How to Create Boundaries in Relationships

All healthy relationships have boundaries. In fact, a relationship cannot be healthy if clear boundaries are not in place and respected. Healthy boundaries are your way of saying, “I’ll do everything I can to take full responsibility for what’s mine…but can’t be responsible for what’s yours”.

Boundaries help us to maintain connection with ourselves and others in ways that offer clarity, communication of expectations, as well as identification of what we are/aren’t capable of providing. While we tend to think about boundaries in the context of intimate relationships, there are also opportunities to set and maintain boundaries when engaging in friendships, work relationships and extended family members.

There is often a negative connotation related to the idea of boundary setting, with the notion that doing so is about saying “no”. It is important to recognize that establishing boundaries also helps us to be clear about what we want to say “yes” to, along with offering us the ability to communicate clearly regarding our wants/needs/expectations in ways that leave little room for assumption.

Here are some tips that can help you establish and maintain healthy boundaries:

  • Communicate your thoughts and feeling honestly and clearly. Whenever possible, be honest but respectful in sharing your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it’s difficult to sort out what you are thinking or feeling at any given moment. It’s fine to ask for some time to sort this out…especially when we aren’t sure of what we want or need.

  • Ask your partner/friend/co-worker what they are feeling versus guessing. Each of you has your own thoughts and feelings, and each person is responsible for putting them into words in order to be understood. This way, there is no need to guess.

  • Take responsibility for your choices. Instead of blaming anyone else for how you feel or for what’s happening, ask yourself how your choices – purposeful or accidental – may have contributed to the situation.

Healthy boundaries take practice, especially if you’ve come from a family (or relationship) where boundaries were unclear or unrecognized. With practice you will be better able to identify where the boundary line should be in your relationship.

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