Why Is It Important To Have Personal Boundaries?
I was recently having a conversation with a friend about her relationship troubles with her husband. I suggested she may need to implement stronger boundaries. She replied, “what boundaries? We are married, we don’t have any boundaries.” I was surprised by this response. Is it true that in our most interpersonal relationships, we can have no boundaries? Should we have boundaries in any relationship? Is that healthy? The short answer is no, we need boundaries.
What Are Boundaries?
Boundaries are the personal limits we set on how you expect others to behave and the expectations of what you will accept in relationships. You need boundaries in all relationships from a new friend to our significant other. The boundaries may differ and may change by the situation, person, and as you grow and learn our needs and preferences. There are various types of boundaries we set in different relationships.
Physical Boundaries are set to express our physical limitations in relationships. These boundaries are different with different people and different situations. Physical boundaries protect our physical body and space. For example, you may be willing to shake the hand of a new acquaintance, but you would not be comfortable hugging this newly met person. You may be comfortable hugging a friend, or you may not be a hugger at all.
Emotional Boundaries help to outline your emotional needs and expectations in relationships. Emotional boundaries help to separate our emotional responses, needs, and responsibilities from others’ emotional experiences. These boundaries can blur at times as you try to help others and entangle the boundaries of their issues and your own. An example of an emotional boundary may be limiting conversations to only certain topics and stating, “I don’t want to talk about that right now, we can come back to it later.” This type of boundary protects our emotional need for time to process, feel, and pause.
Mental Boundaries are related to the thoughts, attitudes, and opinions. These boundaries influence how open-minded we are about a new topic or how easily influenced we are by outside information. An example of a healthy mental boundary may be hearing another viewpoint and considering what is being said and then making our own decision based on the information presented.
Why We Need Boundaries?
Most of us identify that we need to have boundaries with people in our life, especially with those we do not know well. We need to protect ourselves, and we tend to guard ourselves against those new people who may harm us. We are not as good at protecting ourselves from harm from those we love. Setting boundaries with those we love can be challenging, especially when we need to change them or increase the insistence of boundaries. We don’t want to disappoint the people we love, so we often bend our boundaries to fit their needs or expectations at the expense of our own.
Imagine a close friend asks you to babysit their child again. You have big plans for that weekend that you are looking forward to, but you feel guilty saying no.
- If you say no, she might be mad.
- If you say yes, you will miss your big plans.
Setting a boundary in this situation may seem rude or mean, but changing your plans will feel awful. This situation may be difficult for you to set boundaries as you do not want to disappoint your friend. Maybe you have previously changed plans, and now there is an expectation. By placing a boundary around your time and social engagements, you show respect and love for yourself and those you have made commitments.
We need boundaries with people to maintain our respect for ourselves and ensure our needs are met. It is difficult when someone has less rigid boundaries and attempts to impose their boundary level onto us. We may worry the loved one might think we are unkind, stubborn, or not helpful.
As we set the boundaries of how we should be treated and what we are willing to accept, our loved ones begin to understand the expectations and feel respected.
Boundaries Are Not Secrets
Sometimes people confuse the term boundaries with secrets. They are not the same thing. Secrets are pieces of information withheld from someone. And having secrets in a relationship can be damaging, depending on the type of secret. Having boundaries in a relationship is healthy.
In fact, it is a good idea NOT to keep your boundaries a secret from the people in your life, as that can cause you to feel confused, hurt, or disrespected when the secret boundaries are not respected.
Boundaries are healthy barriers we place in our lives to keep ourselves safe, comfortable, and respected. Setting boundaries with people can be challenging and stressful at times. It is important to define the boundaries that make you feel comfortable and expect those around you to abide by them. It is also important for us to respect the boundaries of others around us.