What are boundaries? Why do we want them?
The oxford online dictionary defines a boundary as:
- a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
- a limit of a subject or sphere of activity.
Boundaries teach people how to treat us, how to live around us, and how to interact with us.
Boundaries are not only about other people but about how we relate to other people. What will we do? How will we behave? What do we allow in our lives?
Boundaries are not for controlling how other people behave, boundaries are all about how we react to their behavior.
People get to do whatever they like, so do we. Just because we don’t control others doesn’t mean that we don’t communicate our wishes. It just means if someone chooses not to grant us our wishes we then get to choose whether we will tolerate it or not.
When boundaries become manipulation…
Boundaries become controlling and manipulative when we are asking for things that are not related to a true personal boundary and when they don’t come from a place of love.
If you want your husband to do a chore like vacuum the living room and he won’t do it, you can have un-vacuumed carpet, you can choose to get a new husband, or you can find a new way to get the job done.
You do not try to manipulate your husband by saying something like, if you don’t vacuum, I won’t have sex with you.
This is manipulation, it’s not coming from a place of love.
Different types of boundaries.
Physical Boundaries are about our physical space and touching.
Emotional Boundaries are relating to our emotional lives and emotional relationships.
Time Boundaries come in to play with our schedules and calendars. How much time we give and allow.
Sexual Boundaries are communicating what we like, what we are willing to do, and willing to receive.
Intellectual Boundaries are about what we believe, things like politics and religion, and the right time and place for respectful exchanges.
Material Boundaries are about our things, maybe you don’t want to loan money or your shoes? Totally up to you.
How to set a boundary.
1. Tell the person what you want them to do or stop doing.
2. Tell the person what you will do if they don’t comply.
3. Follow through and do what you say you will do.
The most important part of having a boundary is doing what you say you will.
We communicate the thing we don’t want to allow in our lives to others. We let them know our preferences and desires. We also let them know what we will do if these boundaries are crossed. We do this and it teaches others who we are and what we tolerate and what we don’t.
Boundaries only work when we clearly communicate where our boundary is, when it is crossed and what we will do. Then we must do what we say we will do if that is the case. Otherwise your boundaries will be weak and people won’t respect them.
Sticking to what you say you will do can sometimes be harder than communicating your boundary in the first place but trust me you must stick to your word. Have your own back here.
Examples of personal boundaries.
If your spouse raises his voice during disagreements and you don’t like it you can create a boundary to protect yourself. You tell him, I don’t like when you raise your voice when we disagree and if you do that, I will leave the room. The next time he raises his voice to you during a disagreement you then leave the room. Leaving the room is not to punish him but to protect yourself.
Another really obvious example of a boundary surrounding physical violence for me and most people is, if someone hits me I will call the police.
If someone were to offer me drugs I would say no. This is a personal boundary.
My husband and I like to spend Sunday at our home alone. We don’t have guests and we usually don’t go anywhere. This is boundary that is pretty well known in our community because we have no problem expressing it, and people truly have no problem hearing it. Mostly they think wow, I wish I could do that. Well, you can.
I love to entertain but I am not a night owl. Sometimes I would have a party and then end up miserable at the end of the night because I just wanted to go to bed. I started letting people know when I invited them that my party was from like 6 to 10 pm so they knew when to call it a night and even if I had to remind them they totally expected an early night too.
Did people laugh and tease me at first? Yup. Did some people grumble? Probably, but there was still no shortage of attendees at my get togethers…
I love the description of boundaries like this.
Property may have a fence as a boundary and that is very easy to see.
Our lives have invisible fences or boundaries and those are the ones we must set and communicate.
Having boundaries in our lives is us taking ownership for them, us taking personal responsibility for our lives.
Where in your life do you need to set firm boundaries? Where are the areas in your life where you are having arguments, frustration, or simply in constant struggle? These are where you want to start.
I recommend you grab your journal and begin to list the areas you thought about above and begin to define your personal boundaries surrounding them. See the 3 steps above and get going. Your life is about to become your own!