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  • Writer's pictureDr. Speshal Walker Gautier a.k.a. Dr. Spesh

Sis, Don’t let your family run your love life.

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

In honor of the holiday season, it’s a great time to talk about boundaries in Black families. Having healthy boundaries is important in all of your relationships, including familial relationships. At times, families have challenges with managing and respecting boundaries and Black families are no exception. In fact, the close ties and intergenerational culture of Black families are both beautiful AND prime territory for boundary-crossing. Increased family interactions during the holidays can highlight these challenges, so let’s talk boundary setting with the fam.

Whether you are single or in a relationship you may have moments where relatives make inappropriate comments or ask inappropriate questions about your life and romantic endeavors. For single women, these might be questions about whether you’re dating, who you’re dating, when you’re going to get married, and the list goes on. Often the comments that follow are about how you need to hurry up and find someone. The ominous threats of running out of time sound as if the last Beauty & the Beast rose petal is set to wilt away at any moment. The conversations can be stressful and create unnecessary pressure on how you “should” be living your life. The expectations may or may not fit with the desires you have for yourself. If they do fit with your personal desires, then such comments can inadvertently lead to internalization of the belief that you are not where you “should” be at this stage in your life. For more on letting go of “shoulds” and living in this season of your life, check out my previous love letter.

Frustrating conversations with relatives about your love life might lead you to think that the discussions would cease if you were in a relationship. However, for those of you who are partnered and reading this letter, you probably know all too well that this is often NOT the case. Women in relationships may find that they have simply moved onto the next level of interrogation which might consist of: when are you getting married, when are you having kids/another kid, or even why have you chosen the person you’re with? It can feel as if your current life-space or decisions need to be explained or justified. Perhaps the series of questions is not limited to the holidays, however, the holidays can sure have a way of bringing the Q&A segment about.

In these letters, we have talked a lot about developing and cultivating healthy relationships. This holiday season, I encourage you to practice setting healthy boundaries with your family. Many of them may be well-intended and perhaps have their own versions of your life which certainly do not have to align with the life you are creating for yourself. You can respond in ways that help to maintain mutual respect by meeting their comments with compassion while still asserting firm boundaries for yourself (e.g. “I know you’re interested in my love life but I prefer not to discuss this topic.” / “I see that you are concerned, but I am choosing what I feel is best for me.”) Remember that you can be simultaneously compassionate and unapologetic. This is important because you do not need to apologize, explain, or justify when it comes to your personal life and decisions. If people cannot respect your boundaries, it means nothing about you. People’s responsiveness to you expressing your needs provides you with information about their ability to have a healthy relationship with you. You then get to decide what to do with that information. Protect your peace this holiday season, Sis.

Check out these related Sis Love Letters

*Dr. Spesh is an Atlanta based Clinical Psychologist, blogger, and diversity consultant.*

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