Boundaries in relationships are a definite place where your responsibility ends and another person’s begins…
It stops you from doing things for others that they should do for themselves…
Boundaries in relationships also prevents you from rescuing someone from the consequences of their destructive behavior that they need to experience in order to grow…(source)
Whether intentional or accidental, we have all had our boundaries crossed by people in our lives…The majority of the time, it is because we have not clearly defined our boundaries…I am going to outline a few examples of boundaries being crossed…
Scenarios in which boundaries in relationships need to be set…
Child crossing a parent’s boundary
Boundaries in relationships with children are ever changing…As they begin to learn about the limits around them they test the boundaries with those they feel the safest…YOU…A few examples; Walking in on you when you are in the bathroom…Saying or doing something inappropriate then looking at you to see your reaction…Sneaking candy when they have been told they just have to ask…On, and on, and on…
Employer crossing an employee’s boundary
Boundaries in relationships with employers is probably one of the toughest to enforce…We have all had a job where we were asked to do things that were not in our job description…And we have all had an employer that once we agree and push our boundaries once, expects us to do it again and again…This leads to burn-out, resentment, and stress related illnesses…
Significant other crossing a partner’s boundary
Boundaries in relationships with your significant other can be volatile and have the most potential for hurt, both physically and mentally…Without clear communication of what your boundaries are your significant other can trigger you; resulting in arguments, wounds to your relationship, and inappropriate outbursts…Examples of crossing this type of relationship boundary could be as simple as; Your husband bringing up an issue that you are not yet comfortable speaking about (and not accepting your request to stop talking about it) or, as detrimental as a sexual partner requesting/demanding that you perform acts that you are not comfortable doing…
Stranger crossing a boundary
Boundaries in relationships with strangers has to be the most awkward because there is NO RELATIONSHIP…I think the one that resonates with most mother’s is the stranger that touches your belly when you are pregnant, the stranger that comes ‘just a little too close’ to your little one when admiring them in a store, or the unsolicited parenting advice from the lady behind you in line…
Have you identified with any of these scenarios?
What ones would you like to add to this list?
Find your journal or scrap of paper…
If you answered the questions about toxic people, you might want to pull that out for reference…
Questions to ask yourself regarding boundaries in relationships
- Who are the people, or what the situations in your life that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe?
- Have you ever let the people know that you feel uncomfortable? If so, what was their reaction? How did you approach them?
- Have you ever had someone ask you to respect a boundary of theirs? How did you react? Were they clear and calm when they asked you or reactionary?
When boundaries become “enmeshed,” it means we generally feel responsible for what another does or feels. (We do not define ourselves separately from them.)
The opposite situation, called an “anti-dependent stance,” means that we feel distant from others in our life. We fail to recognize that at times we might need to rely on them.
Either of these reactions, being enmeshed with others or being anti-dependent, makes relating more difficult. How can you tell if you tend to fall into one of these categories in your relationships with others?
Ask yourself the following questions.
Are you unsure if what you’re feeling stems from you or others?
Do you often allow others to cross over your boundaries even when it makes you uncomfortable?
Do you fail to recognize your uncomfortable feelings, or do you feel like you can’t do anything to protect yourself even when you do recognize those feelings?
Do you tend to blame others for the way you feel?
Are your beliefs and values unclear to you?
Are you unable to show your internal world to others?
Do you have difficulty accepting feelings at face value? In other words, you need to have a reason for them.
Do you often say that you do not need anyone?
Do you distance yourself emotionally from someone you claim to love?
Do you want intimacy, but push it away…or not want it once you have it?
How to Rate the Confusion Around Boundaries
Family roles and rules about acceptable behaviors are laid down in our childhood. We bring those into our current relationships, and the result can be confusing. Our boundaries may not seem to fit with our partner’s. How do we work it out?
Boundary setting (or limit setting) includes all of the following:
Receiving feedback from others, then accepting, modifying, or discarding it.
Knowing when we are uncomfortable, and doing something about it.
Recognizing others’ needs for boundaries, and not violating them.
Separating out our feelings, attitudes and beliefs from others’.
Not blaming others for how we feel.
Realizing when a problem is our own, someone else’s or a problem shared between us. (Source)
I want to explore how you can set healthy boundaries in relationships.
Setting boundaries takes a lot of practice…You will struggle the first few times you try, and you have to just try again…Because I can tell you from the other side, that learning how to set boundaries in my life has brought a sense of freedom that is priceless…
One of the things that you have to become comfortable with is the tension that will occur when you set boundaries…You have to learn how to let other people OWN their stuff, and you have to OWN only your stuff…
I give you permission to release yourself from expectations that others have placed upon you…
Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and, really, a healthy life. Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that many of us don’t learn, according to psychologist and coach Dana Gionta, Ph.D. We might pick up pointers here and there from experience or through watching others. But for many of us, boundary-building is a relatively new concept and a challenging one.
