by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program. 

  • Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
  • Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
  • Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
  • GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019) 

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Backstory to this post:  Boundaries and Standards are always HUGE GPYB topics and have been since the beginning of this program (circa mid-1990s).  There are always questions about them and always difficulties with them. I am editing this post - something I originally penned after GBOT was published in 2015 - to respond to several emails and postings about standards and boundaries.

Are boundaries and standards hard?  Yes. But boundaries and their application are what sets GPYB apart. GPYB is about CHANGING YOUR LIFE and you cannot and will not change your life without them.

They are some of the reasons why GPYB is so special and works so well. The program teaches you how to set reasonable and healthy boundaries with everyone in your life (or as needed).  We talk about boundaries SO MUCH in the Facebook group and we always have a breakout boundaries topic (and assignments) in every boot camp. It's a HUGE thing but one of the reasons why GPYB is so powerful. It teaches you how to self-preserve using every imaginable tool that I can think of.

Further, you guys know that I have never asked you to do anything I haven't done. I believe in boundaries, to the core of my being, because it is what made all the difference in my life when I decided enough was enough and things HAD to change. I want to pass on the magic of that decision to every person who comes across GPYB - the book, the FB group or the Mean Lady Talking podcast or any other resource that we have created for you.

The application of boundaries and standards to your life (without apology!) will make your life your own and give you the power and the certainty to move forward in a healthy and constructive way without dragging the crazy people with you. 

When you set boundaries and have standards, sometimes you lose people in your life. They don't want to hear anything about this because your lack of boundaries has served them well. But it's time to weed those people OUT of your life (or if they are "un-weedable like family members or work colleagues - contain them and their demands on you). 

I have considered breaking Boundaries out into a Power! Boundaries booklet as I did with the Affirmations to give everyone more information on the topic. If you would like me to do that, please email me at gpyb.com@gmail.com   If you think not, you can also email me. I'm working on GPYB Workbook V4 with new material and a new boot camp designed to teach you how to work the program in tandem with the workbook (and you also still get the support of your boot camp group and me).

I am deep in material that is no longer on the blog, as well as updating my research so that I am confident that I am bringing the latest and greatest to my readers/listeners/clients/boot campers. Pulling out the boundary material wouldn't be too difficult - just a bit more work. And PLEASE - if you have real life examples and questions, send them along....it helps me to help you when I know the context of what we're talking about. 

Let me know what you want to know more about. There are many Mean Lady Talking podcasts on Boundaries and Standards (i.e. Episode 70 / Episode 73 / Episode 77 and several YT videos on them. See also the MLT podcast Dating List here which covers a lot about standards and boundaries. But if I'm missing important information or not fully answering your questions and concerns, PLEASE email me and let me know! I will remedy that in a flash.

The article you are about to read was drafted by using a few different articles and information from the books and workbook. This is not the "exact" post that was requested, but it's a whole lot more and I hope you find it helpful. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Click on the red to  Email me! 

Boundaries and Standards: You Get What You Put Up With

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Many of my Getting Past Your Breakup ("GPYB") readers think that my second book, Getting Back Out There ("GBOT") is for when you are getting ready to date again. Not so!  You should be opening GBOT along with GPYB.  Neither book is to be "one and done." They are guidebooks to be kept opened and referenced as you need to.

As I have said over and over again, GBOT teaches you what healthy relationships are SUPPOSED TO look like and gives you the tools to build your side of that equation and then how to fill your life with like-minded people. (see the How To Work the Program checklists.  The long one is here as well as in the workbook and the shortened one is here. They should make the hows, whys and whens a lot easier to navigate). 

Most of the people who find their way to GPYB are leaving less than stellar relationships and yet pining for the person who treated them poorly or was a subpar human being overall (yes, I know that's harsh but many of the stories I've heard are also harsh).

