Healthy Relationships Have Healthy Boundaries

People will treat us as we allow them to. A boundary is a limit we set to protect and take care of ourselves. Boundaries let other people know our availability, values, and the conditions under which we will interact. Healthy, clearly communicated boundaries identify our needs, feelings, and rights in relationship to others. Boundaries let others know we respect and value ourselves.

It’s essential that we establish and maintain limits to protect ourselves and create positive relationships with others. Boundaries help us determine the things we want to do and those we don’t and if we’re clear on what those boundaries are from the start, they help us to stand up for ourselves without guilt for putting our needs first.

Without establishing (and articulating) the behaviors we will and will not tolerate from others, we leave ourselves open to becoming angry and resentful about how we are allowing ourselves to be treated. That leads us to taking our pain out on others and ourselves. So, healthy, clearly communicated boundaries let others see we respect and value ourselves. And, respecting the needs, feelings, and boundaries of others lets them see they are valued.

What Boundaries Are Not

Establishing how we want to be treated is not about control or manipulation. We do not set boundaries to change other people. We do so to change us—to create a better, more positive life for ourselves by demonstrating a commitment to self-love and respect.

Boundaries clearly state what behavior is hurtful to us, yet we do not have expectations of any particular outcome. That is, we set boundaries for ourselves while realizing the other person is completely responsible for making changes to his or her behavior.

How to Set Boundaries

Through counseling and a lifetime of trial and error, I learned that setting strong, lasting boundaries with ourselves and others requires us to do four things:

  • Define acceptable behavior;
  • Accept that doing nothing is condoning bad treatment;
  • Express our feelings calmly and clearly; and
  • Be comfortable with not being popular.

My free guide on how to set boundaries goes into great detail about how to follow these four steps.

Download it here: