3 Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

So many people contact me with their problems related to boundaries in relationships. No one teaches us how to have good boundaries and most of us did not see good examples from others while growing up. As a result, we have no idea how to set healthy boundaries in our relationships – and we suffer as a result.

I read an awesome book on Boundaries many years ago and it really opened my eyes. Let me share the basic concepts with you. If you will apply these to your life, you will be amazed how much less drama you will have to endure in your relationships and life!

A man and woman making a clear boundary with a wooden fence between them

Boundaries are like a property line – they are the invisible line that separates what is yours from what is your neighbor’s property. Many people put up a fence on their property line. This makes it very clear to everyone where the boundary is.

Boundaries help you to determine what is your responsibility and what is NOT your responsibility. Just like with a piece of property – you get to decide what happens inside your fence, but not what happens inside your neighbor’s fence. You can choose whether to plant flowers or let weeds grow, but you cannot control what your neighbor does with his yard. If his yard is a mess, it’s not your job to fix it – the fence reminds you of that. You are only responsible for keeping your own yard looking nice.

When it comes to relationships, boundaries are REALLY important. I’m amazed at how often people don’t have boundaries and don’t realize how much pain it is causing them. They think that setting a healthy boundary would be “mean” or “rude” – even when the other person is treating them badly!

It’s time to take back your power and set some healthy boundaries. You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. If you believe that, then you will set healthy boundaries to maintain that environment in your relationships.

What does a boundary look like?

1. Words – Communicate clearly with others

My husband has been a great example to me of how to use words as boundaries. Whenever we are approached by a salesman, he simply says to them, “No, thank you.” and turns away. If they are persistent, he looks them straight in the eye and says a little more forcefully, “I said, NO, thank you!” He walks away. They get the message and give up. I never knew how to handle pushy salesmen in public – his example inspired me that I could be respectful and yet firm and get results!

2. Consequences – Taking action based on your freedom

This can be hard one to do, but it is very powerful. If you have used words in the past and the person ignores you or does not respond in a kind way, then take action. Actions speak much louder than words, especially if they are unexpected! For instance, if you have someone who calls you too many times a day and that interferes with your work or other responsibilities, then simply don’t answer the phone. Many people tell me they are afraid to do this – what if it is important? Then set some boundaries verbally ahead of time such as, “While I am at work, please only call if it’s urgent. If not, send a text and I’ll call you later.” When you stop answering the phone every time they call, they will learn that you mean what you say. You demonstrate respect by showing respect for yourself. This teaches people to treat you with respect.

3. Honesty – Being honest about what is happening within you

This is the most powerful boundary of all. Being truthful about how you feel and about how you experience the relationship is the foundation to a healthy connection. Not being honest lays a false foundation that leads to instability for both people. The more honest you can be in a relationship, the healthier it is. For instance, “Rachel, I’m afraid to make plans with you. The last four times we agreed to meet for coffee, you canceled on short notice. I’d really like to spend time with you, but I’m getting frustrated. What can we do about this?” Or another example might be, “Honey, I know we need to talk about our budget and that this is important to you. I just got home and I’m tired. Could we agree to talk about it on Sunday afternoon instead? I’d really appreciate a break tonight.” Both of these examples honors the other person, but is also honest in expressing how you feel.

The main point with Boundaries is that YOU MATTER. The other person is important, but you are also important. We often think that by always putting the other person first, we are showing love and respect to them. But it can easily become an unhealthy pattern when it is one sided – when do YOUR needs become important to them? Are they putting you first? Usually not. It’s often one-sided – we call that co-dependent. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” that means you’ve got to love yourself too.

If this article stirs your heart and you see your relationships affected by the lack of boundaries, then I encourage you to check out the Boundaries books by authors Henry Cloud & John Townsend. They have many of them – Boundaries, Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries with Teens, Boundaries with Kids, etc. Here’s a link to the first one – Boundaries. 🙂

Things I Can Control versus Things I Can't Control

FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real

Q37 Look for Proof

FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real – Look for Proof!

Most of us think our thoughts are accurate. We trust our own thinking so much that we do not think to question our own thoughts.

That’s why I love this statement – FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Often when we are afraid, it is not based on reality. It is based on assumptions and on inaccurate information.

