Boundaries are crucial for protecting our mental and emotional wellbeing and maintaining healthy, lasting relationships.
Personal boundaries can help you build a strong identity, self-esteem, and independence. If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of or you’re walking on eggshells in your relationships, it might be a sign that you need to establish boundaries.
Learn how to create boundaries with your partner, friends, and family with these steps.
Identify Your Boundaries
Take some time to reflect on your needs and determine the boundaries you would like to strengthen. Your boundaries should be focused around your own values, identity, and feelings.
They should ensure you take responsibility for your own behaviour and feelings, and aren’t responsible for those of others.
Some examples of healthy boundaries might include:
- Protecting your time and not overcommitting to things
- Saying no to things you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do
- Asking for space when it’s needed
- Speaking up if you’re uncomfortable with how someone is treating you
- Not being responsible for someone else’s happiness, actions, or emotions
- Having the ability to make your own decisions.
Some examples of unhealthy boundaries might include:
- Telling someone who they can and can’t speak to or spend time with
- Expecting someone to drop what they’re doing to suit you
- Expecting others to “fix” or “save” you
- Blaming others for your actions and behaviours
- Making threats or ultimatums (e.g. “If you go out with your friends tonight, you’ll never see me again”)
- Relying on others’ approval/love for your happiness.
Communicate Your Needs
No matter how long you’ve known your partner, friend, or family member, they likely aren’t going to intuitively know and act on your needs and wants. It’s important to communicate your boundaries clearly, honestly, and respectfully to ensure you’re on the same page of what’s acceptable in your relationship.
Keep it short and simple. For example:
- “I like to have notice before people come over. Please text or call to see if it suits me first.”
- “I need some time and space to relax at night. Please don’t call me after 7pm.”
- “I like to catch up with my friends without interruptions. I won’t be available to reply to your texts while I spend time with them.”
- “I know the event this weekend is important to you, but I’m not available/don’t have the money/not interested.”
- “Don’t go through my phone/emails. That’s a violation of my privacy, and I need you to stop.”
- “Give me a day to get back to you. I don’t like committing to things on the spot.”
It’s a two-way street, so don’t forget to ask them what their needs are, too. Never assume you know what they’re thinking or feeling.
Setting boundaries is one thing, but following through is another. Be consistent with your boundaries, and speak up when they’re not being respected. Sure, two people can’t 100% accommodate each other all the time. But it’s important to communicate when a boundary has been violated to reinforce how important it is to you.
Otherwise, you might find yourself compromising on your needs and values a little too much, and your partner/friend/family member might find it easier and easier to make excuses for overstepping your boundaries.
If they make a habit of ignoring your boundaries even after you’ve reminded them, it might be time to re-evaluate your relationship.
RAQ offers counselling for individuals, couples, and families dealing with a wide range of issues. Learn more about our counselling services and how to book an appointment here.
Having a hard time navigating conflict with your partner? Learn how to have a healthy argument in our article How to Fight Fair in a Relationship.