Setting boundaries allows us to develop and maintain healthy relationships while simultaneously caring for ourselves. They can take many forms. Boundaries can be set around our time, emotional energy, physical energy, finances, sexual or physical interactions, personal information, or possessions. They may include: saying “no” to someone close to you rather than overcommitting your time, saying “yes” to time with friends on the weekend separate from your significant other, or setting time for your parents to call you each week rather than expecting you to answer immediately.
Boundaries are not a form of control; rather, they set a clear expectation of how you wish to be treated. They also inform others of how they can expect you to interact in your relationships.
So, what steps can you take to start implementing healthy boundaries?
Decide what your boundaries are.
Boundaries support us in honoring what we value and respecting our limits. You get to decide what your boundaries look like. Our boundaries should support what we value and how we want to be treated. There’s no right or wrong, and others don’t get to pick for you. It may be helpful to write down your boundaries so that you can get very clear about what they look like.
Clearly communicate your boundaries to others.
Other people cannot read your mind, nor are they responsible for guessing what your boundaries are. It’s important that you clearly communicate your limits and expectations. As important as something like physical space or alone time might seem to you, others may have different priorities or values. It’s crucial to clearly communicate your needs to those around you.
Decide what the consequences will be if someone violates the boundary.
People might violate our boundaries on purpose or by accident. And, when initially establishing boundaries, it’s common for them to be crossed. It’s important to decide how you’ll handle this beforehand. When it comes to close relationships, setting boundaries can often be hard, but there needs to be consequences for those who don’t respect them. Having and communicating what the consequence will be if your boundary is violated, then following through with that consequence, is integral in establishing healthy boundaries.
Mentally prepare yourself to enforce the consequence when the boundary is violated, and prepare yourself for tolerating the other person's reaction to you enforcing your boundaries.
Others might not always respond the way we hope. They might get annoyed or angry, or they might act like you’re being dramatic or too demanding. It may be uncomfortable for someone you care about to express anger towards you; however, you should learn to tolerate that discomfort in a healthy way (such as taking deep breaths or practicing grounding) and continue maintaining your boundaries.
Consistently enforce your boundary every time it is violated.
This is super important. It is not okay for others to sometimes violate your boundaries: a healthy relationship means communication and respect from both parties. If you don’t enforce consequences each time that the boundary isn’t respected, you are showing the other person that you don’t have clear boundaries.
Continue to practice communicating and enforcing your boundaries.
Remember that we’re all human. We make mistakes and we can be forgetful, especially when changing patterns. However, the more we work on creating and enforcing healthy boundaries, the easier it is to maintain those boundaries.
It may be difficult, especially at the beginning, but creating and maintaining boundaries will create healthier relationships in your life. Be consistent every time someone crosses a line and keep up with open and clear communication. The clearer you are with what you want and expect, the happier you’ll be in relationships. We owe it to ourselves and those we care about to be honest about what we need, what we want, and what we won’t accept from ourselves and others.
Torie Cueto, LMFT
Licensed Therapist in California. Currently providing individual therapy services for adults.
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Torie Cueto, LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist #106471
5230 Carroll Canyon Road, Suite 314
San Diego, CA 92121
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