Boundaries are things that you or I can set in place in our own lives – they set limits and help us to clearly define something. They help us recognize what is safe, healthy, and life-giving. Everyone has different boundaries depending on their personal needs and past experiences.
Facts about boundaries:
- Boundaries are important to develop and maintain because they help set expectations, for you or a person you are in a relationship with.
- Boundaries help keep us safe and emotionally healthy.
- Boundaries can change over time as we find healing and restoration OR
- Boundaries don’t have to change at all!
When we don’t keep our boundaries or our boundaries are crossed by someone, we can be left feeling anxious, sad, discouraged, guilty, overwhelmed, or out of control. Maybe you can relate to one of the examples below:
Personal Boundary Example: “I don’t look at my phone after 8pm at night.” This is an example of a personal boundary a person can have. Perhaps they find that the light from their phone negatively affects their sleep when they are on it late at night. Perhaps this person needs a media break/screen break. This is an important boundary to have in place so they can rest and prepare for the next day.
Relational Boundary Example: A teacher relating to their student. Typically teachers will share a bit about themselves or their family/personal lives with their students. Teachers don’t often share many details about their personal lives because it’s important to maintain a professional relationship with their students (not a friendship-relationship). Perhaps you can think back on teachers in your own life who shared a healthy amount of information with their students or an unhealthy amount of information with their students.
If you’re looking to develop and maintain some boundaries in your own life, here are a few things to consider:
- Communicate needs or feelings. Oftentimes, the people around us don’t know how we are feeling until we tell them. It is important to advocate for yourself. You can use a phrase like: “I felt frustrated after our conversation yesterday because I didn’t like what we were talking about. In the future, can we choose to talk about something else?”
· With this example, you are: 1) stating how you feel, 2) communicating what you need, 3) offering a solution for how to handle the situation differently next time.
2. Take responsibility. Relationships are challenging sometimes – it is important to recognize and remember that relationships are two-sided. No one is perfect and we each make mistakes when communicating, especially when we are learning to communicate in healthier ways. You can try using a phrase like: “I am sorry I hurt you with the way I spoke yesterday, will you forgive me?” Or perhaps you are hurt and the other person doesn’t recognize the hurt they caused you. It is important to ask for an apology in return if that is something you need.
3. Follow through. If you set a boundary but don’t consistently uphold it – it is not a helpful boundary. This might take discipline or accountability, but figure out what it is that you need to do to make sure you can follow through on the boundaries you’ve put in place.
4. Reflect on your boundaries often. Make sure you take some time and think about the boundaries you’ve put in place. You can ask yourself the following questions: “Does this boundary accomplish what I am hoping it will accomplish?” “Is this boundary simple enough for me to maintain it?” “Do I feel respected by this person when this boundary is in place?” “Am I communicating my boundary clearly?”
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Sometimes a person can set many boundaries and find that some people in their lives simply don’t respect them. It is important to know that you are not alone if your boundaries are continually being violated. Or perhaps you would like to learn more about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in your relationships so you can begin to feel free and whole again. At Lime Tree Counseling in Ambler, Pennsylvania, our team of therapists are experts in helping people navigate the murky waters of relationships, including marriage counseling. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment or phone consultation today!