How to know if you’re getting too much solitude

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We all know a certain amount of solitude is good for you. But how much is too much?

Rather than measure in hours or days, it helps to look at the reasons behind your desire for time alone.

As long as I can remember I’ve valued time on my own. Social events were obligations to cross off my list and proclaim my status as a well-rounded human being.

Most times, these interactions felt like drudgery. I couldn’t wait to leave them and be on my own again.

However, a few years ago I attended a retreat that made me rethink my need for solitude. The leader suggested excessive amounts of time alone could indicate something deeper that needs addressing.

I heeded her advice and began to question why I only felt truly comfortable on my own. People exhausted me, a fact I’d attributed to my natural introversion.

As I dove into the research around complex PTSD, however, I learned that survivors like me often feel triggered by people – any people.

Because we feel compelled to wear a social mask, avoid conflict, and have poor boundaries, social interactions leave us feeling empty, unseen, and even violated.

Because we feel compelled to wear a social mask, avoid conflict, and have poor boundaries, social interactions leave us feeling empty, unseen, and even violated. Click To Tweet

Doing the work around solitude


Too much solitude comes as a result of fear of rejection if we show up as our authentic selves. Instead, we hide the parts that feel unlovable because we were punished for showing them to our former caregivers.

Rather than do the work of asserting ourselves, we let others control the conversation. Rather than face the discomfort of posing a conflicting opinion, we remain silent.

When you grow up with rejection for your very essence, it’s hard to show up as yourself in social interactions. You refuse yourself permission to disagree or do what you want instead of what someone else wants.

Your hypervigilance puts you on high alert to other peoples’ needs and wants. Those scream much louder than your own desires, which get drowned out and pushed down.

After years of trying to be social because you know you’re supposed to, you give up and decide it’s easier to be alone.

In fact, you feel more alone with people than you do on your own. So why not save yourself the trouble of going out?

When we hear the truth that we need other people, that should come with a disclaimer. It only works if you’re meeting each other as your true selves.

When one of you is hiding and pleasing and agreeing, that's no better than solitude. In fact, it's much worse. Click To Tweet

When one of you is hiding and pleasing and agreeing, that’s no better than solitude. In fact, it’s much worse.

So, ask yourself if your need for solitude comes from a true heart desire. Or is it coming from a place of fear and avoidance?

Do you have work to do in your dealings with other people so you can show up as your authentic self, get your needs met, and feel seen and known for who you are?

How to stop letting people monopolize conversation

monopolize conversation
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I first learned the term “monologuing” from the book Complex PTSD by Pete Walker. Rather than the opening scene of a talk show, this type of monologuing happens when people monopolize conversation.

Only after reading this book did I understand how my past emotional neglect influenced the way I let people monopolize conversation.

Some of us grew up in households where our voices were not encouraged. We learned to stay small and silent, and refrain from expressing our needs or opinions to stay safe.

Some of us grew up in households where our voices were not encouraged. Click To Tweet

If you’re like me, you’ve allowed someone to keep talking at you even when you had no interest in what they were saying. You were afraid to assert your need to be heard, and allowed them to continue unchallenged.

It never occurred to you that you could end the monologue and walk away. You felt it was your duty to listen because you’ve been trained to cater to other people’s needs and not your own.

So, even if this person was a stranger, their desire to drone on trumped your need to be heard as an equal participant in the conversation. If you’re like me, and you want to put a stop to that, here’s how.

1. Stop feigning interest when people monopolize conversation.

Your well-honed people pleasing skills trap you in the listening seat to over talkers. You feel compelled to nod your head and m-hm in acknowledgment even though you want nothing more than for them to stop.

Your well-honed people pleasing skills trap you in the listening seat to over talkers. Click To Tweet

These false cues tell the monologue-r that you’re interested and want them to continue. Instead, let your true feelings of boredom show on your face. Look away instead of encouraging them to continue.

2. Speak up when people monopolize conversation.

Sometimes people take silence as an invitation to talk. If you’re not holding up your end of the conversation, they may feel compelled to keep talking to fill in the gaps.

Some people barely take a breath, but when they do jump in and speak your piece, even if it means changing the subject. They might take the hint that this is a dialogue and you are not there in listen only mode.

3. Interrupt them.

You don’t like to interrupt because it’s rude. But when people monopolize conversation you have to do what you can to get heard.

Sometimes, when the over talker won’t take a breath, you simply have to interject. They may try to re-interrupt you in which case you must persist in finishing your thought.

4. Excuse yourself.

When people monopolize conversation, you don’t have to stick around and listen. Take care of your needs by ending the “conversation” and move onto a more compelling one if you’re at a social event.

Your time is valuable and you don’t want to waste it listening to someone who bores you or has no interest in what you have to say.

5. Tell them.

If this is an ongoing issue with someone you care about, you’ll want to have a difficult conversation. Tell them you’d prefer if your talks were a little less one-sided.

They may apologize or they might become defensive. Either way, you’ll get needed information as to their character and how much they value your opinion.

