A key component of healthy relationships are boundaries. Being aware of our boundaries and limits helps us not only create and maintain healthy relationships, it can also help us heal from past hurtful relationships.
What is a boundary? A boundary is how far we are willing to go in a relationship/action/thought, and still be comfortable. Boundaries are the point that separates where you, and your physical and physiological space end, and another person’s physical and physiological space begin. Having awareness of what your boundaries are and the boundaries of others helps you discover who you are, and creates the foundation for all kinds of healthy relationships (casual acquaintances, friends, close friends, intimate relationships, etc.).
Without boundaries, it’s hard to know who we are, and sort out things we need to know and feel in relationships, such as safety, intimacy and connection. Our past relationships may have taught us that boundaries lead to us getting hurt, feel unsafe, and even abused. This can cause us to be confused about who we are, and make us feel powerless, scared, confused and helpless in relationships, when in actuality, having boundaries causes us to feel empowered, certain, and sure about ourselves and our relationships. Finding the right balance of boundaries (not having any or having too many boundaries also can cause concerns) is imperative to eventually being adaptable and flexible in our relationships.
What do boundaries look like? Boundaries exist in many areas of our lives, including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms of life, and each area has unique factors to consider. To know what your personal boundaries look like in these areas you need to know yourself, including being in touch with your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, decisions, choices and experiences. Sometimes exploring yourself in therapy can help you figure yourself and your boundary factors out, or you can start by reflection, journaling and mediations. Here are some boundary factors to consider:
Physical boundary factors include:
Certain kinds of touching being allowed/not allowed
How your time and energy is spent
How you want your privacy to be conducted (with your electronics, personal space, etc)
Mental/Emotional boundary factors include:
Your personal beliefs, thoughts and ideas
Your belief about responsibilities
Your feelings and beliefs about your feelings
Spiritual boundary factors include:
Your relationship with your true self/higher self/higher power
Your beliefs about religion
Your personal experiences
Discovering your boundaries is a lifelong journey, as you discover that many factors in your specific type of boundaries might evolve as you do. As you begin to think of your own boundaries, do so with patience, kindness and gentleness with yourself. There is no one “right” boundary; it’s a matter of making your boundaries lead to healthier, happier relationships with yourself and others.
Citation: Whitfield, C. L. (2010). Boundaries and relationships: knowing, protecting, and enjoying the self. Health Communications, Inc.