There is a lot of talk about having health boundaries in relationships, but what exactly is a boundary and what is the difference between a healthy and unhealthy boundary?
A boundary can be defined as a physical or emotional space between you and another person. It is an area where you begin and the other ends. It is a physical and emotional space where you are free to be uniquely you and maintain your identity without threats or persuasion. It is letting others know what your limits are and expecting them to honor those limits. Healthy boundaries help you maintain a sense of self-respect, which can be the ultimate form of self-care.
Some examples of unhealthy boundaries include letting others define you, telling intimate details of your life to someone you just met, believing others can anticipate your needs, letting others describe your reality (or how you should feel), touching a person without asking, or any type of sexual, physical or verbal abuse.
Healthy boundaries include defining your truth as you see it, trusting your own decisions, clearly stating what your needs and wants are and being okay if another says ‘no,’ identify when your boundaries have been violated, focusing on your own growth and self-care (not expecting others to take care of you), and having appropriate levels of trust with others.
Establishing healthy boundaries can be difficult at first so have a supportive friend or family member who can encourage you along the way. In creating healthy boundaries, first, take some time for self-reflection. What is important to you? What are your needs and wants? Second, be direct, firm and respectful when setting a boundary. Use “I” statements- limit the words “you”, “always” or “never.” Next, do not debate, over-explain, apologize, or defend when setting a boundary. Finally, be diligent, consistent and stay strong. The first few times can be difficult but the more you practice, the easier it gets.
A final thought to remember is to back up your boundary with action. For example, if you have told your friend, “When you call me names, it makes me feel sad. I need you to stop calling me names, so I can feel respected and safe. If you do not stop, I will leave the room.” If the friend continues the name calling, you leave the room. And continue leaving the room if the behavior continues. Consistent follow through is important!
Terri Kutchera is a Patient Consultant for Ketamine Wellness Centers