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relationship boundaries

Learning to set boundaries (and sticking to them)

Boundaries; not barriers

Do you find it difficult to refuse something you really don’t want? Do some friends or work colleagues lean on you a little too hard? It sounds like you might need to set some boundaries.

Sometimes people confuse the concept of boundaries with barriers. Barriers prevent something from happening; they get in the way and perform an obstructive role. Boundaries, on the other hand, benefit your relationships because they lay out the ground rules for equality. 

Without boundaries in our relationships, we find that we take advantage of each other; without even realising it. Relationships without boundaries often become toxic: damaging to one or both parties. 

This article is about HOW to set boundaries to encourage a healthy balance in your relationships with partners, friends, and work colleagues. 

What happens without boundaries?

Let’s face it: most of us are people-pleasers, and we often take on a little too much for our own good. We accept extra responsibilities for no additional pay; we listen to our friends’ problems and offer endless advice and support; and we plan our time around the needs of other people.

It all gets too much, and setting clear boundaries can help bring the balance back to your life; creating mutual benefits for everyone involved. 

What do you mean by boundaries?

We all have a threshold of acceptance. There’s a certain amount that we’re happy and willing to give, but we feel affronted when the other person seems to expect too much. 

We all have different boundaries:

  • Privacy – knowing what to share and what not to share. 
  • Personal space – recognising that we all have a different concept of comfort
  • Finances – you only have so much to give before you’re out-of-pocket
  • Emotions – you give, they take. Perhaps you need to regulate how much you give
  • Time and energy – our one, real collateral in life; spending it a little more wisely
  • Sexual/Intimacy – what’s acceptable for one is not tolerable for another. Understanding the rules of intimacy from the get-go helps your relationship grow.  
  • Ethics – we all have trigger subjects that cause arguments or inspire hostility. Sometimes keeping clear of ethics, religion, and politics can be healthy for our relationships. 
  • Work – are you a doormat? Or do you wipe your feet on other people?

How to set boundaries in a relationship

Setting boundaries helps you connect with others on a more intimate and more profound level. 

Making others aware of what you find acceptable means that they know how to regulate their behaviour around you. Just make sure that your boundaries are acceptable to them. 

Perhaps you’re worried that setting out boundaries at the start of a relationship feels businesslike and cold. But if you don’t set them out from the beginning, it can become a significant challenge if you try to address the problem later on down the road. 

Don’t be too rigid

This isn’t about having rigid expectations of others. We all know someone who is eternally single because they find fault in EVERYONE you suggest. 

Or maybe that’s you. 

Setting a boundary is about recognising what makes you feel comfortable; not about having rules for life that ultimately result in loneliness. 

How to set boundaries

Here are some tips you might want to think about to help you create healthy boundaries for your relationships:

Definition 

Think about the occasions where you’ve felt put upon and uncomfortable with someone else’s demands. Consider how it made you feel, and try to define what you need in order to avoid that feeling in the future. 

Be direct

For some of us, communicating what we want is difficult. Practice saying no. Because practice makes perfect. 

This isn’t about becoming more selfish. It’s about protecting yourself from the negative responses that emerge from ignoring YOUR needs. Ultimately, this is about developing a balance between what YOU want and what THEY want. 

Communicating directly and clearly helps other people understand “the line” – they probably cross it all the time and don’t even realise it. And they might be horrified to discover that they’re making other people feel lousy. 

So, direct communication means that everyone is happier. 

Be flexible

Recognising that your boundaries AREN’T a Holy Grail is essential. Perhaps you find that a boundary you have communicated is hurting other people. That’s no good; you want your boundary to be mutually amenable. 

Setting boundaries is a life-skill and requires practice. Don’t be so rigid that you can’t admit you were wrong. Perhaps you just set the height of the boundary too high. 

I need help to set boundaries in my relationships

Perhaps we make this sound simple. And, for some people, it is simple. But for most of us, we’re deeply challenged by the concept of communicating our wants and needs in a manner that works for everyone involved. 

Get help to set new relationship boundaries

SupportRoom offers a range of therapeutic approaches to addressing life’s problems, and we can help you develop the skills you need to layout and communicate what you need from your relationships.

Practice makes perfect. And we can help you develop control over your existence so that you, your friends, partners, and work colleagues remain on a healthy footing. 

Remember, you’re never on your own. Get in touch, and we’ll help; that’s why we’re here. 

How SupportRoom can help

SupportRoom is a digital, behavioural healthcare company, connecting clients with a network of licenced therapists. 

Our web-based platform is easy to use and super-convenient – accessible on the web or our mobile-first platform. Our therapies and web-based services are fully HIPAA-compliant and offer 24/7 support from qualified therapists. 

Access our friendly, confidential services via text, video- or voice message at any time of the day or night; from anywhere with an internet connection. 

SupportRoom offers therapy where you need it; when you need it: realtime treatment from skilled, experienced, qualified therapists.