Google dictionary defines boundaries as “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.” In the mental health profession, we explain boundaries as the dividing line between honoring ourselves, our needs, and our wants. We allow others to cross that line without healthy boundaries and override our own feelings and desires.
Boundaries lines can be crossed in relationships unintentionally because of the lack of clear communication. Boundaries can also intentionally be crossed. The other person may be crossing your boundary lines to fulfill their own feelings and desires.
Many of us end up in relationships with boundary crossers, repeatedly repeating old patterns. If you are ready to find your boundaries and peace in your relationships, here are some helpful tips.
Boundaries are a life enhancing system of “yes’” and “no’s.” They are stop signs and borders you install to protect yourself so that it is clear that you own your life, make good choices, and pursue the authentic expression of who you are in the way you live, love, give and relate.
Most people have a mix of different boundary types, and they are not a one size fits all. There are many different types of boundaries; physical, sexual, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial, and legal.
If you are not sure you are good at setting healthy boundaries, ask yourself these questions.
My identity is my partner, and I am nobody if I'm not in a relationship.
I will do anything to make them happy, and I spend most of my time involved in their goals and activities.
There isn't enough time left to do what I want to do.
My partner would be lost without me.
If I just try harder, maybe the relationship will get better.
My relationships tend to be complicated or dramatic.
Decision-making is hard for me.
I can't handle letting people down.
I worry about what other people think.
I tend to overshare.
I also seem to be a victim of my situation.
I feel annoyed a lot.
I secretly feel that others don't like me.
I can be passive-aggressive.
I have no idea who I really am.
I am terrified of rejection and abandonment.
I feel guilty for wanting to do things by myself.
SETTING BOUNDARIES IN RELATIONSHIPS
Difficulty with setting healthy boundaries in relationships can have many causes. It can come from childhood trauma. Things like sexual abuse give a child the message that they don't matter or get to have boundaries. It can also be a learned behaviour because it is what we witnessed as children. As a result, we can become codependent and develop a desperate need for love and affection from others. To receive this love and affection, we sacrifice our identity and boundaries.
The first step in learning healthy boundaries is to own our own emotional baggage. There is an underlying reason why we end up repeating the same patterns in our relationships and why holding boundaries is so hard. Often, personal boundaries and self-esteem go hand in hand.
At Nomina, we always suggest "getting curious." It is not about what is wrong with you; it is about what has helped you get where you are now. Get curious about the why. You will want the help of a registered psychotherapist to help you professionally unpack, but here are a few suggestions for boundary work on your own.
1. Understand that you cannot put boundaries on other’s behaviors. can only put in our own boundaries with how we plan to govern ourselves when experiencing others behavior to keep ourselves safe.
2. Identify your purpose & mission – it can make it easier to set and maintain boundaries by understanding how they help you on your mission/path.
3. Use simple and direct language, “You may not yell at me. If you continue, I'll have to leave the room."
4. There is no need to defend, debate, or over-explain your feelings. Be firm, gracious and direct. When faced with resistance, repeat your statement or request.
5. Back up your boundary with action. Stay strong. If you give in, you invite people to ignore your needs
One final suggestion. As you grow in your confidence with your boundary setting, you might find that some people will push back. Quite often, it is those without boundaries who struggle to respect boundaries. Accept that some people will not appreciate your limits no matter what you do. You deserve to have healthy relationships with love, respect, and support.