Having healthy boundaries means “knowing and understanding what your limits are,” Dr. Gionta said.
Below, she offers insight into building better boundaries and maintaining them.
- Name your limits.
You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. So identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits, Gionta said. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. “Those feelings help us identify what our limits are.”
- Tune into your feelings.
Gionta has observed two key feelings in others that are red flags or cues that we’re letting go of our boundaries: discomfort and resentment. She suggested thinking of these feelings on a continuum from one to 10. Six to 10 is in the higher zone, she said.
If you’re at the higher end of this continuum, during an interaction or in a situation, Gionta suggested asking yourself, what is causing that? What is it about this interaction, or the person’s expectation that is bothering me?
Resentment usually “comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated.” It’s often a sign that we’re pushing ourselves either beyond our own limits because we feel guilty (and want to be a good daughter or wife, for instance), or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us, she said.
“When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary,” Gionta said.
- Be direct.
With some people, maintaining healthy boundaries doesn’t require a direct and clear-cut dialogue. Usually, this is the case if people are similar in their communication styles, views, personalities and general approach to life, Gionta said. They’ll “approach each other similarly.”
With others, such as those who have a different personality or cultural background, you’ll need to be more direct about your boundaries. Consider the following example: “one person feels [that] challenging someone’s opinions is a healthy way of communicating,” but to another person this feels disrespectful and tense.
There are other times you might need to be direct. For instance, in a romantic relationship, time can become a boundary issue, Gionta said. Partners might need to talk about how much time they need to maintain their sense of self and how much time to spend together.
- Give yourself permission.
Fear, guilt and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls, Gionta said. We might fear the other person’s response if we set and enforce our boundaries. We might feel guilty by speaking up or saying no to a family member. Many believe that they should be able to cope with a situation or say yes because they’re a good daughter or son, even though they “feel drained or taken advantage of.” We might wonder if we even deserve to have boundaries in the first place.
Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.
- Practice self-awareness.
Again, boundaries are all about honing in on your feelings and honoring them. If you notice yourself slipping and not sustaining your boundaries, Gionta suggested asking yourself: What’s changed? Consider “What I am doing or [what is] the other person doing?” or “What is the situation eliciting that’s making me resentful or stressed?” Then, mull over your options: “What am I going to do about the situation? What do I have control over?”
- Consider your past and present.
How you were raised along with your role in your family can become additional obstacles in setting and preserving boundaries. If you held the role of caretaker, you learned to focus on others, letting yourself be drained emotionally or physically, Gionta said. Ignoring your own needs might have become the norm for you.
Also, think about the people you surround yourself with, she said. “Are the relationships reciprocal?” Is there a healthy give and take?
Beyond relationships, your environment might be unhealthy, too. For instance, if your workday is eight hours a day, but your co-workers stay at least 10 to 11, “there’s an implicit expectation to go above and beyond” at work, Gionta said. It can be challenging being the only one or one of a few trying to maintain healthy boundaries, she said. Again, this is where tuning into your feelings and needs and honoring them becomes critical.
- Make self-care a priority.
Gionta helps her clients make self-care a priority, which also involves giving yourself permission to put yourself first. When we do this, “our need and motivation to set boundaries become stronger,” she said. Self-care also means recognizing the importance of your feelings and honoring them. These feelings serve as “important cues about our wellbeing and about what makes us happy and unhappy.”
Putting yourself first also gives you the “energy, peace of mind and positive outlook to be more present with others and be there” for them.” And “When we’re in a better place, we can be a better wife, mother, husband, co-worker or friend.”
- Seek support.
If you’re having a hard time with boundaries, “seek some support, whether [that’s a] support group, church, counseling, coaching or good friends.” With friends or family, you can even make “it a priority with each other to practice setting boundaries together [and] hold each other accountable.”
Consider seeking support through resources, too. Gionta likes the following books: The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time and Boundaries in Marriage (along with several books on boundaries by the same authors).
- Be assertive.
Of course, we know that it’s not enough to create boundaries; we actually have to follow through. Even though we know intellectually that people aren’t mind readers, we still expect others to know what hurts us, Gionta said. Since they don’t, it’s important to assertively communicate with the other person when they’ve crossed a boundary.
In a respectful way, let the other person know what in particular is bothersome to you and that you can work together to address it, Gionta said.
- Start small.
Like any new skill, assertively communicating your boundaries takes practice. Gionta suggested starting with a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you, and then incrementally increasing to more challenging boundaries. “Build upon your success, and [at first] try not to take on something that feels overwhelming.”
“Setting boundaries takes courage, practice and support,” Gionta said. And remember that it’s a skill you can master. (Source)
How do those steps sound to you?
I totally agree with #10 start small…Work your way up to the big ones…Seek counsel from the safe people in your life…I am here if you have any questions or want to talk something out…