The process of setting boundaries in relationships is not just challenging, it is sometimes downright terrifying. You have most likely heard the term “’boundaries” or the phrase “you have to set boundaries.”
- But what does that really mean?
- What are boundaries?
- Why is setting them so scary?
- How will the other person respond?
- Why might I need to set boundaries?
- Don’t worry you are not alone in these questions.
Many people have the same questions and fears around the idea of boundaries.
We will answer all of these questions here today.
But before we do, there is one thing that can help you not only better understand boundaries, but also take some of the fear of setting boundaries down a few notches. When setting boundaries, you are not setting them on an individual, it is defining what behaviors you will accept. As the writer and teacher, Prentis Hemphill so eloquently states, “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” I love this definition that they share as this simple reframe has helped many people I have worked with decrease the amount of fear around boundaries. You are no longer viewing boundaries as a way of punishing someone, or pushing them away, but rather for what it truly is; a way to protect your own mental, emotional, and sometimes physical well-being so that you can better love them and yourself.
What Relationships Need Boundaries?
The simple answer is: that all relationships need boundaries. Every relationship you enter into needs to have a clear and defined set of boundaries for it to grow and flourish. Boundaries allow there to be clear and reasonable expectations as well as communication around what is ok and not ok for each person in the relationship. Of course, boundaries can become more complex as you add more people and the more complex the situation.
One thing it is important to note is that just because there are boundaries does not mean that everyone will like or want to respect the boundaries in place. This can be particularly true when/if the boundaries in a relationship change.
Boundaries at Work
When it comes to working, you may set the boundary that you will not answer the phone after a certain time, you will not work more than a certain number of hours per week, or you will not work weekends. It is likely your company has set very clear boundaries such as appropriate attire or appropriate interactions with fellow co-workers, a job description with expectations, or maybe required on-call hours or mandatory overtime. These are all boundaries that were hopefully discussed prior to being hired.
However, if the company did not discuss them it is our responsibility to ask the questions that get us the information we need to ensure a proper fit for the company-to-person relationship. This is also a form of a boundary on our part. If we fail to understand others’ boundaries, in this case, our employer’s, then we will inevitably have issues within the relationship.
Boundaries Within The Family
In parent-child relationships, there should also be defined boundaries, but when it comes to families it becomes a little more challenging. This is because it is likely to have more emotions and attachments connected to the boundaries and relationship. Within families, there are a few types of boundaries: diffuse or enmeshed, rigid or disengaged, and clear.
When families have diffuse boundaries, they become enmeshed. Meaning they do not have an understanding of where one person ends and the other begins. This means that there is very little independence between family members. As a result, each person’s emotional state and well-being are very closely tied to that of others in the family. If you have diffuse boundaries in your family it may look something like this: mom is depressed or struggling and you begin to take on those same emotions and struggles as your own because there is very little differentiation.
Some Families may have rigid boundaries
The boundaries are just that; ridged. There is minimal connection and the family is often disengaged from one another. Oftentimes with rigid boundaries, others are kept at a distance with little connection. Having the ability to express one’s self and share one’s emotions is deeply limited. If you have a family member with which there are rigid boundaries it may look something like this. Your sibling only likes to go to the movie theater with you when it is a marvel movie. However, there is a movie that you would like to see and your sibling will not be flexible around going to see a movie. Especially since it’s not the Marvel series.
Boundaries in Relationships with Family
Families with clear boundaries, create a safe place to express one’s self, make communication easier, and bring less stress to the relationship. When you learn clear and healthy boundaries with your family system, it is much easier to set similar boundaries in other relationships you enter. An example of a clear boundary maybe something like your parents have set the expectation that they support extracurricular activities and want to see you engaged with friends and due to time and other family members, they can only support participation in 2 extracurricular activities unless you are able to secure rides to other activities.
If you grew up in a family with rigid or diffuse boundaries, that’s ok. You can learn to set clear and healthy boundaries with practice. A trained relationship and family therapist in Florida can help you in this process as you learn how to set clear boundaries. And if you have others in your life with clear boundaries you can also learn through watching others in the way they set clear boundaries.
Boundaries in Romantic Relationships
Obviously romantic relationships are another area where boundaries play an important role. Healthy boundaries in romantic relationships are easily able to adapt and change as the relationship changes. For example, when starting off in a dating relationship it is likely that a conversation about what kind of dating relationship you are entering into would be held. In this conversation, we would expect to learn more about the other person’s boundaries within the relationship. As time goes on the boundaries may change as the relationship grows and as each individual in the relationship changes and grows.
Boundaries with Children
If children are brought into the relationship, it is important to set boundaries. This includes what is discussed with the children and what is not. Each family system is going to have different ideas on what should be kept separate. This may differ from children, other members, or chosen family. An example of a boundary that many parents chose to make with each other and their child(ren)is that arguments, finances, fears, hopes, and sexual intimacy, are all part of the adult relationship and not a part of the adult-child relationship. Since each relationship involves different people with different views and backgrounds. An example of an unhealthy boundary would be confiding in your children about your stresses with work, finance, or marital issues. You are essentially asking your child to be responsible for your emotional wellness rather than you talking through the conflict with your spouse—this leads to enmeshment.