Once you get out you have to think back on what wasn't good, what hurt you, and decide that you will never again put up with this treatment. You must have faith in yourself that it's okay to have standards and boundaries and it's okay to leave if your mate does not respect those boundaries or live up to those standards.  This might seem like "jumping ahead" if you're just broken up, but as time goes on and the wounds heal, you're not going to remember some of the things that really hurt and damaged your self-esteem.

So, if you can - and I know it's painful which is why we encourage Journaling from Day One in the books and workbook, start to jot down what you do not want in a future relationship. For me, even though there was infidelity and abuse, I knew I wouldn't take THOSE any longer, but the big ticket item was "Don't tell me what I'm thinking."  That was my GIGANTIC bug-a-boo.  My ex and I had hours long arguments about what I wasn't thinking. He would say, "You think...." and that would be followed by nonsense I hadn't ever thought of and wouldn't ever have thought of...but we were off to the races at that point (the Wacky Races to be clear). 

In GBOT I ask people to do the Standards and Compatibility List. This is something you can start on post breakup DAY ONE. In GBOT I say that you can make a list or a vision board or anything that speaks to you. I really suggest it be as visual as you can make it. If you're an audio learner, it helps to record it as well and listen to it every day. This is something you have to develop and you must have. If you work on this when there is not an actual manifestation of your next person in front of you, it's much more effective than if your list is competing with a warm body with nice eyes who sends endearing texts all day long.

Right after your breakup (yes, RIGHT AFTER!) get GBOT and read this section. It takes a while to come up with absolutely everything you want in a mate so start now and keep it going. If you are thinking that everyone deserves second chances no matter what and that true love forgives no matter what, you are going to be giving second chances and forgiving the unforgivable forever.

Stop it. Make your Standards and Compatibility list to help your relationships last...your good relationships...last.

(Note: The workbook is laid it out differently than the book, and and gave a clearer explanation of how to do it in the GPYB workbook. Please use the guidelines in the workbook and do a first draft. This is a living document and will change and grow along with you.)  This should give you a head start, but PLEASE go to the workbook and read about how to keep it going. 

How to Make the YOU/ME List

(vision board, audio...whatever you're doing to make it real and make it your own). 

First the "you" side of the list. You have to know what it is you've done wrong in relationships and stop doing it as well as have boundaries and stick to them. I am an attorney so I watch a lot of judge shows. It amazes me when litigants are standing there suing someone because they bailed someone out, paid their child support, car note, rent, etc. etc. in a new relationship. You want to know how you avoid this? You don't get into relationships with deadbeats. If you give money to someone you hardly know, it amounts to manipulation, "Here's some money. Now love me." '

Look at a person and how they have conducted their life until now. A good partner for you is someone who is responsible and has the necessities covered. It's hard to step back in the throes of passion or of meeting someone you click with and get clear about what you must have and what you won't put up with.

If your self-esteem is so low you have to buy someone's love, you need to rethink this whole thing. You would be better off taking that money and buying some self-help books. 

I have YouTube videos on this called Stop Being an Idiot because you are not being generous, kind-hearted, or wonderful. If someone owes the world money, that means that he or she doesn't pay their bills. What makes you think they are going to pay you? They are not. Please stop throwing away your hard-earned money on people who don't deserve it. There would be many, many, many less judge shows on television if people didn't do this. But they do it - over and over again.

So make sure your side of the list includes that you will not bail someone out. You will not continue to date someone in financial hot water. You will not bribe your way into someone's life.

Second, have you a history of getting involved with the unavailable? The married, newly separated or just not capable of a long-term relationship? This is a you problem and you need to confront your fear of intimacy. I have heard so many people tell me over the years that they really really really want a relationship but just seem to be with Mr. or Ms. Unavailable time after time after time.

Guess what?

It's not them, it's YOU. You have some deep fear of intimacy. Go to therapy and figure out why or stick with GPYB and you will get to the answer.  I promise you, you will. Inside of all the material are the answers you need.  Just be patient and do the program as it's laid out in the checklists.


