There are many charged emotions and strong reactions with alcohol. People feel very strongly about substances like this. That is OK, peoples thoughts and feelings are always valid.
Often we get requests and boundaries mixed up. This happens a lot with the introduction of things that were once (or still are) considered taboo.
Here are the definitions of a request and a boundary:
Request: Asking someone to do or not do something.
Boundary: Letting someone know what YOU will do if they do something that crosses a line you have set (this may be a physical, emotional, mental, etc. line). NOTE: This is not telling another what they can or cannot do, it is about what you will do in a certain circumstance.
You cannot stop another adult from consuming alcohol. They are an adult and controlling another adult is manipulation and usually involves a threat.
You can make requests and ask them to do or not do certain things.
Here is an example of a request:
I recognize you feel differently about this than I do. I am not trying to change your mind. I only ask that you please do not drink in front of my parents (or kids or me).
This feels very different than controlling another by saying:
You cannot drink alcohol in this house. PERIOD.
Before I share an example of a boundary it is important to note a few things.
A boundary is something you use when your physical, emotional or mental safety is compromised.
A boundary is all about what you will do when their is a boundary violation. Remember you only can control yourself not the other person.
You can make a request that they do or not not do something, but a boundary is when you make it clear what you will do in the event they continue a behavior.
If you feel that your safety (physical, mental, emotional, etc) is compromised by your spouse drinking, then you can set a boundary. Here is an example of a physical boundary:
If you drink and hit me, I will spend the night at a hotel (or leave and come back in a few hours).
Here is an example of an emotional boundary:
If you drink and yell at me then I will l leave and spend the night at a hotel (or leave and come back in a few hours.)
It is not common that consuming alcohol alone creates the need for a boundary. It is usually other behavior that may (or may not) come along with drinking alcohol such as yelling or hitting or gas-lighting that amounts to a boundary violation. Not everyone crosses boundaries when they drink.
The most important step in setting a boundary is to follow through with your action. If you say you will leave when they raise their voice, then leave. It is the only way to enforce a boundary.
Here is a recap: (1) make a request; (2) set a boundary only if necessary; and (3) follow through and do what you say you will do.
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