Let’s first define what (healthy) boundaries are. Healthy boundaries are ones that you need to have in place for YOU to feel safe and secure in a relationship. Boundaries are in all of our everyday relationships. From the boundaries you set with your spouse to the ones you set with the person in line behind you at the grocery store. Personal boundaries allow you the freedom to be yourself and respect yourself in personal interactions.
Here are some more specific examples of boundaries:
- Saying “no” to things you are not willing to participate in
- Being accepting/respectful when others say “no”
- Clearly communicating your wants and needs from the other person
- Keeping your own values, despite differences in opinions
Setting and maintaining boundaries in your life does not make you a selfish person, nor does it make you a controlling person. Boundaries are not meant to control another person but rather to set healthy expectations and limits.
How Do I Know If I Have Unhealthy Boundaries?
Oh, trust me, you’ll know.
If you have unhealthy boundaries in a relationship:
- You will feel like you are always the one compromising
- Any attempt to set and enforce a boundary will be met with resistance, possibly even anger, from the other party
- You say “yes” to everything, even when you want to say “no”
- You go against your own values for another person
- You let someone else define your reality
Let’s say you want to start enforcing those boundaries. That’s great!
Here’s a few tips to get you started:
- Think about what YOU are comfortable with in the relationship. Do you want to stay in Friday nights instead of going out or are you okay with going out? Would you rather someone call before showing up at your house for a visit?
Two specific questions to really consider are:
What behavior or behaviors that occur in your relationship make you uncomfortable? Why do they make you uncomfortable?
Once you have determined the answers to these questions, we can move onto setting those boundaries.
- Setting boundaries does not have to be an epic talk at the kitchen table. It can be, if you feel as if that is warranted but it is most of the time not necessary.
Let’s say that your friend wants to go out every Friday night for drinks but you are tired and just want to stay in. You usually oblige to keep her happy or come up with a wild excuse to get her off your case. This time will be different, however.
This time you will let her know, in a respectful amount of time and in a respectful tone, that you will not be joining her for drinks this Friday. If she insists to know why, simply let her know you would prefer to stay in this Friday because you are tired and leave it at that. If she persists, stick to your boundaries. It is okay for someone else to feel a mild bit of discomfort surrounding your decision. You would have been uncomfortable going out.
Having healthy boundaries really is as easy as setting a limitation and sticking to your guns. Once you have been consistent for long enough, there won’t be any expectation for you to behave any differently.
In the example of the pushy friend, she may stop asking you out for drinks altogether but this gives you the opportunity to suggest another night that you are more comfortable going out on. Maybe when you are letting her know that you won’t be joining her on Friday, you can see if she would be willing to go out on Saturday instead.
You Can Do This, Really!
Setting boundaries is not about always getting your way, it is about compromise.
- It is going to feel uncomfortable for you at first if you are used to a relationship with no boundaries or unhealthy boundaries. You may feel like you are being selfish and you may feel guilty and those are normal emotions and it’s okay to feel them. Try to remember, when/ if you feel those feelings, to be gentle on yourself and remind yourself why you are creating these boundaries.
See? No big deal! It is going to feel scary and intimidating at first but once you have established and enforced some boundaries, you’ll feel empowered and in control of yourself again.
Do you want a free and easy way to help you remember what boundaries are and what healthy boundaries look like? I created a free printable to help you with just that and you can pick it up here! There’s no obligation to you, all you have to do is click the download PDF button and you’re all set!
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