The Deep Seated Reason Why You Can't Love The "Right" People 

I, too, was once in the "I am TOO not afraid of intimacy!" crowd. (if you think that sentence is convoluted, it is - in much the same way the fear of intimacy and denial of its existence, is.) and a very wise therapist confronted me on it. I said that there was something in the drinking water. She pointed out that was a ridiculous statement. We went round and round with her pointing out logical and fair things and me pointing out nonsense to keep myself stuck in unhealthy patterns with crazy people.

She continued to point things out (boy, was THAT annoying!) She pointed out that the common denominator in my relationships with the unavailable was me. I was afraid of intimacy. If I never acknowledged it, I couldn't fix it. I did and I did.

I worked on my attachment/abandonment issues.  I have been studying John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth since 1992 and, as a foster child/adoptee, I have done a ton of my own attachment work. I have written 3 different theses for my various educational stops and every single one includes Grief, Loss, Separation, Attachment as developed by Bowlby/Ainsworth. 

I am currently putting the finishing touches on the document for the Fall Attachment Group. This document contains all the lectures I gave during the group as well as something I developed years ago - based on my own work - called the Healing Attachment Wounds Toolbox. As I've been going through the document - checking my sources and making sure everything is in order - I am amazed that the material I have from the mid 90s is fairly limited, but the articles on attachment wounds (and healing) from the past 10-20 years are in the hundreds. And I would be able to go down any rabbit hole I would like. 

Just last night I was reading several articles on the connection between Borderline  Personality Disorder and attachment wounds. I think this would make a fantastic "sub topic" and is something I have spent time on ever since my days as psych clinician. 

I have done a tone of writing on the subject and hope to bring some of that to V4 of the workbook as well as the Study Hall. Even my law school honors thesis, which is about untangling some of the promises we (the legal community) make to victims and/or their families.

Victim impact statements and the insertion of victims' families into the prosecution of heinous crimes is helpful on one hand, but the legal community makes a mistake when it over promises and under delivers "closure" via the legal process. My thesis insisted upon pulling back from our current methods of including victims' families and how we treat them and make promises to them - many of which are impossible for the legal community to make. It was my contention, in my thesis and to this day, that the legal community has no clue about grief and closure and how that all works or should work in a prosecutorial / adversarial system. We are good at bandying about words like grief and closure, but horrible at providing any kind of structure for that process. I read hundreds of interviews with victims' families and, almost to a situation, there was a deep sense of disappointment when the trial was over - even when the desired result was achieved. The family believed that there would be more relief, more healing, than there was. People who work with me know that I believe that closure comes from inside you - you can't count on some random, outside entity to provide it - EVER, but especially not the legal system which - for the most part - has NO CLUE what it is talking about when it comes to these points. 

Because of how much research I have done on this, combined with my attachment healing work I did in therapy, I was considering publishing a book on just that, but I have SO MUCH that needs to be done so I have added Attachment to the V4 version of the workbook and you will be able to work with my material on it - including inventories and exercises (you know there is ALWAYS work to do in GPYB!) It IS possible to heal attachment wounds and pick more available partners - and this new chapter will address that and show you how to do that - head on).

Red Flags: When You've Ignored Them 

Third, what things have you let go in the past? What red flags have you ignored early on?  What excuses have you made for other people? (no one is perfect! everyone deserves a second chance! [p.s. NO they do not!]) etc.)

What do you need to learn to keep yourself safe? Figure it out and do it.  But a potential partner is not the only person who might be carrying around a bunch of red flags. What about yours? 

What quirks or habits of yours have caused issues? Have you tried to play them down or hide them? Have people been upset because you like to stay up late and sleep in? Then you need someone who won't care or does the same. Are you an unrepentant smoker? Own that. Stop saying "I'm trying to quit..." to non-smokers who are going to be very weary of your smoking 2 months into it.

