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by Katie Bailey, MA, LPC

You might not realize it, but you are familiar with boundaries whether you know it or not: the boundaries of a football field, the property line around your house, those velvet ropes that show you where to stand when you wait in line, and the double yellow line down the center of the road. I bet you don’t cross that when you’re driving do you? Of course not, you could get hit head on by another car.

Emotional boundaries are trickier because we can’t see them. There’s no velvet rope around your body saying, please don’t guilt trip me today. But just as the fence in our backyard tells us what part of the land is our responsibility to mow and what part is our neighbor’s – relational boundaries tell us what is our job to take care of and what isn’t.

We often talk about how to set boundaries for ourselves. This is a very important skill to have, and essential for healthy relationships. Right now, I want us to look at boundaries from the other side – why you need to respect the boundaries OTHER people set. If you ran out onto the field during an Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field, do you think Carson Wentz would just shrug and throw you the ball? Of course not. Dozens of security agents would be tackling you so fast – because you violated a boundary. You went out onto the field, and tried to take responsibility for playing the game – a job that isn’t yours to take.

I realize that’s a crazy example, but it is meant to get you thinking about where lines are drawn in our lives, and the impact of crossing those lines. Ignoring boundaries means people will get hurt – physically, emotionally or spiritually.

3 Reasons to Respect Other People’s Boundaries

  1. You can’t control other people. I see you, nodding your head; but really think about it. How do you respond when someone you care about makes a choice you don’t like? You probably try to change their mind. When an adult child decides to move to another state and his parents tell him how sad they will be without him, why would he want to live anywhere else, he really should just stay – they are attempting to control their adult child. Even when other adults we care about make hurtful choices – like using drugs, quitting a good job, choosing to stay in a bad relationship – whatever is it – it is NOT YOUR JOB to live other people’s lives for them, even if you don’t like it. All you can control is your response to them.
  2. You want to make your own choices, so you should give others that same ability. You can’t expect the people you love to respect your boundaries and not honor theirs in return. That’s controlling and selfish. You can’t demand your spouse speak respectfully to you, and then turn around and swear at them when you are mad. Boundaries must work both ways.
  3. Your relationships will be stronger. Whether it’s your marriage, friends or family – all your relationships will be better off when you respect other’s boundaries. When both people in a relationship know they can make their own choices and that choice will be respected, the relationship has more emotional safety. Emotional safety leads to deeper connection. When we feel more safely connected, we feel more loved. And everyone wants to be loved, right? For example, Sarah and Dave are married. They sit down on Saturday night to watch a movie on Netflix. Dave picks Black Hawk Down and hits play. Sarah says, “Well, actually Dave, I don’t like watching war movies, it’s not my thing. Can we choose something else please?” Sarah has set a boundary. She has said she doesn’t want to watch a war movie. Dave can choose to respect that and say, “Sure, honey, let’s find something we both like. I’ll save this one for my guy friends.” Or, he could say, “You are too sensitive, Sarah. C’mon, it’s fine, I want to watch it.” This second option ignores Sarah’s boundary, and essentially communicates to her that what she thinks, feels and chooses doesn’t matter to Dave. Sarah won’t feel emotionally safe in her marriage to share her thoughts on other topics either.

The boundaries in relationships matter. Just as you respect the boundaries of the road when you drive in order to stay safe, and enjoy your trip more, you need to respect the boundaries of the people you love to have emotional safety, more connection, and enjoy life together.

Start Counseling to Help You Set Boundaries

Our team of expert therapists at Lime Tree Counseling want you to experience healthy relationships, and enjoy life as you were made to live! If the idea of setting boundaries or respecting other people’s limits seems overwhelming or confusing, we can help. We specialize in PTSD & Trauma Treatment, Anxiety Therapy, and Marriage Counseling. We also offer services specifically for those looking for Christian Counseling. Please send us an email today and let us know how we can help you.