One of my relatives likes to call at around 10pm or 10:30 on a regular basis. The latest I ever get up on a workday is 7am. Usually, it’s closer to 6am or sometimes 5-5:30 am if I’m going to the gym. Even though I have a really hard time with insomnia, I at least like to try to go to bed somewhere between 10 and 11 pm.
I normally let his calls go to voicemail because it can take 20 minutes to get him off the phone even if I tell him I’m about to go to bed or I haven’t eaten yet (when he calls when I just get in the door). But another relative in that branch of the family is going through a tough situation with domestic violence and she’s young and has a baby. I’d offered to see if I could find any resources for them and had sent her some information earlier in the day. I thought the phone call might be in regard to that. So I picked up. I asked how things were, no mention of a crisis. So I mentioned that I was about to go to bed and asked, “is everything ok?” When he replied yes, I said I was glad to hear that and I looked forward to catching up this weekend when I had time to chat. I had to repeat it a couple of times, but I was off the phone in 10-15 minutes, which is a lot less than usual with this relative. And I managed to do it without offending him.
In the past, I would have stayed on the phone and resented it. Or I would have got impatient and maybe a bit snippy and/or distracted. Instead, I was able to get off the phone and decide on a time when I’m more able to chat. I didn’t have a problem with making my needs, in this case the need to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, known. Letting voice mail pick up works too, but I wanted to make sure I was there if my younger relative who’s going through a tough time needed anything. If she had, that would have outranked my need for sleep (or attempts at it, fell asleep around midnight, with several awakenings).
As I got off the phone, I actually did a little boundary dance as setting that boundary came very naturally and didn’t reequire a whole lot of thought/planning. And it was done in a win/win way. It feels good that it’s becoming more second nature to me.