Creating Boundaries in Your Relationships

Boundaries is a topic that comes up many times in my work with clients. Here is the most simple definition: boundaries are things that you are okay with and not okay with. For example, in your personal relationships, are you okay with someone saying something that hurts you? Are you okay with not having a 2-way relationship? Are you okay with being flaked on or lied to? Are you okay with someone dismissing your thoughts and feelings?

These types of things happen in relationships with our friends, family, and co-workers. Somebody will say or do something that bothers you. Setting boundaries is the ability to communicate what is something that you can tolerate, forgive, or understand, and what is not.

Understanding the concept of boundaries and being able to implement it stems from your experiences in childhood. If your parents did not acknowledge that your thoughts and feelings counted or mattered, then you’ll have more of a learning curve with creating and sticking to boundaries. This is because you were taught at one point in your life that other peoples’ needs trump your own. Maybe you learned to dismiss your own feelings and focus on making sure mom and dad were “happy”. Maybe you did muster up enough courage to try and create a boundary when you were a child and the repercussions were too severe. Whatever the reasons may be, boundaries were not present in your childhood.

But now you are not that child. You didn’t have a choice then but you have a choice today. Yet you still fear upsetting people, fear ruining relationships by making your needs known, are not even sure what your needs are at all, or believe that you don’t have those rights. And these beliefs have led you to being very unhappy. You’re not happy in your romantic relationship, you wish you had better friendships, and you feel like other people don’t respect you.

And that’s exactly what happens when you don’t have boundaries. A lack of boundaries is an invitation for a lack of respect. Because how can you have respect for someone or a situation that feels boundary-less?

Think about how we operate in society. We have rules, laws and boundaries for how we act and what we do. We respect because we understand the limits. Imagine how you would feel and what you would do  without laws, rules and boundaries. You would not know where to start and where to stop. You would have no idea what was OK and what was not. And you act accordingly.

Relationships are the same concept. If someone thinks that anything and everything they do is fine with you, what is to stop them from doing so? Why would it matter? They have no clue what is important to YOU.

Boundaries keep you safe and they keep you happy. You recognize what you value and your own needs. You realize that having needs is normal and healthy. You break away the old cognitions of placing more importance on the needs of other people instead of yourself. You can incorporate your needs and the needs of the people you care about in a balanced and healthy manner.

Give it a try and see what differences you feel. Process your fears by journalling, talking with a trusted friend or seeing a therapist. Taking care of yourself and your needs will ultimately feel much better than attempting to keep relationships that upset you and violate your boundaries. sign-731314_640