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Healthy Relationship Boundaries

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   01/15/23

Relationships  

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries within your relationships is becoming a bigger and bigger topic today within families and with mental health and relationship experts. While it may not necessarily be the cure-all to any of your relationship problems, having healthy boundaries with the people in your life is more of a side effect of good self esteem and reasonable expectations of those around you.

At first, healthy boundaries can sound a bit like a catch 22. They develop your emotional health and are also created by people with emotional health. However, breaking into this loop is possible and something you can start on today. You'll soon notice a difference in your self-esteem and confidence, and potentially also in the stress that previously came from some of these relationships.3

What Can Boundary Issues Look Like?

  • Feeling taken advantage of
  • Feeling responsible for solving the problems of the people around you
  • Feeling drawn into unnecessary arguments regularly
  • Feeling far more invested in another person than the timeframe or context would suggest
  • Feeling regularly stuck in a drama you had no interest in being in

If any of the above resonated with you, then you may have some opportunity to improve the boundaries in your relationships with others.

What are Personal Boundaries?

There are two sides to the personal boundaries coin: those who expect too much responsibility for the emotions and actions of other people and those who take on too much responsibility for those emotions and actions. What is interesting is that these people often end up in relationships with each other.

Having a healthy relationship means taking accountability for your own actions and emotions, while not taking on or reassigning those responsibilities to other people.

Some examples of poor boundaries include:

  • "You can't go out with your friends alone. It makes me jealous when you're with other people without me, so I have to come or you stay home."
  • "I'd love to take this job in Chicago, but my mother would never forgive me for moving her grandkids so far away."
  • "We can spend time together, but don't mention it to my friend Amanda. She feels threatened when I bring new friends into my life."

In each of these examples, one party is either taking on or reassigning their emotional responsibility onto another person.

Personal Boundaries, Self Esteem, and Identity

The people who maintain personal boundaries are also the people with higher self-esteem, senses of self, and confidence. Boundaries can also be thought of in terms of identity. When the responsibility for one's actions and emotions is unclear, it becomes difficult to determine who is responsible or at fault for what, therefore difficult to develop a solid identity for yourself.

For example, if you are training for a marathon and blame the weather or trainer for your lack of progress, you're not owning that aspect of your identity. Being a marathoner is something you do rather than something you are, and it's inauthentic and shifting responsibility will drive your self-esteem down and make your behavior unattractive.

Why Healthy Boundaries are Good for You

Setting and maintaining boundaries will do wonders for your self-esteem and help you develop your personal identity, but they also make your walk through life a whole lot easier.

  • You're not taken advantage of
  • You're not responsible for solving other people's problems
  • You don't get dragged into unnecessary arguments
  • Not everything your family, friends, and colleagues does gets under your skin

The Vicious Cycle of Poor Boundaries

Victims and savers get emotional highs off of each other. They're similar to puzzle pieces, fulfilling each other's needs however unhealthy or unsustainable. It becomes an addiction and makes healthy relationships seem like they lack that "spark" or "chemistry", and they pass on those opportunities for someone emotionally healthy and secure in favor of something more emotionally fraught.

For the victim, the biggest challenge is holding themselves accountable for their own feelings and actions. Their world has been built on the habit of believing they must not be responsible for any of these negative emotions or actions in order to feel love and intimacy. Letting that go is incredibly difficult.

For the savers, the biggest challenge is to stop fixing other people's problems and force them into what a saver believes would make the victim truly happy and satisfied. Their world view is predicated on the fact that love and intimacy for them is earned through fixing a problem or providing use to someone. It's equally terrifying to let this go.

Only once both our victim and saver start to build their own self-esteems can they begin to reduce and eliminate that needy behavior and become more attractive, secure individuals.1

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

The first step in being able to set and maintain healthy boundaries is to build your self-esteem. Self-esteem is something that is developed out of personal feelings of competency and how you feel you are doing in your life. If you have low self-esteem, you most likely feel that you are not measuring up in one way or another, and the first thing you can start doing is showing yourself more compassion. In accepting yourself as you are and continuing to work on yourself from that place, self-esteem blossoms. It's not easy and takes time, but you end up in a much nicer place.

As your self-esteem develops, healthy boundaries will slowly become more manageable and prevalent in your life. You will instinctively know what is and isn't an appropriate expectation by or for others, and you'll be much more effective in drawing and maintaining that boundary.1, 2

Steps to Set Healthy Personal Boundaries

Setting personal boundaries can seem daunting, but there are only a couple steps in doing so and making sure it is effective.1

  1. Set boundaries, explicitly. What is reasonable to expect from you? What isn't? Clearly defined boundaries are needed for all parties to be on the same page in their relationships with each other. This goes for family, friends, your partner, colleagues, your neighbors, etc.
  2. Decide the consequences if someone oversteps your boundaries. This is bound to happen, and more often at first as you all adjust. You may be biased by the person or context, so it's best to determine these consequences from the get-go. This way the other person can also be prepared.
  3. Follow through. Your boundaries and the consequences of breaking them should have been communicated clearly and calmly. If someone crosses your boundaries, do what you said you would. Having a boundary is ineffective if there's no consequence to it being broken, and it teaches the other party that your boundaries do not need to be considered seriously.

For More Positive Relationships

Healthy relationships are ones in which the people involved feel good in them. Though even the best relationships have disagreements from time to time, a healthy relationship consists of mostly positive interactions. These are enabled by individuals having healthy boundaries and expectations with each other. Everyone takes responsibility for their own emotions and actions, and the boundaries of what is acceptable for each person are understood and respected. No matter the nature of the relationship, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is essential to healthy relationships, and developing your self-esteem plays a massive role in being able to do this effectively. It can be hard work, but in the end you end up in a nicer place within yourself and with those around you. For more information on healthy relationships, visit our article Healthy Relationships and Your Well-Being.

Citations:

1 https://markmanson.net/boundaries
2 https://www.betterup.com/blog/healthy-boundaries-in-relationships
3 https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/setting-healthy-boundaries-in-relationships.htm

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Author

Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of SupplementRelief.com in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. He is also a tennis instructor and gospel musician. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups and major corporations having gone through the tech boom in Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges including depression, auto-immune disorders, and being overweight that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been an advocate for healthier living encouraging others to live better through making small, gradual changes to lifestyle behaviors relating to whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, proper sleep, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.

Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.

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