Setting boundaries in a healthy relationship can be difficult, but it is crucial for all parties to feel safe and respected. In this blog post, we will discuss different situations where boundaries are necessary and how to set them effectively. We will also provide examples from different parts of life, so that you can apply these concepts to your own relationships.
You may have heard the term “boundaries” about a thousand times. You know you need boundaries. And, you know that you need healthy boundaries. But, what is a boundary even? This word gets thrown around so much it can be confusing even to know what it really means.
First, Let’s Define Boundaries in Relationships
A boundary is a line that you draw that indicates what behaviors are and are not acceptable to you. Different situations require different types of boundaries. What you’d say to a friend may be different than what you’d say in your workspace.
Many people think about setting boundaries in romantic relationships. And boundaries can be very important to set with your significant others. However, we’re not exclusively talking about romantic relationships here, because sometimes the hardest boundaries to set aren’t just with romantic partners.
Boundary Setting Isn’t Easy
It can be really hard to set boundaries, because you don’t want to seem rude or unyielding. After all, we want to be liked and accepted by others. We want to avoid conflict.
Part of the reason it’s so hard to set boundaries is because we’ve been taught to be nice and accommodating. We don’t want to make waves. We want everyone to like us. But, at what cost?
Honestly, if you never set any boundaries people will continue, often unintentionally, to take advantage of your kindness and generosity until you’re left feeling used and exhausted. And that’s not good for anyone.
You Deserve to Set boundaries
It’s important to remember that you are not responsible for other people’s happiness. You are responsible for your own happiness. And part of being happy is feeling safe and respected.
It’s okay to say “no.” It’s okay to put your foot down. It’s okay to be assertive about what you need and want. In fact, it’s more than okay–it’s essential.
If you don’t set boundaries, you’re essentially giving people permission to treat you however they want. And that is not fair to you. You deserve to be respected, and you deserve to be in control of your own life. And you can be a much better spouse/son/daughter/mother/father/friend/coworker/employee when you feel respected and heard.
Now that we’ve talked about why it’s so important to set boundaries, let’s talk about how to set them.
How to Set Boundaries in Relationships
The first step is to get clear on what your boundaries are. This may take some time, and that’s okay. You can start by brainstorming a list of situations where you feel uncomfortable or disrespected.
For example, do you feel like your partner is always interrupting you? Do you feel like your boss is taking advantage of your good nature? Do you have a friend who always asks to borrow money but never pays you back?
Once you have a list of situations where you feel like your boundaries have been crossed, you can start to think about what you need to do to feel better in those situations.
Do you need to speak up more? Do you need to say “no” more often? Do you need to distance yourself from certain people or situations?
It’s important to remember that you have a right to your feelings, and you have a right to set boundaries. You do not need to justify your boundary setting to anyone. Just because someone else doesn’t understand why you need a boundary does not mean that boundary is wrong.
Keep in mind that boundary setting is not about making the other person feel bad. It’s about taking care of yourself and making sure your needs are met.
General Tips for Setting Boundaries in Relationships:
Ok, you “get” the importance of boundary setting. But really, how do you set a boundary? Here are some tips for setting boundaries in a way that is respectful and effective:
- Be clear and concise about what you need.
- Stick to “I” statements. For example, “I feel disrespected when you interrupt me.”
- Avoid using “you” statements. For example, “You’re always making me feel like I’m not good enough.”
- Be assertive, but not aggressive. You can do this by using a calm and confident voice.
- Don’t be afraid to be direct.
- Remember that you have a right to set boundaries, and you don’t need to justify them to anyone.
- Don’t try to control the other person’s reaction. You can’t control how someone else will react to your boundary setting, so don’t worry about it. Just focus on being clear about what you need.
Still looking for more specific direction? Our therapists enjoy integrating DBT skills in the counseling work we do and DBT has an excellent skill that can provide a helpful blueprint for asking someone for something you need or for saying no. Here’s a blog post about using DEARMAN to set boundaries.
At First, You May Set Boundaries Imperfectly
When you’re first setting boundaries, it may not come out “pretty.” You might stutter or get tongue-tied. That’s okay! The most important thing is that you communicate your needs to the other person. They might not understand at first, but with time and patience, they will learn what makes you feel comfortable and respected.
Specific Boundaries That May Be Hard to Set & Keep
When you hear the word “relationships,” you may automatically think of romantic relationships. But the truth is you have lots of different relationships in your life. And boundary setting is important in all types of relationships, including family relationships, friendships, and work relationships.
Some boundaries may be harder to set than others. For example, it can be difficult to set boundaries with a family member because you might worry about damaging the relationship. But it’s important to remember that you have a right to set boundaries, even with family.
So, let’s talk about some of the specific relationships where you may need to set boundaries.
Setting Boundaries with Parents as a Young Adult
If you’re a young adult, setting boundaries with your parents may feel new and uncomfortable for both of you. Your parents are used to setting boundaries for you. And many well-meaning parents overstep, so it is common for young adults to need to set boundaries with parents as they both get used to their new roles and changing relationship.
It can be difficult to set boundaries with parents because you might worry about damaging the relationship.
But it’s important to remember that you have a right to set boundaries, even with family. Most parents want what’s best for their
children above all else. And part of what is best for you is having healthy relationships. So, even if what they think is best for you is different from what you want, they will hopefully be able to understand and respect your wishes.
In the best case scenario, your relationship with your parents can serve as a safe space to begin practice boundary setting. Because you know they love you and probably have good intentions, you can hold firm while still acknowledging their feelings.
Here are a few examples of setting boundaries with parents as a young adult:
- “I know that you’re just trying to help, but I need to do this on my own.”
