Setting boundaries are important in making sure that you feel safe and comfortable in an environment. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that setting healthy boundaries in your relationship would be important. Relationships should, after all, offer you safety and comfort.
Balanced relationships require you to know how to set boundaries. They can be about your time, emotions, sexual activities, or anything else, really. Knowing your threshold and having the people in your life respect that makes for better interactions.
What are Boundaries?
Boundaries are kind of like invisible shields that we use to navigate our safe spaces. It can be difficult to properly communicate these lines to other people, but it’s an important part of maintaining a healthy mental and emotional state.
People who love and respect you will generally take heed of the boundaries you have set. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll always be respected, and you can find people pushing it or crossing the line in one way or another – sometimes on purpose, sometimes inadvertently.
It is tricky to identify and set emotional and personal boundaries, especially when it comes to the ones you’ve never even explored before. It can be even harder to get a partner to understand them because their own boundaries may be different from yours. But with practice and determination, you will get the hang of identifying your boundaries and standing by them.
What ‘Setting Boundaries’ Means
People with poor boundaries will be one of two types, those who take too much responsibility for others’ emotions and actions, and those who expect others to take responsibility for their own emotions and actions. These two people will usually end up in relationships with each other simply because opposites attract. But don’t take this to think that it turns out to be a healthy relationship. Knowing how to set boundaries also means that you communicate your boundaries clearly and consistently.
Why It’s Important to Set Boundaries
Personal boundaries go hand in hand with self-confidence and maintaining one’s own identity. Taking responsibility for your own emotion and actions help you take control of your life and the direction you’re going in. It makes you a stronger, more whole person. It also makes you less wishy-washy about things because you are in command of what happens. You don’t let things simply happen to you only to blame it on external factors later. Understanding how to set boundaries makes you less susceptible to toxic relationships and situations.
Knowing your limits also tells you what you can push. Pushing your own boundaries at a rate that you’re comfortable within an environment where you feel supported allows you to grow and be vulnerable.
Types of Boundaries
Understanding the types of boundaries is essential in knowing how to set boundaries that will prevent you from burning out or resenting social interactions.
Physical boundaries refer to your personal space, privacy, and your body. This determines how comfortable you are with physical contact, proximity to other people, and the like.
Sexual boundaries determine your expectations of intimacy. Sexual innuendo, touches, and activities should be discussed with your partner.
Intellectual boundaries concern your thoughts and beliefs. Religious and political opinions can be especially touchy subjects, but people that respect your intellectual boundaries are those you can differ in opinion with without feeling dismissed.
Emotional boundaries refer to, you guessed it, your feelings. How comfortable you are with sharing your emotions and inner thoughts. Some people find it easy to pout their hearts out to anybody while some find it a bit harder to be vulnerable and prefer to share gradually throughout a relationship.
Financial boundaries revolve around money. How you spend your money is entirely up to you and your fiscal philosophy, so lending money with someone who has different spending habits than you might not be something you’re comfortable with.
Your time is important, especially since free time is extremely limited given daily responsibilities and obligations. There will be times that you want to spend alone, and time you will allot for socialization. You might not like to spend time staring at a screen and prefer to spend it in nature. Do not let people dictate how you spend your time.
How to Set Boundaries
You may not have realized it, but you already have at least a few boundaries in place. However, actively identifying and knowing how to set boundaries can be difficult. Here’s how to get started.
To successfully introduce and set boundaries, understand why each boundary is important and how they will benefit you. Look at how your formative years have influenced your limits. Examine how your past experiences and relationships have changed and shifted your views and what you’re comfortable with.
2Know your basic rights.
If you know your rights, you can use that as a starting point for setting healthy boundaries. Knowing that ‘no’ is always a guilt-free option and a complete sentence in itself is an important one. Then there are others that you can simply take for granted like being treated with respect and that your needs are just as important as other people’s needs. So take account of what should have been a given, and then tweak it to your own needs.
Having boundaries in place and implementing them may be daunting. So it’s okay to start small and build slowly. It allows you to assess the lines you’re drawing as you move forward and see if you need to adjust anything.
Getting people to respect and understand your boundaries and limits is simpler when they know what they are at the beginning of a relationship. It can be harder to apply to pre-existing relationships, if only because there was already an established way of interaction there. However, getting them to adjust is not impossible, especially if you make your boundaries clear.
It can be easy to let things slide, especially when you aren’t used to having them in the first place. But do your best to be consistent in implementing your boundaries. By setting vague boundaries, you confuse the people you interact with and encourage new expectations you may not necessarily be comfortable with.
6Have a system.
Your boundaries shift and change depending on the type of relationship you’re dealing with. You can help yourself by having a boundary system that you apply no matter who and what you’re dealing with. Setting aside some alone time once a week is an easy one that you can set that reminds everyone in your life that you have boundaries they have to respect.
Tweak, adjust, and add your boundaries as you see fit. Think of your set boundaries as the minimum, and add more depending on the situation. The comfort and interactions you’re willing to engage in with your significant other are not the same for your co-workers. Building on your boundaries to fit the environment is a-okay. Especially in the workplace, these boundaries may help you be more productive and empowered.
8Be conscious of social media.
Social media can be a fun way to share your life and take a peek into everyone else’s. The downside? Social media also blurs a lot of boundaries. People can tend to overshare on social media, and a lot of concerns about relatives and friends sharing more than we’re comfortable with about our own lives is an issue. Know how to set boundaries in the digital space. Digital boundary-crossing is no less valid than IRL.
