Boundaries: How and When To Draw The Line

BoundariesBoundaries. The invisible lines between people that cannot be seen, but, can absolutely, be felt. If you’ve ever had your dinner interrupted by a telemarketer, you know what it feels like when someone crosses the line into your personal space. But, not everyone is as easy to dismiss as a telemarketer. So, we are here to help you learn to set and maintain healthy boundaries in your everyday relationships.

First, let’s talk imagery. We find that using metaphors to imagine what kind of limits you want to set with others can be helpful. For example, there are some people in your life with whom you enjoy sharing much of what goes on in your day. These people “get you,” and you feel comfortable trusting them. But, even with these close confidants, you may still need some privacy or time on your own to process information. In this case, you might imagine a sliding glass door, that can be closed when you need your space. You can still see your companion on the other side, but the closed door gives you the solitude that you need.

Conversely, for people who are constantly pushing past your personal comfort zone, you might imagine a wooden door, with a small peephole. This structure allows for far more protection from people’s unwanted advances. This can also be called the “mother-in-law door.” Just kidding, we love our MILs!

Anyway, using images like doors, windows, skylights, etc., can be useful in determining what kind of lines we want to draw between ourselves and other people. And, it’s important to remember, that these distinctions are subject to change. Some days we might feel like staying in our own little bubble, while, other times, we might welcome bursts of buzz and chatter. The important thing is that we stay connected to how we are feeling inside, and honor where we stand on any given day.

One of the biggest reasons that people don’t set healthy boundaries between themselves and others is because they are afraid of how the other person will react. They fear upsetting their friend, or spouse, or co-worker, so they stay quiet and build resentments every time their personal space is invaded. This is not a good strategy! Instead, we must learn to love ourselves enough to say “no,” when we want to, and let people know when they are crossing the line.

The key to effectively communicating your limits is to be clear and concise. The following short statements can be used in multiple situations:

  • I am not comfortable with that
  • That doesn’t work for me
  • I would rather not
  • No

Remember that you do not need to explain your reasoning for setting a boundary. You only need to be clear with what you feel. The other person is responsible for his reaction. Think of it like double’s tennis. Nothing good happens when you cross over into your partner’s box!

If you would like more information on setting healthy boundaries, contact us. Therapy can be very effective and helpful, not only at setting boundaries, but helping to honor others boundaries, and figuring out when to draw the line in the first place. We are here to help!