- “Thank you for your advice. I’m going to think about it and get back to you.”
- “I know you’re worried, but I’m an adult now and I can handle this.”
- “I know you’re coming from a place of love, but I need you to respect my privacy.”
- “I appreciate your help, but I’d like to figure this out on my own.”
However, if your parents do react negatively when you set a boundary, try to remember that it’s likely not personal. They are probably just trying to protect you or help you in the way they know how. It can often help if you take the time to listen to their opinion, restate it in a way that shows you do in fact hear their opinion and understand where they’re coming through, and then become almost a “broken record” gently sticking to your boundary.
Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children
Just as it can be difficult to set boundaries with your parents, it can also be difficult to set boundaries with your adult children. Many times, parents have a hard time setting boundaries with their adult children because they feel like they need to protect them or help them in some way. But remember, you are not responsible for your adult child’s happiness or success. You can love them unconditionally, but there are times where you need to set boundaries to protect yourself, protect other family members or to keep from enabling unhealthy behavior such as an addiction.
It’s okay to set boundaries with your adult children. In fact, it’s healthy! Just like any other relationship, both parties need to feel like they are respected.
Here are a few specific tips for setting boundaries with adult children:
- Be direct and clear about your expectations.
- Be consistent with your expectations.
- If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
- It’s okay to admit that you need help too.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Recognize that there is give and take in every relationship.
Setting Boundaries in Other Family Relationships
In family relationships, we often feel obligated to please our loved ones or go along with their plans. However, it is so important to set boundaries in these relationships as well. Just because someone is family, doesn’t mean they get a free pass to treat you disrespectfully or without your consent. You always have the right to set boundaries in your relationships, even with family.
It’s not uncommon for adults to struggle not only with setting boundaries with their children and parents but also with siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents, or even cousins. You care about these people. They matter to you. And if you’re struggling in these relationships, you likely were raised to really value family.
However, it’s important to remember is that you always have the right to set boundaries, no matter who the other person is. That even if someone is family, you aren’t responsible for their happiness and you aren’t obligated to do everything they want or say yes to every request. You are allowed to set boundaries in your relationships, even with family members.
Settings Boundaries at Work
The boundary setting process can be a little different in a work environment. You may have to be a little more strategic about setting boundaries at work. But it is still so important to set these boundaries to protect your time, your energy, and your sanity!
There are a few things you should keep in mind when setting boundaries at work:
- Consider the culture of your workplace.
- Be clear and direct with your boss or coworker.
- Remember that you don’t have to explain yourself.
- Be assertive, not aggressive.
- Pick your battles.
- Always be respectful of your supervisor and coworkers.
- Offer solutions, not just complaints. Maybe you can’t work overtime this week but you see another potential solution.
Sometimes setting a boundary may even mean being willing to walk away from a job. If a work environment is truly toxic, it might be best for your mental health to walk away. But before you do anything drastic, make sure you have a plan in place and that you are confident in your decision.
It’s not always easy to set boundaries, but setting boundaries at work can increase your job satisfaction and help you to avoid burnout which is ultimately the best thing for your employer as well as for you.
Setting Boundaries with Friends
Just like any other relationship, it’s so important to set boundaries with your friends. You should never feel like you have to do something you don’t want to do or go along with something just because your friend is pressuring you. That’s not what true friendship is about.
It’s okay to say no to your friends. It’s also okay to ask them for help when you need it. A healthy friendship is a two-way street and should involve give and take from both parties. If you find that you are always the one giving and your friend is always taking, it might be time to reassess the situation.
You might also find yourself in a situation where you need to set a boundary with a friend because they are crossing a line. If a friend is disrespecting you (even unintentionally!), disrespecting your boundaries, or making you feel uncomfortable, it’s so important to speak up. Let them know what how their actions impact you and why it’s not okay. If they continue to cross the line, you might need to distance yourself from the situation or even end the friendship altogether.
Setting Boundaries so Your Relationships Can Thrive
As you can see, setting boundaries is vital in any type of relationship whether it be at work, at home, or with friends. Boundaries show people how we want to be treated and how we expect to be treated. When we set boundaries, we are taking control of our lives and our relationships.
And, there are many different relationships in which we need to set boundaries. It’s not always easy, but it is so important. Hopefully these tips will help the next time you need to set a boundary with someone in your life!
What other tips do you have for setting boundaries? Share them in the comments below! And if you’re struggling to set a boundary with someone, we’re here to help! Reach out today and one of our counselors would be happy to chat with you about your unique situation.
Professional Support Navigating Relationships in the Atlanta Area
If you find yourself struggling to set boundaries in your relationships, seeking professional help may be a good option for you. The counselors at Wellview Counseling in Roswell, GA are here to help you navigate all of your relationships in a healthy way.
To schedule an appointment with one of our counselors and begin therapy:
- Contact Wellview Counseling and ask all of your questions
- Meet with one the caring therapists on our team
- Begin more confidently navigating key relationships in your life
Additional Services Offered at Wellview Counseling
As a team of mental health professionals, we understand that people, and relationships, are complicated. Therefore, you may need help in other areas of your life in addition to help with your relationships. At our Georgia counseling practice, our therapists offer a wide range of services to provide you the support you’re looking for. For example, we offer anxiety treatment, trauma therapy, and depression counseling.
In addition to offering a wide range of services, we also offer our services to a wide range of ages! Our counselors work with children, teens, young adults, and older adults too. We offer in person counseling at our practice in Roswell, Georgia. However, we can see clients from anywhere in Georgia through online counseling. So, we’re here to support you and your family. Please reach out today to begin your journey toward better mental health.