Setting Healthy Boundaries
“Shared joy is a double joy: shared sorrow is half a sorrow”.
Relationships- as important as they are in our lives, no relation is forever glorious. We have to do the hard work to maintain it and keep it alive. As such, while you may be looking to know everything about your partner, it is equally important to know where to draw a boundary. For healthy relationships- space or boundaries is an equally essential component.
So, what exactly is a boundary?
Boundaries are essential to having a healthy relationship as well as ensuring your wellbeing and mental health. They can be defined as what you think is okay and is not okay i.e. acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and reactions. Your boundaries are defined by you and what you as a person are comfortable with.
Your boundaries are your own whereas for others, say for example your partner- they may define their boundaries as something else. Thus, it is imperative to keep in mind to each person as boundaries may differ and boundaries are vital for yourself as well as for others’ safety and comfort.
While there may be a mix of boundaries to understand let us understand what are the types that we need to know:
There are two types of boundaries- diffuse boundaries and rigid boundaries:
- Diffuse Boundaries: This occurs when people often allow themselves to become enmeshed in other people. The people with diffuse boundaries do not have well-defined boundaries with others, and often have problems when it comes to defining themselves. People with diffuse boundaries take on the emotions, problems, situational feelings, grief. etc of other people. This may seem like them being compassionate and as an acceptable way to behave, however, it is not a healthy way to function in relationships. Sometimes these diffuse boundaries also can be seen as having someone else to help you fix your problems. But, in both these cases, it takes away both your and the other person’s power. Having prolonged diffuse boundaries can lead to increased codependency in relationships, which by itself is extremely unhealthy. It also leads to further problems as codependency is highly correlated to increased depression, addiction, and anxiety.
- Rigid Boundaries: This looks like a wall and is boundaries where individuals don’t let anyone in. Having rigid boundaries keeps you from developing and maintaining meaningful relationships and understanding with others. People with rigid boundaries do not accept help and consider themselves to be a one-man or woman island. People who have rigid boundaries become isolated and withdrawn from the outside world and people. This can create increased loneliness and unmet needs.
Henry Cloud, a self-help author and an expert on boundaries says, “Boundaries are basically like about providing structure, and structure is essential in building anything that thrives.”
However, just like is the case with most things, there also exists a happy medium when it comes to boundaries. This happy medium of boundaries is defined by having stable, personal boundaries that allow you to have healthy and meaningful relationships with others.
So, if you are confused, let’s take a look at some of the signs that act as a warning that you need boundaries.
Why do we need this?
It is imperative to identify these signs at an early stage to set boundaries from the beginning of a relationship to help you have a meaningful and healthy relationship. This understanding can help you form and maintain a healthy relationship now and later.
Hence, some of these warning signs include:
- Feeling bitter
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling angry often in that relationship
- Not looking forward to interacting in that relationship
- Feeling drained
“We have our thoughts, and if we want others to know them, we must tell them.”
― Henry Cloud, Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No
So, once you have identified these symptoms, you need to take the necessary steps required to set up your boundaries. Some of the beginning steps include:
- Notice when you need a boundary.
- Define the boundary with yourself For example, It is not okay for me to check my emails when I’m off.
- Communicate those boundaries with the appropriate people calmly.
- Reinforce those boundaries with the appropriate person. Continue to reinforce your boundary. Remember your boundary is what is and is not okay. Do not give up on your boundary. You can expect that some people will honour it immediately. Other people may need to be reminded.
- Provide a consequence if your boundary is not followed. For example, “Please do not speak to me in that tone or use that word. If you continue to speak to me like this, then I will be ending the conversation. I will be leaving the table. ”
Proper communication is vital
Setting healthy boundaries also includes being able to communicate with the other person about how you feel and how you would like to be treated and would not like to be treated. It is about ensuring your comfort, safety, and mental health. This also involves your tone. You must communicate in a way that tells others that you value them as a person as well as the fact that you have dignity and want to be treated with respect. It is imperative to speak to people in a respectful and calm tone with a welcoming posture. Yelling at someone comes off as rude and does not respect their boundaries. It can be inoffensive sometimes.