As social creatures, we have an innate need to form close bonds with other people. While relationships can help us bloom, they can also drain us and reduce us to shadows of our true selves. The latter case is common, with 90% of Americans experiencing dysfunctional relationships. Thus, there’s a need to set boundaries, meaning creating a line distinguishing us from the other person.
If you want to develop nurturing relationships, learning to set boundaries is crucial. What does it mean to have boundaries, and how can you establish boundaries?
Why Do You Need to Set Boundaries?
We all know people who are too close for comfort. It may be a couple that shares a social media account or a mother who tells her teen daughter everything, regardless of whether it’s age-appropriate.
But how can you tell if you have poor boundaries in your relationships? You may need to set boundaries if you’re:
- Drained and exhausted after interacting with your partner, friends or family
- Afraid to communicate your feelings and needs
- Consistently overextending yourself to please others
- Struggling with feeling physically and emotionally exposed due to a lack of privacy and personal space
These feelings can come with a lot of shame and guilt. And if you have poor boundaries, even acknowledging their existence may feel like a betrayal of the people you love.
Additionally, knowing what kind of boundaries you want from your relationships doesn’t make getting them any easier. You may feel that persevering in silence is better than being regarded as selfish and controlling.
Learning to set boundaries can improve your relationships. Healthy boundaries can help establish long-lasting relationships based on mutual support and protection.
What Are the Normal Boundaries to Set in a Relationship?
So, what is a practical relationship boundary? Experts suggest boundaries that maintain mutual respect, trust and individuality.
Normal relationship boundaries go both ways, with people feeling free to communicate their limits. You should receive assurance that your limits are respected, both verbally and through ongoing action.
Practical boundaries also leave room for communication and correction whenever limits are exceeded.
If you have a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder, your boundaries should include:
- Low-trigger places you can go and the type of people you can be around
- Activities you and your loved ones can jointly participate in
- The type of events you can be invited to
- Accommodations you and others can make both inside and outside your home
What Are the 7 Types of Boundaries?
1. Fixed Boundaries
These are the nonnegotiable limits you need people around you to respect if they want to maintain a relationship with you. While the specifics might vary depending on your tastes, you should have fixed boundaries around:
- Emotional intimacy
- Substance use
- Health issues
You should cut off anyone threatening your life, whether it’s through beating, drugging or restricting your access to health care. Beware of people who infringe on or violate your trust through verbal abuse, emotional manipulation or lying.
2. Physical Boundaries
Even the touchiest people have a right to personal space and safety, so you shouldn’t be afraid to state your limits. For example, tell people the amount of physical distance you’re comfortable with and what type of touch you desire.
Physical boundaries can also include conditions on privacy, rest and interpersonal behavior. Your friends and family shouldn’t feel they have access to all areas of your home without informing you. And even if you share a home with your partner, carve out a space that’s yours alone or a time when you can be alone for a while.
3. Emotional Boundaries
These types of boundaries safeguard your thoughts, feelings and overall mental health. The people around you should respect your individuality and strive to acknowledge and understand your position on things.
Healthy emotional boundaries safeguard your vulnerabilities by determining what type of information you reveal and to whom. They also help you keep relationships in the right boxes so you don’t find yourself talking about your love life to your boss.
4. Time Boundaries
In the age of technology, many people expect us to always be at their beck and call, ready to serve them whenever they need us. Time boundaries help you carve out time for yourself and the people around you so you can be fully present in each moment.
Good time boundaries ensure you fruitfully use every second of the day. Communicating your availability helps people determine what they can ask from you and reduces their impulse to pressure you into commitments you can’t comfortably honor.
5. Financial Boundaries
People may constantly ask you for money or things you bought for yourself if you have poor financial boundaries. Failing to acquiesce to their demands may result in sulking, badmouthing and even insults.
You have the right to use your money as you please. Don’t feel the urge to lend your friends and family money whenever they ask for it, especially if you don’t have any to spare. And if you’re in a romantic relationship, there needs to be a divide between you and your partner’s finances and belongings.
6. Spiritual Boundaries
You shouldn’t feel pressured to abide by your parents’, partner’s or friends’ religious rules. And as long as you’re not harming yourself or others, nobody should be comfortable ridiculing your beliefs or trying to make you adopt theirs.
7. Sexual Boundaries
Consent should be mandatory for sexual interactions with anyone, including your spouse or long-term partner. Communicate your sexual desires and limits before intercourse, and feel free to say if you want something to stop, even during intimacy.
How Do You Discuss Boundaries?
You can assertively set healthy relationship boundaries without offending others or disregarding their feelings. Here are five assertiveness tips to keep in mind:
- Choose the right time: The discussion of boundaries can be sensitive, so don’t attempt it unless both parties are in the right mood. Jointly pick a time when you’re relaxed and receptive to ensure you don’t become frustrated during the conversation.
- Say no: You should know your limits before the discussion and stick to them during the conversation. If the other person tries to haggle and infringe on your boundaries, firmly say no and stick to your guns.
- Remain calm: Things can quickly get out of hand during the discussion, especially if the other party feels slighted when you establish boundaries. If they do, try to control your emotions and avoid resorting to accusations, complaints or insults.
- Know when to stop: If a disagreement threatens to turn into a shouting match, you should find a quiet corner to cool off in before reattempting the discussion. However, if you feel threatened or at risk of physical attack, leave the vicinity and find a safe place, whether at your house or a friend’s.
- Let go of guilt: While feeling guilt when setting and enforcing a boundary is normal, it’s also a sign that the boundary is sorely needed. Wallowing in the guilt can make you weaken your commitment to your boundaries. Whenever you feel bad about setting limits, ask yourself, “What does it mean to have boundaries?” and persevere in your resolve.
When to Seek Professional Help for Setting Boundaries
Part of learning to set boundaries includes knowing when you need professional mediation to establish them. If you’ve initiated the discussion on boundaries several times, or if your boundaries are constantly violated, it’s time to seek professional help.
Our counselors at Restore have years of experience helping people establish healthy boundaries with their loved ones. Call us today at (855) 651-6975 to get expert advice on how to set boundaries, meaning healthier relationships with everyone you cherish.