How to get treated with more respect in relationships

respect in relationships
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If you ask most people, they would call “love” the most important element of a relationship. But respect in relationships is equally important if you want to feel valued and cherished.

Without respect, it’s hard to imagine a relationship fulfilling anyone’s needs. We all need to feel recognized for who we are and what we bring to the table.

If you’re in a relationship where respect is lacking, you might want to consider whether this is the right match for you.

But if you think it’s worth working on and want to know how to get more respect for yourself, here are 6 strong strategies.

1. Put yourself first

Many people think putting themselves first means neglecting loved ones. In fact, when you put yourself first you’re able to serve others more effectively.

Sometimes we put others’ needs ahead of our own because we’ve been raised since childhood to do so. Putting our own needs first feels unnatural, but will become easier with practice.

Putting yourself first will help you become the person you were meant to be. You’ll spend more time on things that bring you pleasure which will enhance your strengths.

When you put yourself first, you gain the respect of others. This is not game-playing or manipulation but a genuine decision to care for your mental health.

When you put yourself first, you gain the respect of others. Click To Tweet

2. Set healthy boundaries to gain respect in relationships

Boundaries teach people how to treat you. When you lack boundaries, you let others dictate the terms of your relationship.

Relationships never get put to the test if you’re constantly going along with what the other person wants. How will you know if they’re only using you for what they can get if you never say ‘no’?

3. Know your values

respect in relationships

If you’ve been raised to become a people pleaser, you may not have a good grip on your values. You have no idea what you like or dislike because you’ve been too busy figuring out what other people want.

Knowing your values is essential to gaining respect in relationships. Rather than giving into someone else’s wishes, values become a filter through which you make your decisions.

Knowing your values is essential to gaining respect in relationships. Click To Tweet

They guide you as you build and create your life rather than reacting to someone else’s demands with self-abandonment.

4. Express yourself to get respect in relationships

Have you been hiding your true thoughts and feelings for fear of burdening your friend or partner? Or do you fear they’ll leave you if they know what you really think?

Constantly agreeing with others or failing to share your opinions makes healthy people disrespect and pull away from you. It’s mainly narcissists who want to surround themselves with “yes men”.

5. Tend a secret garden

The French call the time a woman spends on her own doing something she loves a “secret garden”. Set aside time in your schedule to take care of your needs this way.

Whether it’s reading a novel, engaging in a hobby, or some other project, tending your secret garden will increase your respect in relationships.

You do it to stay connected to yourself and what you love. To remember that you don’t need someone else to fulfill all your needs. The respect you gain is simply a bonus.

6. Communicate honestly

Never play games or try to manipulate your partner or friend into doing what you want. And don’t expect them to read your mind, either!

The best way to get and maintain respect in relationships is to be bold and clear in your communication. That means expressing your needs openly and honestly. And speaking up when something is not working for you.

How to set relationship boundaries and deal breakers

relationship boundaries
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Relationship boundaries are parameters you set that tell other people where they end and you begin. They tell the world what you will and won’t tolerate. And help you understand your wants and needs to get them met.

Relationship boundaries keep you safe. They help you spot red flags because you’ve determined ahead of time what you will and won’t accept.

When considering a prospective partner, for instance, you might have “deal breakers” or non-negotiables. These are attributes in a person that act as a stop sign or warning light.

Addictions, for example, may be deal breakers for you. You won’t continue in a relationship with someone who has them.

When establishing relationship boundaries, you’ll consider both physical and emotional limits. Here are four examples:

1. Texting

How often do you wish to send and receive texts? Set aside any “rules” about waiting a certain amount of time before returning a text. That’s manipulative and does nothing to help you connect with what you really want.

I prefer to receive texts twice a day at most. Otherwise, I get pulled away from my responsibilities and goals for the day.

You may need more or less than that to feel comfortable. But be honest about your needs and why you have them.

If you need hourly texts to feel okay and constantly check your phone for them, you may have an anxious attachment that needs addressing.

If you need hourly texts to feel okay, you may have an anxious attachment that needs addressing. Click To Tweet

2. Physical intimacy

Many happy long-term couples had sex soon after meeting. But maybe you want to wait until marriage before going that far.

You may be okay with touching but not want to go “all the way” until you’re in a committed relationship. It’s a good idea to know where you stand before meeting that special someone to avoid a decision you later regret.

Many women confess to having used sex to get or keep a man’s interest. Not only is this a complete self-betrayal, it never works. Sex as a tool creates false intimacy that prevents true emotional intimacy from flourishing.

3. Relationship boundaries include time apart

No matter how close you are with your partner, it’s healthy to have time away to do your own thing.

The French refer to this personal time as a secret garden. It’s the time you spend alone doing something you love that enriches you. And your partner knows nothing about it.

The French refer to time spent alone doing something you love as the secret garden. Click To Tweet

Nurturing yourself this way ensures you stay connected to yourself as an individual. And you feel vital and interesting outside of your relationships. After your time away, you come back with more to give.

