Boundaries In Relationships
Good boundaries mean we can be intimate and close and yet not loose a sense of ourselves. This means you can be attached and yet separate – a person in your own right.
In relationships with bad boundaries you may give up feelings, ideas and opinions, but in emotionally healthy relationships you can be close to someone and yet disagree without any harm to the relationship.
In some ways Boundaries can be the ultimate test of a relationship. If you can’t say “No” and “I don’t agree” without any harm to the actual relationship then the chances are the relationship needs some changes. However, learning to change boundaries is a tricky task as they can be embedded for years. The first step however, is trying to recognise where your boundaries are. When we are looking at and possibly re-thinking our boundaries we may need to learn new ways of relating and behaving. We may need to recognise we have choices in relationships and that others also have choices in their relationship with us.
Boundaries are there in most part to let the good in but keep the bad out. If we look at our world we all live within certain boundaries. You can’t for instance just walk into a strangers house and start trying on their clothes and eating the food from their fridge- not without being arrested anyway! This is because that person’s door is the boundary to their house. It says you can go so far but no further without my permission.
The boundary violation of sexual abuse can lead to victims being unable to set appropriate boundaries in their lives. Boundaries that were never established clearly as a child mean that as an adult they usually will be impaired. After all most small children have no boundaries, no internal way to protect themselves from abuse. This also means that because of the powerlessness and the lack of dignity and rights the child was subjected to – it will influence the boundaries she or he is able to set later on.
This can look like either over-compensating, by being too over protective, and therefore end up entering into controlling behaviour. Or else not being protective enough and consequently have an inability to take any control over their lives leaving them vulnerable to further abuse.
It is useful to look at healthy and unhealthy boundaries so that we can recognize them and perhaps improve on them when it is beneficial to do so.
Take a look at these questions below and see if any of these have applied to you in recent weeks:
• Do you have difficulty saying No?
• Are there some people you always give into?
• Are there some people you always say Yes to?
• When you are out with friends or a partner who makes the choices in where you go and what you do?
• What happens if you do agree with: Your parents /Your partner /Your best friends?
• What happens if you don’t agree with: Your parents /Your partner /Your best friends?
• Who are the hardest people you know to put up boundaries with?
• Are there people in your life who love your “no” as well as your “yes”?
Our Goal: Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries mean we can be intimate and close to others and yet not loose a sense of ourselves. This means you can be attached and yet separate – a person in your own right.
In enmeshed relationships you give up feelings, ideas and opinions. In emotionally healthy relationships you can be close to someone and yet disagree without any harm to the relationship.
This leads us to being able to be close to our friends and partners but also hold onto our own thoughts, ideas, values and boundaries.