It is essential to have personal boundaries in order to have healthy relationships. These protect you, your mind, your heart, your soul, and your relationships.
WHAT ARE BOUNDARIES?
These are basic guidelines in a relationship for how you are treated, how the relationship looks, and for what’s acceptable and what isn’t. A boundary can be made for every area of a relationship: physical, emotional, responsibilities, spiritual, etc.
Healthy boundaries increase self-esteem and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
The relationship does not have to be a romantic or sexual one. In fact, you should have boundaries in every relationship. This includes family members and friends.
Think of an imaginary line separating you from something/someone else.
WHY ARE BOUNDARIES IMPORTANT?
They allow you to be true to yourself.
The separation created with boundaries gives you room to know yourself outside of other people, to have your own feelings, make your own decisions, and gives you the freedom to ask for what you need/want.
They are an essential part of self-care.
Healthy boundaries = valuing your own feelings & needs. They also take away the responsibility for other’s feelings and behavior. Creating boundaries allows you to let go of worrying about others constantly.
They are vital in healthy communication.
Boundaries require constant communication. You have to communicate the boundary, (sometimes) the reason why, and communicate when a boundary is crossed.
They create healthy expectations & safety.
When you clearly communicate your boundaries, people know how they’re expected to behave. When expectations aren’t communicated and met, resentment and anger grow. They also provide physical and emotional safety by keeping out what feels uncomfortable or hurtful.
To have our needs met.
Often, those who lack assertiveness skills who “don’t want to be mean” may be at risk for boundary violations because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings and put their needs on the back burner.
HOW TO DISCOVER YOUR BOUNDARIES
Unfortunately, many of us won’t know our boundaries until they are crossed.
I find it incredibly difficult to stay in tune with my emotions, but step one is to discover and set your personal boundaries. It can help to focus on specific “red flag” feelings.
RED FLAGS: Discomfort, Resentment, Stress & Anxiety, Guilt, Fear, Dread
These come from feeling taken advantage of or not understood/appreciated/respected.
Confusion, anxiety, and feeling drained around a person are great ways to know your boundaries have been violated. “Narcissists” are notorious for violating boundaries.
Can you think of anyone in your life that you feel these red flags around? If so, think of your relationship with that person and answer these questions:
Can I make my own decisions?
Can I ask for what I need?
Can I say no without guilt?
Can I be honest without feeling judged or criticized?
Do I feel responsible for their feelings?
If the answer is “yes” then there are some boundaries in that relationship being broken.
CAUSE AND EFFECT OF NO OR UNHEALTHY BOUNDARIES
What prevents you from setting boundaries?
- Fear – New things are scary. You may be afraid about what happens if you set a boundary. Or having it negatively affect a relationship you value.
- Ambivalence – Similar to fear, ambivalence represents that you aren’t 100% convinced that boundaries will solve your problem.
- Not knowing how – If you grew up in a family without boundaries, you probably never saw anyone model or teach you healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries is a skill that can be learned.
- Low self-worth – If you believe you’re unworthy or unlovable, at any level, then you may struggle to prove your worth by putting other’s needs first every time. If you’re not worth being treated with respect, then you won’t even know what it looks like.
- People-pleasing – You don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or cause conflict, or disappoint people. Basically, you’re just avoiding conflict.
A lack of boundaries opens the door for others to determine your thoughts, feelings, & needs. Unhealthy boundaries could be caused by a weak sense of your own identity. If you rely on your partner/friends/family for happiness and decision-making, etc then you lose important parts of your identity.
Be aware of boundary traps in relationships! Boundary traps can look like these scenarios:
- I am nobody if I’m not in a relationship. My identity comes from my partner and I will do anything to make this person happy.
- This is better than the last relationship I was in so it’s enough, even if it’s not great. It will get better with time.
- I spend all my time involved in my partner’s goals and activities, leaving no room for my own.
- My partner relies fully on me & would be lost without me.
Types of unhealthy boundaries:
- Loose Boundaries. When a person’s boundaries are loose, there may not be much separation between self and others. He or she may have a tough time identifying their own needs and emotions and can be sensitive to others’ criticisms.
- Rigid Boundaries. On the contrary, rigid boundaries commonly serve as protection from vulnerability, in which hurt, loss, and rejection can occur and be painful. Those with rigid boundaries generally fear too much closeness.
HOW TO SET BOUNDARIES
Give yourself permission to set boundaries and limits
After you’ve discovered your needed boundaries. Consider what you can accept and tolerate versus what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed.
Communicate these boundaries directly and clearly. People can not read your mind, so you have to explain it out loud.
It’s all about connecting with your feelings and honoring them.
Consider past and present
Childhood and families factor heavily in how you perceive boundaries and in setting and preserving them. For example, if a person took on the role of caretaker, they likely learned to focus on others, ignoring themselves and their needs.
If you are having a hard time with boundaries, seeking outside support, like counseling (individual or group) can be helpful.
When boundaries have been crossed, let the other person know in a respectful way and try to work together to address it.
Lastly, remember that assertively communicating your boundaries can take practice, like any new skill. Start with a small boundary, then work your way up to more challenging ones.
EXAMPLES OF BOUNDARIES IN A ROMANTIC/SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP
- I’m not comfortable with PDA.
- I don’t want to have sex yet.
- I do not have to tell you every time I go out with friends.
- I choose how I style my hair, not you.
- I’m going upstairs for some quiet time. We can have date night in a few hours.
- Do not yell at me or lie to me.
- I want to have separate bank accounts.
- Please don’t ask about this specific past relationship. I will tell you about it when I feel comfortable.
- I do not want to have children. (OR) I don’t want more than three animals.
EXAMPLES OF BOUNDARIES IN A FRIENDSHIP
- I can only hang out for one hour today.
- I can’t talk right now, I’ll call you after work.
- Thank you for the invite, but I need time alone right now.
- I don’t feel comfortable telling you about my sex life.
- I’m not okay joking about that topic.
- I will lend you more money after you’ve paid me back from last month.
- I love you, but I’m struggling with my own mental health right now and cannot be your primary support system.
- I’m not comfortable talking about other people.
- Let’s change the subject.
EXAMPLES OF BOUNDARIES IN A FAMILY
- I don’t want you to fix this for me.
- I cannot spend time with you today, but maybe sometime next week?
- I need to rest tonight so I will not make it to dinner.
- I don’t feel comfortable knowing about your relationship troubles.
- Please don’t ask about that part of my life.
- I have the right to my own opinions and beliefs, even if they are different from yours.
- I respect your values and believes even though I don’t share them. I need you to do the same, even if this means I won’t attend church with you.
- Anything I tell you is said in confidence, please don’t tell other people without explicit consent.
- Do not go through my belongings.
- Please ask before borrowing my clothing.
- I can’t lend you money at this time.
- It is not up to you what my romantic relationships look like. If I ask for your input, you may tell me, but I have the right to make my own decisions.
- Commenting on my weight is inappropriate, please stop.
- I expect my partner to be treated with respect or we will not be coming over anymore