4. Entertainment

I’m a highly sensitive person which means violent movies and loud action flicks have a negative impact on my nervous system. As a result, I have relationship boundaries around the type of media I’ll ingest.

You may have similar limits on what you watch or consume with your partner. You may wish to avoid seeing anything that demeans women. And you may not tolerate your partner watching such material.

Final thoughts on relationship boundaries

These are just a few of the countless examples of relationship boundaries available to us. Most important is to communicate these and not expect someone to read your mind.

Healthy boundaries are all about clear communication, after all. They help us draw closer to one another in a respectful way while protecting us from harm.

Relationship boundaries keep out those who are no good for us. And invite in the ones who will treat us the way we deserve and desire.

What are healthy boundaries and how to set them

healthy boundaries
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I first learned about healthy boundaries in my recovery program. Having been raised in a home where such things were never discussed, my first foray into boundary setting came well into my 30s.

Depending on your experience, this may shock you. If you grew up in a home like mine, however, you may feel glad you’re not alone.

My parents kept me in line by registering their disapproval at every turn. This led me to believe my very existence required an apology. So, I did my best to shrink, not ruffle any feathers, and always always put other people’s needs ahead of my own.

I had heard of boundaries, but did not believe they applied to me. At the time, my self-awareness hovered around zero, which prevented me from articulating this fact. But my life showed all the evidence.

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Now that I’ve learned to set healthy boundaries, it’s hard to imagine a time when I couldn’t say ‘no’. Now ‘no’ is my default answer. You have to give me a good reason to say ‘yes’.

Now that I've learned to set healthy boundaries, it's hard to imagine a time when I couldn't say 'no'. Now 'no' is my default answer. Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about what healthy boundaries are not.

1. Healthy boundaries are not walls.

Some people who grow up with abuse and neglect wind up with nonexistent boundaries (like me). They realize from being told over and over (with or without words) that their needs are inconsequential. Their job is to discern other peoples’ needs and take care of those instead.

They self-sacrifice and people-please. They lack a concrete sense of self because they never learned their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. That’s because they were too busy studying other people to know themselves.

healthy boundaries
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But there’s another outcome from childhood abuse and neglect that often gets overlooked. That’s the child who decides they’re going to make damn sure their needs are met.

This leads to extreme self-sufficiency and a decision that everyone else is to blame for anything that goes wrong. They cannot afford to believe they are at fault because their sense of self is too fragile to handle that.

They have a fixed mindset and believe people don’t change. That means they have to be perfect and the best way to do that is avoid emotions at all cost. This equates to an extreme fear of intimacy and stonewalling anyone who tries to discuss emotions.

These are not boundaries, but walls, and they are just as dangerous as having no boundaries at all. Because they ensure the person will never enjoy true connection with another human being.

2. Boundaries are not rigid.

Rigid boundaries are another hallmark of an emotionally avoidant attachment style. This means you give no second chances when someone crosses your boundaries.

You have a rule that you only wait 5 minutes for someone at a restaurant. If they’re a minute late, you start ordering for yourself.

You cut people off easily when they slight you. You’re not interested in apologies or extending forgiveness. They should have known better.

You work so hard to be perfect and other people should, too. If they don’t, isn’t it fair they pay the price?

You may have many friendships but they’re all superficial. Your fear of intimacy and lack of trust prevent you from allowing anyone to get too close.

You can’t tolerate criticism, and lash out at anyone who dares challenge you. Your fragile ego can’t handle the idea you might be wrong.

What are healthy boundaries?

On the other hand, healthy boundaries are born out of love for self and others. Not a mistrustful need to protect oneself from constant perceived attack.

Healthy boundaries tell the world what you want and don’t want. They tell people what you will and won’t tolerate. They improve communication and make relationships go more smoothly.

Healthy boundaries tell the world what you want and don't want. They tell people what you will and won't tolerate. Click To Tweet

You speak up for yourself when mistreated. Though you give second chances, you won’t stick around for abuse.

You know you can forgive people without continuing a relationship with them. That’s different than cutting someone off at the first slight.

Comfort with saying no is the best way to set healthy boundaries. You are tuned into yourself enough to know your bandwidth.

You won’t overextend yourself to please someone else. This prevents the burnout and overwhelm that afflicts so many of us.

You won’t overshare by telling your whole trauma story to someone you’ve just met. You’ll let them get to know you over time. And only if they reciprocate with their own sharing.

If you’re busy or tired and someone needs your time, you’ll be honest. You’ll either say ‘no’ or put a limit on the amount of time you have available. This prevents resentment and misunderstanding.

If you're busy or tired and someone needs your time, you'll be honest. You'll either say 'no' or put a limit on the amount of time. Click To Tweet

If you’re dating someone and only want to see them once a week, that’s okay! Our culture loves to promote the idea of being joined at the hip. But healthy boundaries include limits on time spent with your love interest.

What other examples of healthy boundaries come to mind for you?