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What Are Boundaries?

Boundaries are the limits, rules, and guidelines placed in relationships. Although we often think about boundaries in terms of other people, they are really about caring for ourselves.

Boundaries can be physical, emotional, verbal, financial, sexual, social, digital, etc ... 

  • 'I don't like to hold hands in public, but I'm glad to hold hands while we're in the car,' is an example of setting a physical boundary.

  • 'I don't like it when you call me names, even if you mean it as a joke,' is an example of setting a verbal boundary.

  • 'I like it when you touch me this way,' is an example of setting (or illustrating) a sexual boundary.

  • 'I don't share my social media passwords with anyone,' is an example of setting a digital boundary.

Boundaries help us care for ourselves and others by clearly stating our limits. It helps others know how they can interact with us without causing trauma, fear, anger, resentment, etc ...

Below are examples of healthy and unhealthy boundaries. 

Unhealthy Boundaries

  • Telling everything

  • Trusting no one, trusting everyone

  • Black and white thinking

  • Not noticing when someone else displays unhealthy boundaries

  • Not noticing when someone invades your boundaries or ignores them.

  • Talking intimately at the first meeting

  • Acting on first sexual impulse

  • Being sexual for your partner, not yourself

  • Allowing someone to take as much as they can from you

  • Going against personal values or morals to please your partner

  • Falling in love with someone who is kind to you

  • Accepting gifts, touch, sex, etc. that you don’t want

  • Touching someone without asking

  • Taking as much as you can take just to take

  • Giving as much as you can give just to give

  • Letting others define you and direct your life

  • Believing others can anticipate your needs automatically

  • Falling about so someone will take care of you


Healthy Boundaries

  • Appropriate Trust

  • Moving step by step into intimacy

  • Staying focused on your own growth and recovery

  • Maintaining personal values despite what other people want

  • Noticing when someone invades your boundaries

  • Saying no to gifts, touch, sex, etc. when they don’t want it

  • Revealing yourself a little at a time, then checking in to see how the other person responds to your sharing.

  • Putting new friendships on hold until you check for compatibility.

  • Deciding whether a new relationship will be good for you.

  • Asking before touching

  • Trusting your own decisions

  • Knowing who you are and what you want

  • Defining your truth as you see it.

  • Talking to yourself with gentleness, humor, and respect

  • Respecting others- not taking advantage of their generosity

  • Self-respect- not giving too much in the hopes someone will like you

  • Knowing friends, family, and partners aren’t mind readers

  • Being sexual when you want to be sexual, concentrating on your pleasure and your partner's pleasure, not just one or the other

Setting Boundaries

All right. We've established that boundaries are a good thing to have and we've given you some examples of what unhealthy and healthy boundaries look like. Now let's talk about setting our boundaries!

(By the way, abusers don't like boundaries, and boundary-setting with abusers can be dangerous. If you think you might be in an abusive relationship and that person violates your boundaries regularly, it may not be safe for you to set boundaries with that person. If you need to safety plan or talk out your thoughts and feelings, please give us a call!)

Setting boundaries can be intimidating if you've never done it before. Why? You could be afraid the person will ignore or reject you. You may worry about confrontation. You may feel guilty because you are now limiting what you allowed before. You may not know how to set boundaries. All that is normal. It's okay to be afraid, to feel weird about it, to not know how to set boundaries. The important thing is you're learning more about it now and you're realizing that you deserve to have your boundaries!

Things to know about setting boundaries:

  • Start out slowly. Set one boundary at a time.

  • Think about your goal in setting the boundary. Why do you want it? Why is it important?

  • Communicate the boundary clearly, calmly, and firmly.

  • Use 'I' statements. "I feel frustrated when you leave all the dishes to me. I would like us to share the chore, either by taking turns doing the dishes, or doing them together." Or, "I like talking to you on the phone, but I cannot talk all evening. I'll be glad to talk for thirty minutes each time, but then I need to hang up so I can do other things." Or, "I appreciate it when you ask to use my phone, instead of just taking it whenever you need to make a call."

  • You don't have to defend or justify your boundary. You're doing it for yourself and your well-being, and you deserve the opportunity to care for yourself.

  • You aren't responsible for how the other person responds to your boundary. They are responsible for their emotions and actions, just like you are responsible for yours.

  • You can check in to make sure they understand your boundary and then you can clarify anything that is unclear.

Your rights:

  1. You have the right to say no without feeling guilty.

  2. You have the right to be treated with respect.

  3. Your needs are as important as the needs of others.

  4. You have the right to your boundaries.

  5. You have the right to take care of yourself first.

  6. You have the right to be heard and listened to.

  7. You have the right to have your needs met.

Boundaries are an important part of every relationship you have. Let us know if you have questions or would like to talk more!

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