Own up to who you are and what you are or are not willing to do. If you don't cook and don't want to share the chores, say that. It may not go far, but you can stop hiding who you are. Do you leave towels on the bed and clothes on the floor? Stop playing Mr. or Ms. Neat Freak knowing it's not going to last. Reveal who you are and someone will love you for it. There are other things that need to go on an honest-to-goodness "me" side of the list. 

Embrace who you are and fix that which needs to be fixed, embrace that which needs to be embraced and understand how you need to change your approach to new relationships. None of us are perfect - it is true - but some of us could use a bit of changing and others are okay with what blemishes and bad habits they have. If you've gone through a transformation while single and have decided this you is the best it's going to be (for now), be HONEST about that. When you figure out that you have some bad habits or quirks or issues that are just not going to change because you're fond of them or you don't care, you can be honest and get honesty from others. You can figure out what is going to be an issue and if you can deal with it.  Let people know who and what you are and let them decide if this is compatible with who and what they are.  But dishonesty or trying to cover up bad habits will end in disaster. 

Sometimes a long-term couple just can't work out issues as they see things too differently and have various, incompatible degrees of accepting certain things. They would have figured this out early on had they been honest about their differences and avoided a whole lot of pain later on.

Are You Arguing About What You're Really Arguing About? 

In working with clients, and doing my own work on the subject, it is clear that in most dysfunctional reIationships, what you are arguing about is NOT what you are really arguing about. This is especially true when you are involved with disordered/controlling crazy people.You may have been slamming your head against the wall trying to address some of these relationship issues, thinking there would be a resolution and life could go on....but it cannot and will not because what you are arguing about is not what you are arguing about. It's only about everything else in the known universe. And so you must end your involvement in these merry-go-round arguments with impossible people. You cannot and will not win no matter what because what you are arguing about is not what you are arguing about. 

I have detailed my compromise issues with my husband Michael in GBOT and in many articles and Facebook postings, but it is such a good example as to how you can work out issues if that REALLY is the issue and also how you can RECOGNIZE that "hey, this has nothing to do with cleaning...I'm just using it to......[fill in the blank and try to figure out what you are REALLY arguing about])

Michael and I were honestly and truly arguing about housekeeping. How do I know that? Because we worked it out. If you're using some innocuous thing to battle with your partner (or your partner is using something against you that has nothing to do with what all the fussing is about), it will NEVER resolve. Going round and round in circles is a hint that it will NEVER resolve.

Michael used to say life was too short to clean the house and I said life is too short to live in a mess...we each embraced our own quirk but then we had housekeeping issues to work out - and we did - but without brutal honesty , that wasn't going to happen. We knew from day one, we had to come to a compromise on housekeeping and we did. But some couples never do because they don't want to talk about it early on. That can be a mistake.

Too many people say, "What happened to the person I dated who liked to help me clean?" Well that person wasn't real and ta-dah! You now have Mr. or Ms. Messy who wants NOTHING to do with it. So - LESSON: be honest. I adored my husband, slob that he was...and he adored me...OCD as I am and we made it work. You can too. Avoid those useless arguments! Be honest about who you are! You both will figure out, soon enough, if this incompatibility can be fixed or is going to doom you. Yes it's hard to walk away in the early days, but it's even harder later on. Be honest about you and what you want/need from a partner.

Keep looking at the patterns in your relationships that has gotten you into trouble. As it says in GPYB, does it hurt when you do that? Don't do that.

Next, 3 headings: negotiable, non-negotiable and "may be negotiable for the right person." Make this as disciplined as you want. I have heard people tell me that some of my standards were too harsh or too pie-in-the-sky. They weren't. My very best friends told me my standards were too high and I said that is fine, but I'm not changing them. I'd rather be alone than to put up with any more crap from anyone. Too many people fold on what they believe in and what they want to deal with 

Don't let anyone whittle down your list to suit their bad habits and difficult tendencies. It's your list. You keep to it. You can say, "They must be legally free (divorced or never married). They must never have been arrested. They must not be behind in child support. They must have a job and a car. They must not have.... etc. “The list can go on and on.

