Boundaries as a concept are becoming more a part of our cultural vernacular, and yet many of us may still be uncertain as to what boundaries are and how to implement them. Boundaries are both essential to a healthy relationship and are often misused. The purpose of having boundaries is to provide for the best environment for a relationship to thrive with respect for each person and their unique needs. The analogy is often used of a yard with a fence. It’s important to have a fence in place to designate a difference between one person’s property or space and the next’s but also important to have a gate in the fence so as to be able to let the other in when desired and have opportunities to connect and relate to one another.
Healthy boundaries are important in any type of relationship, not merely romantic ones. Family members, friends, neighbors, and work relationships are all at risk if healthy boundaries are not expressed and respected when needed.
Not having boundaries or expressing them may look like an amicable relationship but it leads to distance in relationships as at least one person will likely experience unresolved anger or resentment towards the other and not feel the other actually knows their desires and needs. Having boundaries that are too rigid or strict limits the entire relationship as one or both persons are not allowing the other to interact with them and they choose to not be vulnerable with them. If the person in question is abusive or inappropriate in their interactions, strict boundaries are necessary but in many relationships, flexible boundaries are more conducive to facilitating connection.
So what are boundaries specifically? Boundaries can be physical or emotional, and separate who we are from others. Examples of physical boundaries refer to one’s body and property. Violations of physical boundaries would be any unwanted physical contact, someone intruding in another’s home or going through your property or phone without permission.
Examples of emotional boundaries could include not accepting someone else’s name calling or demeaning comments. In a romantic relationship, it would include agreed-upon standards of interacting with others depending on if the relationship is an open or closed one, etc. In a friendship or familial relationship, it may include spoken or unspoken agreements on how often to call one another, or to honor plans that have already been made rather than canceling them at the last minute or not showing up.
Understanding boundaries is one thing but sometimes implementing them is a different story entirely. It takes a certain amount of assertiveness and a lot of practice. Our next blog entry will provide tips on how to practically implement boundaries.
In the meantime, if you know that boundaries are a challenging area of life for you, consider the clinicians at the Adne Institute a resource. Call today to schedule an initial consultation or therapy session!