Boundaries Are Important For Healthy Relationships
Perhaps one of the most important components of our ability to connect and bond with other individuals are the boundaries we set for ourselves. As you know, all types of relationships (family, work, personal, etc.) can be difficult to navigate as everyone has unique views, beliefs, principles, and aspirations that form our identities. One way we learn to steer these relationships is through the boundaries we set for ourselves and others. Without boundaries, it can be extremely difficult to form and maintain healthy relationships, because relationships without clear boundaries tend to have one or both parties struggle to communicate what they want, need, or expect. In this blog, I am going to introduce two types of personal boundaries and share my helpful tips for how to set and communicate these boundaries.
In school, they taught us that every state inside the United States has a border marked by an invisible line which helps our state’s leaders determine the boundaries of their influence. In our personal lives, we also have these boundaries or invisible lines that separate us from each other. Our personal boundaries can be placed in terms of physical or emotional space. Essentially, they are our guidelines for how we expect other people to treat us—what is and is not acceptable.
The two types of boundaries this blog will discuss are:
Physical boundaries are the guidelines we create for our body, personal space, and privacy. These boundaries tend to be more self-explanatory and easier to communicate with our partners, family members, friends, co-workers, etc. An example of a violation of someone’s physical boundaries is inappropriate touching. Inappropriate touching is not limited to sexual relations but can be as innocent as feeling uncomfortable when someone puts their hand on your shoulder or gives you a hug. It is normal to not appreciate or welcome everyone in your personal space or touching your body and recognizing what makes you feel uncomfortable can help you set boundaries. Similarly, it is important to understand when you are overstepping someone else’s physical boundaries, such as by looking through someone’s phone or drawers when they leave the room.
Emotional boundaries, on the other hand, are the guidelines we create for separating our feelings. It is extremely common for people in a co-dependent relationship to struggle with setting emotional boundaries, because they rely on each other for approval or sense of identity. In every type of relationship, our emotional boundaries will play an important part in our mental wellness. An example of a violation of our own emotional boundaries is taking on someone else’s pain or guilt for yourself to carry, sacrificing your own needs or desires to please someone else, or accepting responsibility/blame for someone else’s feelings or reactions. Likewise, it is important to understand when you are overstepping someone else’s emotional boundaries, such as by blaming someone else for your own feelings and/or reactions.
Now that you know a little bit more about two types of boundaries and why it is important to set them, you might be wondering how to set these boundaries. Here are some helpful tips you can use.
- Recognize what type of behavior makes you feel comfortable versus what type of behavior makes you feel uncomfortable. It is important to note that the answer will change for everyone in your life, because all relationships are different. Understanding what words or actions cause you distress is the first step in understanding where your boundaries should be set.
- After you determine where the line is drawn for feelings of comfort and safety versus feelings of discomfort and distress, it is important to clearly communicate these boundaries for each of the relationships in your life. Some of these boundaries may already be drawn and others may need to be enforced.
- Understand that it is okay to change your boundaries in the future. Our personal boundaries may change as our relationships progress.
- Be mindful of the other person’s boundaries. You can communicate to each other where your boundaries are and even work together to develop different boundaries that make you both feel safe and comfortable.
- Never be afraid of enforcing your boundaries. If something or someone is making you feel uncomfortable or causing you emotional distress, speak up. If the situation does not approve and clear communication does not work, it is okay to end the relationship to preserve your own mental wellness. Your mental wellness should always be your number 1 priority.
originally published 07.23.20