If you pay attention to these big ticket items and they are absolutely non-negotiable, you don't have to think about it when someone bats their eyelashes at you and calls you a sweet name. We have all done dumb things and some things are embarrassing.  Maybe we all have had parking or speeding tickets but we don't have DUIs.  Know where you draw the line.  Don't let anyone tell you they were not really THAT drunk or their insurance had JUST lapsed that very day they got into the car accident.  If you listen to their justifications about other things, they will expect you to listen to them about what they did to you (but I didn't mean to!  It's not like I murdered someone!). 

Listen for the justifications and rationalizations. Then bail when it seems as if the person is more interested in continuing bad behavior than being in a mutually satisfying relationship.

Remember that your "one and done" list must reflect a loyalty to YOU and you alone. No longer are we willing to put up with crappy behavior.including name calling or controlling bullshit nonsense, Each of these can be and should be ONE AND DONE. I have mentioned, on a few Mean Lady Talking podcasts now, that "Let me see your phone...." is the latest and greatest "clue" of controlling behavior. This should definitely be on a "one and done" list as it's controlling BS and does not belong in a healthy relationship.  EVER.

Sometimes we have to spend time BEFORE that happens (again) to commit to that "one and done" philosophy.  Unless and until you  know it TO YOUR CORE, these people are going to continue to make an appearance in your life. Do you want that? No you do not. So COMMIT to your standards and rules and what the outcome will be if someone violates them. You must have made this commitment and be prepared to follow through on the tough actions needed to walk away from it. Once you do that, you will notice that the abusers/controllers fall away. You carry yourself differently when you 

You also can also have your twice-three time rule but you have to know that if you accept something once, it becomes harder to walk away a second time. Sometimes you don't want to second guess yourself later ("Did I leave too soon?") but you have to know that some things should only happen once and then you walk and other things might be worth a second chance. Know what those are. Know them and commit to them. This is a commitment you make to you.

Do not allow anyone to talk you out of them. You're not too picky, too uppity, too whatever. You are not being too picky and when you are challenged or questioned, remember that. You are taking care of you.

Some things are "like to haves" but can be negotiable. You can say you'd like someone who wants to go sailing, but they don't have to (although if you are passionate about it, go for it). I would like someone who makes me coffee in the morning but don't have to have it. 

In GBOT I relay the story of a client who insisted on the guy she was dating be passionate and knowledgeable about art.  She was dating a guy who was willing to go to museums and art shows with her, but he didn't know that much and she dumped him.  I didn't get. Her friends didn't get it.  HE didn't get it.  But she was adamant about it and she insisted on it.  You can do that but know that the universe of people might be very small and you might not get a nice person who shares your passions.  Just know your priorities. 

 Number One Rule: Wants To Be With Me

Another "rule" that sets GPYB apart from anything else in the world is the NUMBER ONE consideration: WANTS TO BE WITH ME.  Before you do anything else, if you have not watched the most popular GPYB YT video, STOP right now and go watch it before you go on: When The Person You Love Doesn't Love You - Part One

I wanted smart, cute and funny but forget to add, "Treats me well." Treats me well and wants to be with me should be at the TOP of the list. I have been with a lot of cute, smart and funny jerks. I was looking for and at the wrong things. Treats me well and wants to be with me should be number one on the list. Nothing else. No matter how cute, how smart or how funny if they don't treat you well, you can say bye bye.  How someone treats you should be before all else.

As it says in GBOT, when you allow someone to subject you to your non-negotiable, it doesn't get better. It gets worse. Know what is negotiable or non-negotiable and walk when a non-negotiable is negotiated. 

