Having Good Boundaries When You’re Being Playful

by Reid on February 16, 2016

Multiracial Girlfriends Taking Selfie At Countryside Picnic - HaPeople like being playful and goofy, but they are not necessarily being as careful about boundaries. State your boundaries so that you can be even more playful. It’s not the other way around. With boundaries you can make people feel safer, and they will play back with you.

Hear what relationship expert Reid Mihalko from ReidAboutSex.com and Cathy Vartuli from TheIntimacyDojo.com have to say about how you can have good boundaries when you’re being goofy.

Cathy: How can you have good boundaries when you’re all relaxed and playful and you’re being goofy?

Reid: I’m sorry, what? I’m goofy, yeah.

Cathy: This is Reid Mihalko from ReidAboutSex.com.

Reid: This is the scared Cathy Vartuli from TheIntimacyDojo.com.

Cathy: Save me.

Reid: That was unplanned.

Cathy: So, Reid. I can’t understand the question that when people are … they’re being playful and goofy, they’re not necessarily being as careful about boundaries.

Reid: Well, there’s a couple of different versions of this. There are the people that are being playful who’ve never stated their boundaries and don’t know what their boundaries are so they don’t know how to state them. Then there are the people who know what their boundaries are and know how to enforce them or speak up about them or let people know what they are in advance who are being playful. You want to be in the second category.

Cathy: I know when I was first learning boundaries, I was very stiff about them. I wasn’t playful because I was so awkward about boundaries at that point.

Reid: What we know about human nature now because there have been some interesting studies in the last couple years, just in the last couple of decades too about human behavior is when we have good boundaries, people feel safer and will actually be more playful. A lot of people think that like, “Yeah, yeah. I have to be playful to be spontaneous. It means I have no boundaries,” which actually leaves most people feeling less safe. One of the studies was they have done in England with playgrounds is that children who were on a playground for recess that have no fences were basically clumped together as one unit and played one or two different games as a cluster. Then on playgrounds where the fences were clear and we defined, the children went everywhere and actually played a more diverse variety of games, the social interaction was more diverse and better, more thriving in a sense. When you’re good at communicating your boundaries, you can actually be playful inside that.

With these videos where I can be silly and you’re laughing but you’re also scared. We’re being playful whereas if we didn’t know each other and had no relatedness and we didn’t know anything about each other, then I just turn to a crazy person.

Cathy: Yeah, then I’d be out the door which is sad because I live here.

Reid: Yes, it is pretty sad. But I would live here fabulously in comfort. The idea is to understand that you can be even more playful when you have boundaries. It’s not the other way around. It’s a misnomer. You can make more people feel safe so that they will play back with you. The other thing is you have one person being playful but the other person doesn’t know what to do or what the rules are so they don’t really engage back.

Cathy: How would you role model that? If you were just meeting me and you wanted to be playful but you’re not sure what my boundaries are and I don’t know what your boundaries are, how would you approach that?

Reid: Well, I’d be like, “Hi, my name is Reid. I’m in a playful mood. Do you want to be playful? Is it okay if I can be playful with you?” Then you would say what?

Cathy: What does that mean?

Reid: I don’t know. What are your needs and boundaries? You can be touchy feely with me, don’t tickle me because I don’t like that and you can totally tease me.

Cathy: Okay, I like to tease people.

Reid: Okay, are you teasing me now?

Cathy: Sort of.

Reid: You’re really bad at this.

Cathy: Yes.

Reid: Now, we’re playing. We’re being playful. Basically, what I’m doing is I’m setting the tone and then inviting you which is a version of how I like to teach people how to flirt, I’m getting consent and setting the tone and the ground rules and inviting you to play back, inviting you to flirt back if we were flirting. That kind of playfulness I think is better when you know what your boundaries are and what your needs are. Let’s say that I didn’t want to be touchy feely and you decided to being touchy feely with me because you’re just touchy and feely that if I knew my boundaries and I can find my words, I’m like, “Oh, I like how we’re playing but I’m weird about touch so can we do this without touch?” You might want to take your ball and go home because you’re like, “No, I don’t like to play with people who don’t like touch,” but at the same time me telling you what I need often makes people feel safe.

If I can do it in a nice way, if I’m not so freaked out or surprised which is the secret to boundaries as a good friend of mine, Betty Martin talks about, you need to set your boundaries a little further away than right up close.

Cathy: Yeah, because that tends to make people stiff. If you’re really close to getting punched to the nose, you’re going to be … whereas you can say, “Please stay out there.” You have more room to relax.

Reid: Sure. If I’m like, “Oh, you can be playful, touchy with me but don’t be rough housing with me because then I don’t like that.” Like I said don’t tickle me, right? Then, me telling you that and making those adjustments, if I can do that in a nice, kind way because my boundaries are far enough out that I’m not snapping at you, then I’m giving you information that I actually know what I need and will tell you which makes so many people feel safer because you’re showing them they don’t have to read your mind which is another reason why people don’t like to be playful is they’re like, “We don’t know where this is going or what’s next.” When you speak up, by stating what your boundaries are, setting the tone, I think it creates a much better realm, playground for people to play all the way up to the fence.

Cathy: If you’re new at this, if you’re new at boundaries, it’s okay. It does get easier and people are awkward at the beginning. We don’t always notice right away that someone crossed our boundaries. We may need to either tell them later or practice with a friend saying, “No, that was really funny but I realized later that I didn’t feel comfortable so can we back that off a little bit?”

Reid: Then what I would recommend is not even, “Can we back that off?”, “Could we reenact it right now so I can check in and make sure that’s really what I needed?” Because that, it’s like ninja move, you’re reenacting it when you’re training your friends. But two, you used your words and you got to re-experience it rather than just next time which kind of puts it in the ether so you get to anchor the experience and kind of ride over it in a new way, kind of like hard drive. That’s the black belt move.

Cathy: Nice, I like that a lot.

Reid: Thanks.

Cathy: It does get easier. It’s worth the practice. I know when Reid, you are one of the people that taught  me to some of these things, I was like, “You want me to do what?”

Reid: Like that. Be crazy. Playful. Leave your comments.

Cathy: We’re going to give him some nice drugs now, some coffee maybe.

Reid: More coffee. More caffeine.

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