Boundaries clarify where each partner begins and ends, enabling us to define ourselves. They include mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual limits.
Healthy boundaries are flexible – they can grow and change. Boundaries can be lowered to promote intimacy or extended to promote safety. Intrusive boundary violations occur when a physical or emotional boundary is breached.
It’s never too late to build your boundaries. The easiest way to start:
- Know your limits. You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure what they are. Identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. Those feelings help us identify our limits
- Examine your boundaries in present relationships and decide if you are comfortable with them. If not, think about ways you might approach them differently
- Practice self-awareness. Boundaries are all about refining your feelings and honoring them. If you notice yourself slipping and not sustaining your boundaries ask yourself, what’s changed? Consider “What I am doing or [what is] the other person doing?” or “What about the situation is making me resentful or stressed?” Then, mull over your options: What am I going to do about the situation? What do I have control over?
A healthy boundary in one country or culture may be misunderstood or feared in another culture. Basic differences in culture and expectations can create a clash of boundaries. For a couple to develop healthy boundaries, they must discuss their expectations for healthy limitations and establish mutually agreed upon boundaries
One way to practice setting boundaries in healthy relationships is through consent. Click here to learn more about consent.
“Co-Dependent” Relationships are relationships without clear boundaries. Co-dependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects a person’s ability to have healthy, mutually-satisfying relationships. Also known as “relationship addiction,” co-dependents often form or maintain relationships that are grounded in control and neediness rather than love and respect.
Feelings experienced in co-dependent relationships include:
- My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you.
- My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you.
- My mental attention focuses on solving your problems or relieving your pain.
- My mental attention is focused on manipulating you “to do it my way.”
- My self-esteem is strengthened by solving your problems.
- My self-esteem is strengthened by relieving your pain.
- My own hobbies and interests are put aside, because my time is spent sharing your interests and hobbies.
If this describes you in your relationships, this is an area for potential growth for you. You can start by learning more about codependency. You might also seek the help of a professional for individual or group counseling as a source of learning and support. A professional counselor can help you develop new, healthier ways of coping.
(Source: Oklahoma University Women’s Outreach Center, http://www.drew.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/Healthy-Exchange-Spring-2009-pdf2.pdf)
Healthy Love versus Addictive Love
We all have a healthy drive to find love, but addiction can take us away from genuine love. This summary of some of the differences between healthy love and addictive love can help us find the genuine love we all seek and desire.
|…develops after we feel secure||…love tries to create love even though we feel frightened and insecure|
|…is unique. There is no “ideal lover.”||…is stereotyped. There is always a certain type we are attracted to.|
|…is gentle and comfortable||…is tense and combative|
|…encourages us to be ourselves, to be honest from the beginning with who we are, including our faults||…encourages secrets. We want to look good and put on an attractive mask.|
|…is satisfied with the partner we have||…is always looking for more or better.|
|…is based on the belief that we want to be together||…is based on the belief that we HAVE to be together.|
|… teaches that only we can make ourselves happy||…expects that other person to make us happy and demands that we try to make them happy.|
|…creates life||…creates melodrama|
Resources for Developing Boundaries