Know all that before (long before) it's a warm body in your bed. It's hard to kick someone out once you've gotten used to it. Don't let the throes of passion cloud you. This is why I say that GBOT is not an "I'm ready to date! Look out world!" book. It's an "I just broke up with another Mr./Ms. Wrong....help me see what I need to change...." book. It takes a long while for you to work on this part. Don't start the week you sign up for Match.com

Read GBOT right after you read GPYB and work on the inventories in the two books together as it suggests in both "How To Work The Program" checklists.

Your "Relationship" and "Life" inventories from GPYB will help with the Standards and Compatibility inventory from GBOT and visa versa. 

Many times people want to stop our analysis of them by calling us "judgmental." For some reason, being judgmental is a bad thing.Of course, the nosey Nellies of the world who sit back and judge others for no good reason whatsoever are examples of "bad" judgmental. But when you are looking at/for others to be in your world (as you will learn in the new attachment material), it is absolutely VITAL that you judge others by the way they treat you as well as their life choices. How the hell else are you going to know who to keep and who to give up? If you don't "judge" anyone because you think it's a "bad" thing to do, you're not going to know who can and should stay and who can and should not stay. Forget the social media attitude toward "judgmental" and judge away! It's the only way you will learn to figure another person out.

Never stop judging a person on their ethical and moral choices. You have to be with someone who looks at life the way you do. If someone cops to a mistake, that is one thing, but if they make excuses for the inexcusable with others, they will do it with you. Think about that: whatever they are EXCUSING in their bad choices will become excusable when they do it (or something similar) to YOU. 

We all understand some poor choices, but some are really not ones we should be understanding. At all. Ever. Listen for excuses, rationalizations and justifications. If someone is capable of doing that with other behaviors, they will do it in their behavior toward you.

When you're in between relationships, this is the best time to decide what you need in a relationship, what you'd like to have in a relationship and what you will not put up with in a relationship. It's also a good time to look at you and what needs to change before you go out to try it again.  I have a story - a very very very good story - ready to go for the MLT podcast on this very thing - evolving life choices etc. - stay tuned.  It's coming. 

Or what it is about you that you need to embrace and stop trying to hide to make yourself more appealing. If you're a lovely person who can't, for the life of you, remember to put the cap back on the toothpaste, stop fighting about it! Put it in your on-line profile: I leave the cap off the toothpaste. If you care about this, keep the line moving. Then the dreaded "let's argue about the cap on the toothpaste" crowd will fall away (honest, they will!)

Not only do you get to weed out those who would be all offended by your cap-leaving tendencies, BUT if you cop to some of your quirks or bad habits, someone else will be honest about theirs. You might not be a match, but you will not waste each other's time. And maybe you are a match and won't have to fight about picking up socks off the floor because you're both leaving them there! (or putting them away!)  Honesty leads to a more compatible pairing and dishonesty leads to disaster. Let's avoid more disaster. GPYB has the answers. You have to put the work in, though. It's very simple. 

Having your standards list combined with good boundaries helps you maintain opportunities for real love, good love, and true love to come into your life.  If you shortchange yourself on these, it WILL NOT happen.  There are no shortcuts. Don't look for them and please don't roll these back when someone "good" walks in.  A healthy person will sense you folding back against your own beliefs and he or she will bolt. 

To have a healthy relationship, you have to know what you want in a partner and a healthy partner will recognize the goodness you bring to the table.  Of course GPYB has so much more on boundaries and standards, but it's a perennial topic that not only separates the program from everything else, but is what makes all the other hard work SO WORTH IT.  Please be sure to let us know what questions/concerns/comments you have in the comment section of the FB group (when this is posted) or via private email or Messenger. We would love to know we're on track and delivering the right stuff. 

Healthy people know that Eleanor Roosevelt was right when she said, "Stand up for something or you're fall for anything."  She was right and it is your right to have your boundaries and standards recognized and respected.

Hard work? Sometimes.

Worth it? Oh yes.  Yes, indeedy.  Very very very worth it.


Copyright 2004-2020 Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed. All Rights Reserved No Duplication is Allowed Without Explicit Permission of the Author


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