When my clients express a fear, I ask them for proof. They pause, stammer a minute and then realize that they don’t have any. We are so used to just believing everything that comes to our minds that we lose the ability to examine what is at the root of our fears. I don’t want them to look silly (being unable to prove that their fear is based on reality), but at the same time, I want to teach them to question their assumptions.

For instance, a lady came to me once and said she wanted to become a confident communicator. She was afraid to start conversations at parties because she didn’t feel confident. We worked on some communication skills to help build her confidence. She improved and was ready to try out her new skills. However, she still felt afraid of “looking dumb”.

So, I asked her to prove it to me. “Are you dumb?” I asked. She gave me a shocked expression and said, “No, of course not!” Then I asked her if she had ever had trouble in school due to learning difficulties or speech impediments that made her “feel dumb” among other children. She said no.

“So how would you “look dumb” in conversation?” I asked her. I wanted her to figure out exactly what her fear was. What she realized was that “looking dumb” was a judgment. She was afraid that either someone else would judge what she had to say as “dumb” or she would think what she said was “dumb”. So we worked on these specific things. First, you cannot control other people’s judgment of you. She had to let that go. For her, the primary issue was judging herself as “dumb”. We did some work on that – to learn self-acceptance and self-compassion. And her fear melted away.

The next time she went to a social gathering, she emailed me to tell me how smoothly it went. She successfully started several conversation with strangers and acquaintances and never once did she “look dumb” in her estimation. Success!

Take some time to examine your fears. Can you find proof that what you imagine will happen actually has a good chance of happening? And if it does, then what? When we break down our fears, often we discover that they are based on a fuzzy sense of logic. By breaking them down, we can overcome them.

Try it and let me know how it works for you! ♥

Need more help overcoming fear and anxiety? Try my online course – here’s the link: Overcoming Anxiety and Fear: A Simple Method to More Peace

Woman smiling with peace in the midst of the storm
You can have peace in the midst of the storm

Be Authentic – It’s Powerful!

Q54 Authentic is Priceless

This came to me the other night.

Just by being authentic … by being “REAL” and not fake or pretending to be something you aren’t makes a HUGE impact on those around you.

People sense authenticity. You can tell when someone is “real”, can’t you?

Somehow when you are with someone who is authentic – it frees you up. It gives you permission to just be YOU.

Since they aren’t pretending, that means they have accepted themselves. They are not trying to put on a show to get you to like them. They like who they are.

And somehow that self-acceptance translates to being free to be yourself with them.

And THAT is priceless.

The world is full of people trying to impress others – trying to fit in, to be accepted.

Rare are the ones who have stopped playing the game and have decided to simply accept themselves. With those folks, it does not matter whether you look right, talk right or even act right. You are allowed to just “be” – no performing.

What a priceless gift that is.

Thank you, Friend, for showing me that.

Pride Makes You Dumb

Q50 Pride makes you dumb

Did you know that when you are full of yourself (we call that egotism, pride or arrogance), it actually short circuits your ability to see things clearly? When we become so self-focused, we lose touch with reality.

The problem is … everyone else can see this clearly … but not us. Pride blinds you to reality. You make decisions that are self-centered and selfish quite easily when you are full of yourself, when you are only thinking of what will benefit you. Later, you realize how stupid you were. You realize how hurtful your actions were – your pride blinded you to how your choices would hurt someone you care about. But at the time, it made sense. Has that ever happened to you?

Pride also keeps you from getting input from others. When you think you know everything there is to know, you don’t ask for advice. And other people won’t offer their suggestions or ideas – they can tell you are not interested. That’s a bad place to be – we need other people’s help and guidance. They have something to offer us, but pride shuts the door on them. Without key information, we often make bad decisions.

There’s wisdom in humility. When you are humble, thinking of others and their needs as just as important as you and your needs, you actually think better. You make wiser decisions, decisions that are more loving because you are not so self-focused. You are open to receiving advice and as a result, you become a wiser person. People can tell when you are humble and they will support you in making good decisions. That’s a good place to be.

Think about this today. Choose humility. Choose to think of others, not just of yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate humility in you – one way to do this is to ask for an increase of the Fear of the Lord. The more you are aware of the greatness of God, the more you will see how little you are – that humbles you.

I remember hearing that the cloak of humility signifies the highest rank in the kingdom. Those who wear it receive the most honor.

I would much rather deal with a humble person than a proud person, wouldn’t you?