Clear boundaries are important for healthy, well-functioning relationships. Boundaries are limits you establish in order to protect your own physical and emotional safety and well-being. They are guidelines based on expectations of how you expect to be treated. Effective boundaries include consequences if your limits are crossed.

For instance, a fence around your yard is a boundary. There is no problem letting a new puppy out in a yard with a fence. This is because the fence provides a safe barrier for the puppy. If the fence isn’t there, the puppy might get hurt or lost as the boundary and the safe limits are not clear.

Emotional boundaries in personal relationships are just as important as physical boundaries. However, they can be more difficult to define. Continuously doing for others without regard for your wants, needs, and desires, can cause problems and suffering for you. For a boundary to be effective, you have to know why it’s important to you. You should also know how to share it, and the consequences that will occur if it is broken. Below are some steps you can take to establish clear boundaries in your relationships.

Know What Boundaries Are For

Boundaries are for you, not for others. When there are clear boundaries in place, relationships are smoother. If boundaries are not clear, disappointment can occur and resentment can build. You can’t change others, but you can always change how you engage with them.

Think of it as an “if this then that” situation. A boundary around your sleep schedule can include not taking calls after 10. You can tell your friends that if they call you after 10, then you will not answer. Knowing this, your friends are able to make an active choice. If they want to speak with you, they will need to make sure they call you before 10. Having this boundary helps you get the rest that you need in order to function effectively during the day.

Know Yourself

Knowing yourself is an important part of establishing personal boundaries. Define what your values are. Know what is important to you. Consider your needs. Determine your deal breakers. Figure out what consequences you are able to follow through with. Boundaries are about respecting yourself enough to know your needs and your limits. If something drains you emotionally or physically, creates uneasiness or upset, or requires you to compromise your personal values, A boundary is needed.

Let Others Know Your Boundaries

Once you have established a boundary, you need to let others know. If others are aware of your boundaries and what will happen if they don’t abide by them, they can make an informed choice on how they behave. When you don’t tell others about your boundary and the consequences for not abiding by it, you don’t give them the opportunity to make an active choice.

For instance, if you decide to establish a boundary around your spouse calling you names when you argue, and you decide to walk away if it continues after a warning, you need to tell your spouse you are doing this. If you don’t tell them about this boundary, and instead just walk away, your spouse may be confused and follow you, Instead of giving you space. It is important to clearly state what your boundary is, why it is important to you, and what you will do if it isn’t respected. When your expectations and the consequences are known, others can make an active choice on how they behave.

Follow Through With The Consequences

Establish consequences for breaking your boundaries. The consequences should be as natural as possible and fit with what you are trying to accomplish. Deciding not to answer the phone if you are called after a set time is more natural than never talking to the person again.

Make sure you are willing and able to follow through with the consequences. If you don’t follow through with the consequences, this sends a message that it’s okay not to respect your boundary. If your child keeps forgetting their homework and asks you to bring it to school, you might set a boundary around this. However, if you know that you will bring it to him if he asks, so he keeps his grades up, you need to have a consequence you can follow. You can tell him that if he forgets his homework and needs you to bring it, you will charge him $5. This consequence requires your son to compensate you for your time if he wants you to bring him his homework, and might be easier for you to follow through with.

Stay The Course

Putting boundaries in place where there weren’t any can be difficult at times. People might say that you’ve changed. They may not believe that your boundaries apply to them and they might challenge you. You could feel guilty about saying no to something that drains your energy, but that you always said yes to before. Although establishing boundaries can be uncomfortable initially, over time the benefits will far outweigh the discomfort. The more comfortable you are with yourself and honoring your needs, the easier it will be to establish and maintain healthy boundaries in all of your relationships.

Clear, boundaries are important to your couple relationship, your family, your friendships, and all of your relationships. Boundaries are about self-respect and knowing your limits. Healthy boundaries help you feel loved, valued, and respected and are a key component of strong and happy relationships.

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