Set Boundaries with Family: Navigate Challenging Dynamics

Set Boundaries with Family: Navigate Challenging Dynamics

Dan Munro discusses the challenges of setting boundaries with family members, particularly those affected by childhood trauma and the sunk cost fallacy. He emphasizes the importance of setting clear boundaries, treating difficult family members with respect and acceptance, and prioritizing one’s own well-being when dealing with unhealthy family dynamics. Munro provides strategies for gradually distancing oneself from toxic family members and creating a chosen family for a healthier and more empowering option.

Action Items

  • [ ] Ask yourself if you would choose to spend time with your family if you met them as strangers.
  • [ ] Consider “short sentences” of limited contact as a way to enforce boundaries without cutting family off permanently.
  • [ ] Be consistent over the long run enforcing boundaries, and walk away when unhealthy behaviors occur, returning contact only when agreement is made to behave respectfully.
  • [ ] Stretch out the time between contact with difficult family members as a passive way to set boundaries if you’re not yet ready for direct confrontation.


Setting boundaries with challenging family members.

  • Munro highlights challenges in setting boundaries with family due to emotional investment and past trauma.
  • Dan Munro advises setting boundaries with difficult family members by respectfully standing up for oneself and limiting contact when necessary.
  • He suggests using limited time sentences to enforce boundaries with repeat offenders, while cutting them out may be the healthiest approach for those with psychopathic or narcissistic personalities.

Setting boundaries with difficult family members.

  • Dan Munro shares his approach to dealing with difficult family members: set boundaries, be consistent, and walk away when necessary.
  • he emphasizes the importance of respect and acceptance in maintaining healthy relationships.
  • he advises setting boundaries with toxic family members by gradually increasing the time between interactions.
  • he emphasizes that “family” is a construct in one’s mind, and individuals can choose their own family through personal relationships.


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Full transcript (unedited)

