To ensure that all of your relationships are healthy you need to set and maintain boundaries. What are healthy boundaries? They are like the fence around a house, they help us to clearly define ourselves to other people. They outline our likes and dislikes, beliefs and values. They assist our families, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances to understand what we are willing to tolerate and what we are not. Learning to set healthy boundaries in relationships involves you knowing and understanding what your own limits are and being able to let others know what they are also.
Rigid boundaries keep people out, they do not allow you to connect to others and can prevent you from asking for help when you need it – people with rigid boundaries literally shut everyone out.
Loose boundaries can mean that people become too connected to others too quickly, and can be overly familiar, may take on the feelings of others and need constant reassurance. It can mean that you say yes when you mean no and lead to chaos. Loose boundaries look like a house with no fence, no doors or locks.
Healthy boundaries are firm but flexible. They allow people to respect their feelings, needs, opinions and rights. They are assertive and respectful of the rights of others.
Learning to set healthy boundaries can feel uncomfortable initially but helps you to enjoy healthy interactions with the people who you care about or who you have to spend time with each day.
1. Know what is important to you
You can’t set a boundary if you don’t know what you are willing to accept and what you are not. Think through the things that are important to you, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual and identify where your limits are.
2. Think about what you are feeling
If you are starting to feel resentment or discomfort around other people’s behaviour toward you then it might mean you need to establish or re-establish a boundary with them.
3. Practice, practice, practice
When you start out setting boundaries it can be quite challenging so start off with smaller boundaries that you feel more comfortable sharing and work your way up to some of the bigger ones. Once you have discussed a few with people it gets much easier.
4. Let the other person know what you need
Setting boundaries is just the start, letting people know if they have crossed a boundary is very important. Have a respectful conversation with the person involved and let them know what is troubling you and discuss how it might be addressed.
5. Be courageous and let others know what your boundaries are
It is common to worry about how other people will react to your boundaries, to feel guilty or feel like you are letting people down but boundaries help us to have healthy relationships and increase our feeling of self-respect and self-worth.
6. Get help if you need to
If you are finding it hard to set or maintain boundaries it can be helpful to get some professional support. I provide counselling services to adults in relation to boundaries within families, for couples and with colleagues or employers.
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Until next time …