And why they are helpful in the pursuit of wellbeing.
| By Ruth Mendelson, MSW, LCSW
Let’s Talk Boundaries
What comes to your mind when you think of the word “boundary?” Are you thinking about a border? Some kind of line that delineates physical space? Is this line real or imagined? Does this line mark the edge or limit of something? These questions being asked are intended to provoke your thoughts. We are going to talk about the importance of boundaries related to relationships but before we do that, I wanted to paint a picture of some words associated with a literal boundary. The purpose of this is to help us understand what boundaries mean in a relationship.
Boundaries are a vital part of healthy relationships and overall wellbeing because they help us define what feels ok and what does not. They help us understand how much or how little of something we can do, handle or take. Not being able to set boundaries or having relationships with people who do not respect our personal boundaries can have negative consequences on our personal wellbeing.
What are Relationship Boundaries?
Boundaries in relationships are the limits we set with other people. They can indicate what we find acceptable and unacceptable in other people’s behavior toward us and vice versa. They can exist in professional, romantic, and familial relationships.
One way to understand how healthy our own boundaries are is to ask ourselves these questions:
- how do we view ourselves, particularly how we perceive our self-worth or value
- do we value ourselves in a way that is not dependent on what others think of us or the feelings others have toward us
Do you ever feel like you say “yes” to things you don’t want to do? Do you ever feel like you have to answer questions you feel are too personal? Do you ever fear rejection if you do not comply with another person’s request?
Trying to answer those questions for ourselves might give us some insight into how we define boundaries in the relationships we have. In doing that we might gain some insight into our own experiences, relationships, and life satisfaction. Boundaries can be linked to so many areas of life and wellbeing.
Characteristics of Healthy vs Unhealthy Boundaries
|Healthy Boundaries||Unhealthy Boundaries|
|Revealing a little of yourself at a time, checking on cues to see how the person responds to your sharing||Letting others define you|
|Moving step-by-step into intimacy||Touching a person without asking|
|Maintaining personal values despite fear of criticism||Expecting others to fill your needs automatically without asking|
|Deciding whether a potential relationship will be good for you||Falling in love with anyone who reaches out|
|Noticing when someone invades your boundaries||Not noticing when someone invades your boundaries|
Tips For Healthy Boundaries
Good News — healthy boundaries can be learned! There is work that a person can do to improve their boundaries, and in turn, potentially improve their relationships in many domains of life, such as personal, familial, romantic, and professional arenas.
- Understand your limits
- Explore your values
- Be in touch with your feelings
- Respect for yourself and others
If you are interested in learning further ways to explore your personal boundaries and establish healthy boundaries, please reach out. If you want to learn more about tools that can help you, a licensed therapist or counselor can support you with your goals.
Ruth enjoys spending time with her family, friends and dog. She loves to cook, spend time outdoors and go to the beach (even when it’s cold outside).
Check out Ruth’s professional bio here!
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