Steps to Creating Healthy Boundaries in Your Relationships
Have you ever interacted with someone who always seems to share a little too much information? Or the person that doesn’t seem to open up to anyone about anything?
Boundary setting seems to be a consistent topic in my sessions with clients. In my graduate program, I had a professor compare boundaries to the movement of wind chimes. The center part, or clapper, of the wind chime moves and the outer chimes respond to the movement. As we attempt to set boundaries with others, we teach others how to respond to our ‘movement’ or how we would like to be treated.
Boundaries are more than just physical borders. They can range from physical boundaries to time and emotional boundaries, with more in between. Boundaries also range in type. We can have very strict boundaries, very open boundaries, or land somewhere in the middle.
A brief overview of each boundary type:
A relationship with strict or rigid boundaries may seem distant or detached.
One person may avoid intimacy or avoid allowing any genuine closeness for fear of being hurt or rejected. Someone with strict boundaries may also avoid asking for help or seem very protective of personal details.
A relationship with very open boundaries may seem dependent or enmeshed.
One person may find themselves having difficulty saying “no” to others. Relationships with porous boundaries can oftentimes resemble a mirror. Whatever one person is feeling or experiencing, the other person may agree or comply with the same feelings or response.
A relationship with healthy boundaries may come across more balanced.
Each person in the relationship values their own opinion and the opinion of the other person. Healthy boundaries allow for a balance of attention to personal needs and the needs of the relationship.
Healthy boundaries in relationships are important because they allow us to set perimeters for ourselves, while still having space for intimacy with others. Boundaries dictate where we end and where the other person begins. In any relationship, we have to learn how to bring our own experiences together with the experiences of other people.
A good first step to establishing boundaries is to know our own personal limitations. Within your relationship, what are you comfortable with? What are you not comfortable with? Allowing ourselves time to reflect on what we deem acceptable in relationships beforehand may decrease the amount of issues that could show up later.
When setting boundaries in our relationships, we also have to be content with saying no explicitly or implicitly. It is helpful to be able to communicate with others when we have a boundary conflict, especially when the situation falls outside of our comfort zone. Remaining assertive, and speaking without ambiguity helps send a clear message about our boundaries.
Healthy boundaries are an important part of protecting our own self-care and creating a healthy balance in our relationships.
Authored by: Lakeita Roberts, LPC