It would be unfair and unreasonable to be mad at someone for crossing a boundary when you never made your boundaries clear in the first place. Communicate and make sure that they know where your lines are, and tell them when they repeatedly cross them.
10Be your own cheerleader.
Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries bank on you seeing yourself as someone who deserves respect. By being your own cheerleader, it encourages others to see and appreciate your worth, too.
11Don’t overthink your boundaries.
Not having boundaries can lead to an unhealthy mental state, but so can overthinking the boundaries you have already set. Boundaries are guidelines for your interactions but have some flexibility – especially when your instincts have an opinion. As human beings, we are intuitive and can leave some of our life navigating up to our gut.
What to Do When Someone Keeps Disprespecting Your Boundaries
There will be people that will keep pushing and disrespecting the boundaries you’ve set for all your interactions. So how do you deal with them?
1Is the boundary negotiable?
There is a hierarchy amongst your boundaries. So you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to negotiate that boundary for them. Compromise can be a great tool to help you grow, but it has to be a fair trade. However, if the boundary is non-negotiable, ask yourself how long you’re willing to accept this type of disrespectful treatment.
It may seem petty to record every time someone’s crossed a boundary, but the important component of this practice is to record your response. How are you responding to their disrespect? Are you being clear about your feelings? Have you been consistent? If you notice inconsistencies in your boundary setting, then you may need to make adjustments. Do not let their ignorance and unwillingness to give you the respect you deserve allow them to cow you into giving in.
Some people will not respect your boundaries no matter what you do. This is difficult, especially when that person is someone who means a lot to us. But we cannot change other people, and we must take care of ourselves. So you have two options, you can accept them and the way they treat you, or you can choose to remove yourself.
Detachment means stepping away from people and situations. You can’t control everyone and everything, and trying will make drive you crazy. Detaching allows you to give yourself healthy space. Whether that means physically leaving, or responding differently so that the dynamic changes will all depend on you.
5Limit your contact.
Or if necessary, go no-contact. Sometimes, no matter how difficult it is, cutting out people from your life is the best way to protect yourself from toxicity. This isn’t punishment or a manipulation tactic, it is the best way to keep your mental and emotional health intact when you’ve tried all other options. Whether it’s a ‘friend’ or relative, you owe nobody your time, attention, or company.
How Do I Respect Other People’s Boundaries?
1Observe how they react.
Social cues are a great way to determine other people’s boundaries. A simple step backward, break in eye contact, or a change in voice octave can signal their discomfort.
2Acknowledge and be conscious of neurodiversity.
“Neurodiversity” is used to describe people who live with autism, are on the spectrum, or have other developmental disabilities. This can mean they have different social cues.
But social cues differ from person to person anyway, meaning gestures you have to signal uneasiness may just be a movement of habit for others. There are even those that may not provide any cues at all, making it a bit more difficult. There are individuals that cannot pick up social cues, so just be aware during your interactions.
The easiest way to figure out people’s boundaries is to ask them. Especially when it comes to physical contact like a hug or asking personal questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
1How do I know if my boundaries are unreasonable?
Determine why you’re starting to think they’re unreasonable. Is it your own opinion, or did someone else’s actions and opinions make you doubt a boundary you set because it makes THEM uncomfortable? If it’s because of someone else, they most likely are not unreasonable, and you’re just caving in to their need instead of prioritizing your own. But if you’re doubting a boundary you had set before, perhaps it is time to reassess.
2I can’t seem to be consistent in my boundaries.
If you’ve done your best with the skills you have, it’s time to ask for help. Whether it’s from a friend or a close family member, ask them to teach you their ways of implementing boundaries, or advice on how they deal with specific people that you’re having difficulty with. If that still doesn’t help, see a therapist. They’ll help you figure out why establishing and setting healthy boundaries is so difficult.
3Most of the boundary crossers are my family members, but I don’t want to cut them off. Is there anything else I can do?
Cutting off family members is difficult, even if they always disregard the boundaries you’ve set. If you really do not want to cut them off, changing how you interact and respond with them could make it a bit easier for you. You can also limit the interactions, where you only see and converse with them during holidays. Also, having a person who can support you during the interactions can make you feel a bit safer.
4How often should I be adjusting my boundaries?
As often as you need or as often as you want. You know yourself best, and when boundaries need to be adjusted will wholly depend on your mental and emotional state. New experiences, people, time, information, and age can have you changing your boundaries.
5My boundaries make me feel isolated.
This is difficult. Your boundaries should never make you feel isolated, but rather allow you to exist in a safe and comfortable environment. Perhaps the uncompromising application of your boundaries has caused you to push people away. This isn’t a bad thing if that’s what you need. However, if you’re feeling alone, consider compromises and conversations that will allow people to feel more welcome in your life.
Knowing how to set boundaries and applying them to your own life encourage relationships and environments that keep you mentally and emotionally healthy. Another person’s response to that is their responsibility. You can lose people and relationships once you realize how to implement the boundaries you’ve established for yourself, and though it can hurt, it’s okay! It means they did not respect your feelings and you don’t need that toxicity in your life. Personal boundaries evolve as you evolve as a person, it also changes how you respond to situations and conversations. Setting healthy boundaries allows you to function with less stress, become a better person, and have more confidence in yourself. So though it’s difficult, drawing that line is worth it to become a whole, healthy, and happy human being.