On the other hand
If you become upset with your spouse or child and refuse to talk it out with them, ignore each other, or use passive-aggressive methods of communication you are creating disengaged boundaries. In a situation with healthy and defined boundaries, you would talk with the other person through the issue. As mentioned above, boundaries can be quite fluid. Certain situations within the family may lead to more enmeshment and other more rigid boundaries, however, the goal is to be mostly clear.
In a nutshell, boundaries help separate you and another person. This allows each of your unique selves to be present within the relationship. Obviously, with co-workers and other acquaintances, this is relatively simple. However, with family, you can easily become diffused or too rigid. It is important for you to set clear healthy boundaries. Particularly with children, as it allows them to learn what successful boundary setting looks like. Otherwise, they spend the rest of their lives just guessing, as perhaps you have had to do.
Setting Boundaries Can Be Tough
Family therapy in Brevard County, Florida can help you and your loved ones set clear and healthy boundaries for more optimal communication and overall family dynamic. Individual counseling for Florida residents can also be beneficial in helping you learn new techniques for setting your own personal boundaries.
Speaking of online therapy in Florida, when you enter a therapeutic relationship, the boundaries will be laid out in a clear and defined manner at the beginning of your journey. You will learn what is normal and acceptable expectations in therapy and the therapeutic relationship. You will also learn the role the therapist plays in your process. Plus, you will also learn how these therapeutic boundaries are in place to protect you. This process in and of itself can serve as a blueprint of sorts in setting boundaries within other relationships. Knowing how to communicate your boundaries is just as important as knowing how to set them, and what boundaries to set in the first place. If you do not know how to effectively communicate your boundaries then you cannot maintain them.
Why Can Setting Boundaries Be So Scary?
There are many reasons setting boundaries can be intimidating. For one, you may not know how to set boundaries because you were never shown what healthy boundaries look like. You may also lack the confidence in setting boundaries—a byproduct of not having healthy boundaries growing up. Or, perhaps, you are afraid of how the other person will react or that you will somehow hurt their feelings. Remember, you are not setting boundaries to punish the other person(s). But, you are setting boundaries to maintain an optimal healthy relationship.
Another reason that setting boundaries can be terrifying is, that you may be seeking external validation.
This may lead you may believe that people will think less of you because of your boundaries. If you are putting your happiness, wellbeing, or self-worth into the hands of another person, you may feel that setting boundaries in relationships will make this other individual dislike you. You may believe that setting boundaries makes you a jerk or will make others view you negatively. Truth be told, most people will not care if you set boundaries. Plus they will be glad to know what they are so that they are not viewed as the problem.
What if someone doesn’t respect my boundaries?
If the other person is against healthy boundaries, it is likely they did not have healthy boundaries in their childhood. Boundaries are always fluid and can change depending on the dynamic of the relationship. For example, boundaries with addicts are one such scenario. You may decide to not give them money, lend them your car, drive them around, etc. However, after a few months of them being in recovery, these boundaries in relationships may change.
Working with True You Always Counseling provides you with a safe space to explore what boundaries in your relationships might look like. Plus, we can discover problems that may arise from certain boundaries. Or how to navigate the changes being made. Setting boundaries in counseling is a great way to express your fears and concerns around boundaries. Plus, if you’re considering doing couple’s or family therapy, it gives each person an unbiased space to express the needs they hope the boundaries meet and the concerns some boundaries create.
Long-Term Benefits of Boundaries
Not only will setting boundaries build your self-confidence and help maintain healthy relationships but it will also prevent resentments. When clear boundaries are set and clear in your relationships you will feel more confident. Plus your relationship will feel more secure. However, when no boundaries and you are uncomfortable or feel taken advantage of, resentments will form. Those resentments can lead to the end of the relationship entirely as well as wear on your self-esteem.
In addition, by learning to set and maintain healthy boundaries, you encourage others in your life to do the same. You may also be able to demonstrate what healthy boundaries look like and the benefits it has in your life. You will also be able to show your children how to set and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. Therefore, they will be able to carry on to each relationship outside of the family system. It will boost not just your confidence, but theirs as well.
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Online therapy is convenient and accessible for those looking for specialized help. If you’re looking for support from the comfort of your own space, we are here to serve you. Call us for your first appointment today at 3216138685. You will be working with one of our many skilled online therapists at the True You Always virtual therapy practice in Florida who are here to walk through whatever stage in life you’re dealing with at this moment. To get started with therapy, schedule your free phone consultation to determine what service is right for you. Or, follow these simple steps:
Other Services Offered at True You Always Counseling
Here at True You Always, we offer many services with a wide range of therapists. We are here to walk alongside you no matter what you’re dealing with. Our goal is to provide a safe and accepting space for you to breathe and be your authentic self. Along with therapy for teens, we offer additional services at our Florida practice. You may also be interested in therapy for first responders, therapy for work stress, anxiety, and stress treatment, or PTSD Treatment and trauma therapy. Additionally, we offer couples therapy, family therapy, LGBTQIA+ therapy, therapy for disordered eating, support for families with a loved one struggling with ED, therapy for adults, substance use disorders, therapy for spouses of first responders, play therapy, therapy for allergies, and chronic illness. All services are offered via online therapy in Florida so you can get help from the comfort of your own space
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