When you hear the word boundaries, what do you feel? Does the word elicit feelings of pain for when your boundaries were violated? Perhaps it reminds you of the importance of needing to set boundaries with a specific person in your life. Or maybe the word boundaries is more like a foreign language, you’ve heard the word before but don’t know what it means for you personally and why it’s important. Setting boundaries can sound like a scary or intimidating thing to do, yet it’s hard to have a conversation about being emotionally healthy without also discussing boundaries.
Very simply put, a boundary is defined as the space/limit between you and another person, or the place where you begin and the other person ends. There are several types of boundaries that fall under this definition:
Semi-Permeable/Flexible Boundaries – These boundaries are clear and firmly set. They are open to new ideas, thoughts, and feelings, but will not change easily with an intrusive person.
Rigid Boundaries – Rigid boundaries do not move. They are like a brick wall and oftentimes the person with rigid boundaries seems closed off emotionally (and even physically) to other people.
Even within the list above there are different variations of boundaries – emotional, physical, mental, relational, and so on. Jumping back to the definition above, boundaries show us (and others) where we begin and someone else ends. After reading through the above list, are your boundareis healthy or do they need to be tweaked? Ask yourself these questions –
-Do you feel incomplete without your partner?
-Are you unable to express your needs and desires in relationships?
-Do you tend to be jealous and use manipulation in relationships?
-Do you rely on others for your happiness?
If you answered yes to these questions then it’s possible you could use a boundary make-over. If there is a relationship in your life that feels out of control, constantly draining and frustrating, and like you can’t hold a sense of self while in it, those could be key signs that some healthy boundaries need to be set. In order to do this, however, it is important to understand yourself and your feelings more fully. Spend some time self-reflecting and ask questions like:
-What do I feel about this relationship?
– Am I able to maintain my sense of self with this person? If not, why?
– Has it always been this way or is it something new?
– How do I know that the relationship is unhealthy?
– How will I know when the relationship is healthy?
These types of questions will help you to better define what needs to happen/change within the relationship and why. Before setting any boundaries with someone in your life, be sure to ask yourself if you’re ready to change the relationship dynamic. If you’re not ready then don’t proceed yet.
Setting boundaries, while a healthy practice, can also be intimidating and very difficult to do. One of the frustrating things about this process is that oftentimes when a boundary is put in place, the other person pushes against it. Since that’s the case, it’s very important to have other people that are walking through the process with you and can encourage and support you if and when the going gets tough. This very topic is something that we as counselors help individuals with on a regular basis. If you feel the need to set boundaries, or maybe just want to talk more about what that process looks like for you, please call us to set up an appointment. We would love to be part of your support system as you move towards a new level of personal freedom.