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Small Ways to Start Setting Boundaries

A guide to setting limits with any relationship

Boundaries lately have been creating a lot of buzz. Developing and setting healthy boundaries is a struggle for many. Boundaries are like walls between neighbors, they are used to create personal space for yourself. While there are a lot of resources available online, there is a lack of small starter steps for people who know they need to create boundaries but struggle to find the strength and self-compassion to do so. 

Why are boundaries important?

Boundaries are essential to maintain healthy relationships. Setting clear boundaries helps both people in any relationship understand what to expect from each other, defines the nitty-gritty of the relationship, and sometimes demarcates time and space for one another, which can help reduce expectations and avoid misunderstandings.

But setting boundaries is in no way easy, especially if you are someone who believes that the needs of those around you are more important than your own. Setting and maintaining boundaries is also difficult if you have to live or work around rude people who are also dominating, disrespectful, or toxic.

What are healthy boundaries?

A healthy boundary allows every person in a relationship to communicate and demarcate their wants and needs while also respecting the wants and needs of the other person. It includes:

  1. Having the space to say no, and accept when the other person says no. 
  2. Communicate your wants or needs.
  3. Respecting your values, beliefs, and opinions even when they are different from theirs 
  4. Flexible but not compromising on themselves 
  5. Feeling close to sharing information but also respecting privacy at the same time.

Sometimes, unhealthy boundaries or not setting boundaries may compromise trust and safety in the relationship. This leads to dysfunctionality in the relationship. Examples of unhealthy boundaries are:

Unhealthy boundaries

  1. Not being able to say, “No”
  2. Feeling guilty for saying, “no” and having trouble accepting “no” from others. 
  3. Not communicating needs and wants
  4. Being coercive, manipulating, or jealous 
  5. Oversharing personal information

Types of Boundaries

  • Physical Boundaries include your body and personal space. For example, sticking to a handshake or a hug or asking for consent before a hug. 
  • Sexual Boundaries include your sexual wants, needs, and desires surrounding intimacy, choice, timing, and the nature of the relationship. 
  • Intellectual or mental boundaries are the point of view, beliefs, opinions, and thoughts.
  • Emotional boundaries revolve around how you are feeling, personal details, and information. 
  • Material/Financial boundaries are issues related to money, financial resources, and belongings. 
  • Time-based boundaries are how you spend and use your time. It might include allocating time to a job, relationships, children or other responsibilities. 
  • Ethical boundaries are centred around morals and values. 
  • Digital boundaries around online activities, private/public accounts, and communication channels. 

Boundaries can be fixed and rigid depending on how you want them to be. You may apply certain boundaries in some relationships but not in others.

Small ways to start setting boundaries

Here are some small ways to start setting boundaries in any relationship be it personal or professional relationships.

  • Decide on your personal boundaries: Decide what you need and want from other people. Reflect and decide what makes you happy and what makes you uncomfortable in any relationship.
  • Use I-statements when setting boundaries: Avoid blaming it on the other person, rather than saying you always or you never, start by communicating and saying I would like this, or I want this.
  • Avoid justifying yourself: Do not get into reasons when you set boundaries, and repeat your set boundaries. 
  • Show empathy. Be empathetic to the other person. 
  • Set boundaries early on in the relationship before they become a habit.
  • Know that your boundaries change with time and spell it clearly to avoid hurting feelings. 
  • Ask a friend for support and discuss with people close to you for emotional support during difficult times. 
  • Start with small steps, just saying a simple “No” can go a long way.
  • Respect other people’s boundaries and give them space and time.
  • Remember to be kind to yourself on this journey.

If you accidentally overstep a boundary or someone oversteps yours for the first time, try not to get defensive, hurt, or angry. Instead, be calm and apologize to them or let them apologize to you.

Setting boundaries in different kinds of relationships

Setting boundaries isn’t about keeping others outside or being in your comfort zone, it’s about providing an environment that nurtures and balances the needs and wants of all people involved.

Setting Boundaries with Partners

Setting boundaries with partners is important but also tricky. It ensures healthy, supportive and nurturing relationships where both of you can grow as individuals. Here are some tips to help set boundaries in intimate partnerships. 

  1. Resist the temptation to react and choose a time when you are both calm and then have a conversation. 
  2. Avoid accusing the other person or getting defensive, don’t start every sentence with “You did this” or “ You did that”, rather choose your words carefully. 
  3. Be present with your partner. Avoid getting distracted and put down the phone. 

Setting boundaries with parents

Addressing problems with parents can be stressful especially when they are deep rooted. They are also older so here are some suggestions on how to set boundaries with parents.

  1. Be respectful and set the tone for the conversation. Convey to them that you are a confident adult.  
  2. Start with having a conversation. Talk about your likes and dislikes. 
  3. Stay cool, calm and composed and keep it simple, start with something that’s been bothering you but is a small thing to address. 

Setting boundaries with friends

Friendships are unique, fun but nonetheless complicated. Here are some ways to set boundaries in friendships:

  1. Set the tone. Be calm and kind when communicating.
  2. Avoid ghosting and be communicative to the other person. Respond promptly. 
  3. Gossips can be the talk of the town. But avoid the temptation to gossip with mutual friends.

Setting boundaries at work

Setting boundaries at work can be complicated especially with the power tussle involved. Here is how you can do it without making it complicated. 

  1. Set boundaries for yourself when it comes to work. Start and stop with work hours and distinguish between office and home. 
  2. Be mindful of the chain of command. 
  3. Avoid office gossip as they can easily backfire.

Remember, setting boundaries is important and essential in maintaining healthy relationships and for your mental health. But you don’t always have to do it alone, especially when you are not ready for it. You can reach out to a therapist and seek help.  Click here to schedule an appointment with us at Therapy Outside. 

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