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What are boundaries, and how do you set them?

Posted By:
May 8, 2019


What are boundaries, and how do you set them?

Healthy relationships in California require consistent, firm and enforceable boundaries between you and others. This applies to relationships among friends, family members and particularly between romantic partners. Prolonged, persistent violation of your boundaries can escalate into abusive behavior. Understanding what boundaries are can help you to become more effective in setting them and more assertive in enforcing them.

According to Psychology Today, boundaries fall within at least six different categories. Physical boundaries refer to your body, your privacy and your personal space. Sexual boundaries relate to personal boundaries but pertain specifically to your comfort level with sexual touch and related activity. Material boundaries affect your tangible possessions, specifically who (apart from you) has permission to use them and under what circumstances.

Some people have the most trouble in setting and enforcing mental and emotional boundaries. People who are highly impressionable have poor mental boundaries because they have difficulty distinguishing their own thoughts and beliefs from those of others. Likewise, people who accept responsibility or blame for other people’s emotional states have insufficient emotional boundaries.

When it comes to enforcing your boundaries, you have certain rights that include the following:

  • Privacy
  • Conservation of energy
  • Respectful and courteous treatment from others

If someone makes unreasonable demands of you, you have the right to say no. More significantly, you have a right to refuse when the request is reasonable but you are unable or unwilling to comply.

Be aware, however, that the rights you have apply equally to everyone. For example, you have the right to ask for help when you need it, but the person you are asking has the right to say no.

You also need to understand that boundaries are protection for you, not punishment for others. Nagging or threatening others to behave a certain way is not effective boundary-setting and, in fact, may violate the boundaries of others.

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