If you really need time to yourself to get over something that you’ve been through and don’t feel like you’re in the right headspace to attend, say that then. If you’re at a similar event next week, you’re gonna have some ‘splainin to do. 

Open Communication Improves Relationships

Having your friends and your loved ones respect you and your needs begins with you showing them the respect they deserve and being honest with them. If the bond is real, it might not be easy, but you’ll get through it. 

I have a friend who was invited to a destination wedding on an entirely different continent. The majority of her closest friends were going, but she just didn’t have the money. She kept it 100 with her friend and, though they were both upset she couldn’t go, they accepted the reality of the situation. They’re still the best of friends and my friend actually ended up missing out on what was a preeetty stressful trip.

Will this work for everyone? HA. . .no. It will, however, put you in a no-fault position. They can either accept it or not and if they’re willing to end their relationship with you for one day, regardless of what that day is, there are probably bigger issues to discuss anyway.

Moving ahead

Going into this holiday season and the new year, please please PLEASE remember, you don’t owe ANYONE. Burning yourself out does nothing for them and it definitely does nothing for you. Set boundaries now and moving forward so that you have the time, energy, and peace to be your best self. 

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