Setting boundaries in relationships

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are the behavioural expectations and limits that a person maintains in relationships to preserve their mental health and respect the feelings of others. Good boundaries—which can apply to loved ones, friends, coworkers, and family members—form the bedrock of healthy relationships, instituting a common comfort level concerning different activities and conversational topics.

By establishing consensual terms on which to build and conduct relationships, boundary setting is both a form of self-care and a way of showing your care for others.

Reasons to set boundaries

All healthy relationships involve some degree of boundary setting, which can benefit all parties. Here is how:

1. Creates comfortable social interactions: Too-rigid boundaries impede authentic, solid bonds, while too-loose boundaries can foster unhealthy codependency or oversharing. However, setting healthy emotional boundaries that prioritise reciprocity creates healthy, balanced relationships where both parties can trust each other.

2. Decreases stress: When a person openly communicates their needs to the people around them, they can realistically assess the reciprocal levels of accountability if a person mistreats them, reducing the stress of placing internal or external blame.

 3. Fosters self-esteem: Setting healthy boundaries allows a person to command greater control over their personal space, how they spend their time, and how others treat them. This level of control can increase a person’s self-awareness and help them get in touch with their needs while still honoring the needs of others.

 Types of boundaries

When considering the kinds of boundaries you will like to set in your relationships, it is important to assess your needs. Here are some of the types of boundaries you can set:

1. Emotional boundaries: These mental boundaries dictate a person’s comfort level with sharing their emotions with others and vice-versa.

2. Financial boundaries: How a person feels about discussing personal finances or loaning money to others qualifies as financial boundaries.

3. Physical boundaries: These boundaries relate to physical space and a person’s comfort with others crossing those boundaries. Physical boundaries include a person’s personal space desires or how they feel about someone hugging or touching them.

4. Professional boundaries: Many people feel less comfortable sharing personal matters with their professional colleagues than with friends and family. These professional boundaries may overlap with a person’s emotional and physical boundaries.

5. Sexual boundaries: A person can set limitations around sexual comments or advances made upon them by other parties in different situations, like on a first date or at family gatherings.

6. Time boundaries: If a person requires a certain amount of alone time or social time to feel happy and fulfilled, these are time boundaries.

How to set boundaries

Setting boundaries can seem daunting, but being too lax may create more emotional work for everyone in a relationship. Here are some tips on how to begin setting boundaries:

  • Discuss early or as conflicts arise. An easy way to avoid confusion or hurt feelings in a budding relationship is to clarify how you’d like people to treat you—whether they are coworkers, friends, or romantic partners. Conversely, you can hold off and discuss the situations and conflicts as they arise—just make sure to communicate your needs honestly in the moment.
  •  Reinforce as needed. Reminding people about your boundaries does not have to result in conflict. Instead, you can gently bring up your grievances when someone commits a boundary violation. If the behavior continues, revisit the topic or—if the person seems unreceptive—consider distancing yourself from them.
  • Communicate and revisit regularly. Having strong boundaries does not mean that you are stubborn; it merely means that you have the self-awareness and communication skills to relay your needs to others. If the nature of a relationship changes, or if you feel differently, it is perfectly acceptable to discuss revising your boundaries. –Source:

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