When you hear the word, “boundaries,” what do you think of? In a relationship context, boundaries are both necessary and helpful. Even though boundaries are a part of every relationship we have, folks tend to think of setting a boundary as something that means the relationship is unhealthy. However, establishing a boundary in a relationship can actually improve your interactions with the other person. Setting a boundary can actually be a sign of a healthy relationship.
Boundary setting might be foreign to you and that’s okay. Many of us grow up as people-pleasers, so the idea of actively sticking up for our own needs feels strange and even difficult. As with most things though, it gets easier with practice. However, there are so many benefits to setting boundaries in your relationships. Even though it’s intimidating, it’s a valuable practice.
What’s a Boundary?
First of all, what even is a boundary? A boundary is just a limit that you set in a relationship. You can have a boundary in any kind of relationship, not just romantic. In fact, you probably have more non-romantic boundaries than romantic ones! The purpose of setting a boundry is to help protect your sense of self and is an advanced form of assertiveness. Setting a boundary in your relationships can even be a form of self-care.
A person with no boundaries in their relationships might get pushed around by others and feel like they have no control over their life. This loss of control can feel really overwhelming, and it can even lead to putting up emotional walls to protect yourself. Establishing boundaries in relationships can help balance that feeling of overwhelm. When you feel less overwhelmed, you can be more present in your relationships on a day to day basis. However, boundaries are not nagging, attacking, threatening, blaming, or criticizing.
Some Examples of Boundaries:
- Taking a break from social media
- Expressing yourself in uncomfortable situations
- Asking for what you need
- Saying no without feeling bad
- Letting others be responsible for their own feelings – not you.
- Telling other people how you want to be treated
- Scheduling alone time on a regular basis to recharge
There is an infinite number of boundaries you can set – all that matters is that it works for you and that you can communicate it to others.
Why Are Boundaries Important?
Boundaries can improve the emotional health for both parties
Instead of feeling distressed or unsure when you’re around this person, knowing what you expect of each other can take off some of that pressure.
Setting a boundary allows you to feel enjoyment over resentment
It can be wildly frustrating to feel misunderstood by or resentful of someone, especially someone close to you. Before setting a boundary, you might feel bitter at the idea of interacting with this person because you aren’t sure if you’ll be respected or heard. After talking about a boundary though, it’s easier to let go of that resentment and enjoy the moment because you’re on the same page.
Boundaries let you feel more present + mindful in interactions
Sometimes we get so in our heads about an interaction that we kind of miss it completely while worrying about it. Has that ever happened to you? The idea of interacting with someone with no boundaries might make you nervous, leading you to stress out the entire time and focus on how they’re going to treat you instead of on the actual topic. When you talk about your needs, though, it’s easier to relax into the interaction because you have established the trust beforehand.
Setting a boundary can help increase confidence
It feels pretty great to ask for what you need and then get it. Boundary setting takes practice, and you can build that practice over time. Start with something small – maybe say, “Actually, I’m not done speaking,” the next time someone interrupts you. It might feel super aggressive to you at first to ask for what you want, but after seeing people respect your wishes, you’ll feel more confident the next time you need to establish a boundary.
Boundaries lead to intentional interactions
How many of our interactions happen on autopilot? We tend to follow the same scripts for interacting with people until we decide otherwise. Sometimes, we just let interactions happen to us, instead of going into them with purpose and intention. Setting boundaries is one way to make your interactions more mindful and intentional. Both parties can lay out what they want and need with respect, and use that respect to improve their interactions.
Boundaries give you a script to follow – if x happens, my response will be y.
Another great thing about boundaries? They give you a script to follow. For example, let’s say that your boundary is that you don’t want to speak about your weight or your body. You can let people know that bringing up that topic means the end of the conversation. Then, if your boundary is crossed, follow through on what your boundary says.
Setting boundaries let you feel more in control
You are in charge of you – no one else is. You have to be the one to make and enforce your boundaries because no one is going to do it for you. Like we said earlier about building up confidence, setting boundaries successfully can help you feel more in control of your relationships. Setting boundaries helps you go from being passive in a situation to being an active participant, and it is totally in your control.
Boundaries help improve communication overall
One of the most frustrating things about relationships with other people is that sometimes you just don’t understand each other. Instead of wondering what’s going on in someone’s mind during an interaction, talking about your boundaries beforehand can help you understand their perspective. Clear, up-front boundaries can help cut down on misunderstandings that come from trying to read someone’s mind or expecting them to read yours.
Can you think of a boundary of yours off the top of your head?
What do they look like? Are they spoken or unspoken? Do your boundaries support your relationships (including the one you have with yourself)? Which ones are working for you, and which ones do you need to tweak?
Your boundaries can evolve over time, so make sure to check in with yourself regularly to see if your feelings about a boundary have changed. Once you put in some practice sticking up for yourself and your needs, setting boundaries in the future will be a lot less intimidating.