Merriam-Websters Dictionary defines a boundary as: something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent. Other words that might be used for the word boundary are confines, limit or limitation, or termination.
We set boundaries in order to define comfortable limits and to delineate what is acceptable and what is not. Boundaries are an important part of establishing understanding, trust, respect, and open communication within any relationship. Relationships can be family, friends, coworkers/bosses, or partners, but should all have their expected boundaries.
When taking a look at the relationships within our lives, we tend to see those people within the confines of how we prioritize them, respect and have defined the ground rules of each relationship. This means we have taken the time to build on interactions which allow for the greatest probability of being respected for those things which we accept, like or maybe simply tolerate for the sake of the other.
Take a minute to think back to your childhood, did you have to set rules with siblings or friends for what was allowed in your room/space and would inevitably end up upset you to the point you were yelling for your parent(s) to settle it?
Well, this was laying the groundwork for how you face the task of setting the guidebook for acceptable personal interactions. In childhood we learn from watching the interactions of other (parents, siblings, those with daily contact) and how they engage others or express themselves within their interactions. It is in this observation that we begin to form our idea of what is acceptable and what would be considered off limits. Maybe it was tolerating your sibling in your room while you were there but declaring it off limits if you were not. Then to turn around and find yourself reiterating these same rules when you found that your sibling had broken your trust. These interactions and defining of rules laid the foundation for your future interactions and learning what is important to you when it comes to the respect of those you hold close.
When you think about boundaries, many do not think about having these limits within our romantic relationships but why not? You might be saying, “Well, aren’t we supposed to have an open understanding of our partner and share everything?”. The answer is yes and no, let me explain. It is yes, because we should have open and honest communication with our partners, but we should still be holding space for ourselves within any relationship. This means that there should be a respectful balance of what is expected from each other while honoring that we still need time and space to be our individual selves as well.
This means understanding that your partner may need time to see friends without you, time and space to journal their thoughts without having to share it with you or talk on the phone without being questioned about every detail. Maybe it is setting a boundary of not continuing communication with ex partners or hearing your partner when they verbalize being uncomfortable with a person or place.
The list could go on and on, but in truth the setting of boundaries may look different for each person and each relationship. The point to be made is that setting boundaries involves open communication and understanding of your personal needs, desires, and limits. It means not being afraid to seek that support from a partner, friend, or even a family member. When we learn to respect ourselves and our personal limits, we should also respect the same of those who we trust to keep our company. If you are meant to respect the boundaries of others, that respect should be reciprocated.
Are there individuals within your life that you might need to set boundaries with? If you are struggling with starting this conversation, talk with a local professional for support in taking that step.