You’re about to watch a video. That’s an excerpt of one of my online courses free sample, if you will. If you enjoy it, please get in touch Let me know what you think. Talk about setting boundaries with family, navigating those challenging dynamics. While my clients struggle most to set boundaries or work, the kind of boundaries they get the most emotional about, certainly the ones with family, we’re unwilling to lose family we feel a need or an obligation to keep them in our life. We have the sunk cost fallacy where we’ve spent so much time trying to make things work with them that we’re desperate to see it pay off, and we can’t give up. And of course, most time, childhood trauma is family related. So it’s a very dark and twisted connection that we have in some occasions. And it puts you in a low leverage negotiation position with other people where you’re willing to lose them or willing to walk away, it’s easy to set boundaries, because there’s a last resort, you can say I’m out. But when you don’t have that available, it becomes a kind of infection in your confrontations. They know it and you know that you won’t walk away, and therefore you’re ultimately powerless. As my old coach once said, The reason they can push your buttons so easily is because they installed that these were the people who were there when you developed your sensitivities and your preferences, and they just, they know how to hurt you. Some of them choose to use that power others don’t. But this is why it’s so hard with family, here’s a couple of hard truths for you. If they really did love you, and they really were right for you, then there’s no confrontation you could have with them that would destroy the relationship. So you really do have nothing to lose if you confront them, the only time that you’re going to destroy a relationship with them is when they’re not right for you and Nick should not be in your life, especially if you’re following the principles that we’re covering in this course. And you’re doing it respectfully and powerfully and honestly, without name calling, or insults or anything like that. If you respectfully stand up for yourself, and that damages your relationship with a family member? Well, the hard truth is you never had a good relationship with them in the first place. Another hard truth one that you’ve got to face by yourself as ask yourself, would I choose them? These people who are my family who I’m born into, if I just met them as a stranger, at a party or at the workplace, would I choose to be friends with them? Would I spend more time with them? The answer is no, then at least you’re clear on what kind of people you have in your family, that they’re not your preferred type of people that the only reason you spend time with them is because of that family obligation. And that’s okay, that doesn’t mean you have to cut them all out of your life if you don’t want to. But it’s a good place to start when it comes to boundary setting as understanding. The only reason I tolerate this behavior is because their family, this isn’t actually good behavior. This isn’t what I choose, for a friend, or a partner can actually be helpful to give yourself an out when you say no life sentences. And what I mean by that is when you are going to enforce boundaries with your family, it doesn’t have to be this permanent cutting them out of your life forever, if you don’t want to do that. But you can do shorter sentences where you cut them out for short periods of time, or you limit your contact with them as a way of enforcing boundaries without having to go all in. That being said, if you have somebody who clearly has a psychopathic or narcissistic or antisocial personality in your family, and of course these people all have families, then usually the healthiest approach is to cut them out. But if you’ve just got a difficult family member who maybe has other mental problems, but they are capable of a good connection in certain conditions, then think about having limited time sentences. It for these repeat offenders that you’re always consistent with you cut them out for certain periods of time when they behave badly. And you react instantly, you don’t do a lingering punishment is come down hard as soon as that happens. And then by tomorrow, it’s forgotten, and they get a blank slate again, you can do that with people who just kind of can’t help themselves. Like I had a grandmother with dementia, and she said some uncomfortable things every now and then. But I’m not gonna hold that against her for a long period of time. I just say okay, I’m out for now. See you again next time. My favorite approach for dealing with difficult family members is what I call the acceptance invitation, which I may have already talked about in this course I can’t remember. Simple you treat me with respect and accept me as I am. And that’s all I ask. And I will be with you and I’ll spend time with you. However you are as long as you do that. So basically I’m inviting you to accept me as I am. So as long as you don’t try to change me, you don’t try to manipulate or influence me or criticize me. As long as you’re not trying to do anything And that makes me a different person, then we’re all good. I won’t expect anything more from you than that. If you do any of those things, if you discouraged me or criticize me or anything like that, I leave, maybe I come back next week, maybe they come back in a month, maybe they come back tomorrow, depending on how long I want to set this boundary. But I never stick around for anything but an accepting, loving family. So as long as you’re accepting and loving, I stay around to get lots of time with me. And the minute you’re not, I’m out. No hard feelings, I’ll be back later. But I will not spend a minute with you being unkind to me. People can change over time. I mean, my whole life work is based on the idea that people can change if they want to. And one of the best ways to help someone want to change is to have consistent boundaries, to show them that certain behaviors never tolerate. And if they want time with you, and they want to enjoy your company, they have to behave in a certain way. They’ve delimits their unhealthy behaviors. So make sure you’re consistent over a long period of time, and you may see changes from even long term difficult people. However, don’t feel obliged to do this. I only say this, because so few people that have the kind of courage to walk away from a bad family. And if you don’t have their courage, and you’re gonna stick with them, well, this is the next best thing. Just be very consistent and strong with your boundaries, always walk away when they’re behaving badly, and don’t come back until they agree to behave good again. But you don’t actually have to do this. You don’t have to wait around. You don’t have to give your family a special exemption where they get lighter boundaries or lighter treatment just because they’re family. There’s no family special deals, when it comes to confrontations and boundaries, they must respect you as much as your workmates and your friends and your strangers do okay, they don’t get a lighter, more lenient approach. And if you’re too afraid, but you understand that being around these people is bad for you to start stretching it out. If that’s the most you can do with your courage, just start making the time between seeing them or having contact with them longer and longer. an hour, they’re a day, they’re a week, they’re just start stretching it out. And this alone is a kind of passive form of boundary setting. You know, they’ll see that the worst they behave, the less of you they see us reverses. If they behave really well, then you stick around you see them again frequently. And without even saying anything, you can kind of condition them to understand that if they want you in their lives, behaving better, is more effective than behaving badly. Saying take longer to return a phone call, you can shorten your text messages, you can share less information, answer questions with less detail, and so on, there’s ways of just slowly distancing yourself and stretching the gap. When you don’t have the bravery to outright come from people. Here’s a framework I want to give you. Technically speaking, according to mitochondrial DNA, all humans are family. We’re all distant cousins of each other. So the idea of family is just a construct in your head, we’re all family. So when it comes to choosing which ones you’re going to keep in your life, and you’re going to keep out, your closest blood relatives aren’t given a special exemption. They’re just more family members. They’re the ones you happen to have to grow up with, or have to live with, until you’re able to free yourself. That doesn’t mean that they’re more family than other humans are. Not really, that one more time. You don’t have to keep them in your life. If you’re watching this video, because you got the kind of family that I’m thinking of that you were just unlucky to be born into, and they’re really bad fit for you and they treat you really poorly. There’s no rule that says you have to keep a relationship going with them. You didn’t choose them. You can go and choose a family. I’ve had plenty of clients create their own family made of best friends and their partner and they get together on Christmas and everything is their own little unit that they’ve decided this is who I would choose if I had had a chance when I was younger. You were allowed to do that. Thanks for watching. If you enjoyed the video and you want some more support, don’t hesitate to get in touch and let me know a bit more about your story.

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Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro



One Response

  1. To get perspective, always ask yourself, “If this was a stranger treating me this way, how would I react?”

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