What Are Boundaries & How to Set Them

Boundaries are present in every healthy relationship I’ve come across. They are the foundation of understanding and compassion between two people, and a sign that the couple can communicate with emotional intelligence. They safeguard important relationships and ensure things proceed in a healthy way.

In my office and personal life, I am noticing how weak or undefined boundaries are an emerging issue for the collective at this time. I believe that this is the next step in our collective evolution, what the Universe wants us all to work on next. Weak boundaries are the core of every exploitative or abusive relationship.

The #1 obstacle I’ve encountered when encouraging someone to set a boundary, is their subconscious fear to do so. They may claim they are not afraid, but after breaking it down, ya, they are. At the core of it all is a fear. Lets just drop the act and admit were all human, and all humans get nervous setting a boundary. Its okay lol. If your not setting boundaries in your relationships, it is because of fear.

Now lets address these universal fears, because shining a light on them makes them much less scary.

*You are hurt and don’t want to admit it. Listen, we all get our feelings hurt by having our boundaries crossed. Don’t play the game that you don’t care. You do, and admitting that is imperative when setting a boundary. Strong people admit they are hurt, weak people pretend they are above emotions.

*You are afraid your concerns wont be “heard” Being misunderstood or dismissed by someone you care about is, whether you want to admit it or not, soul-crushing. It is for me, it is for you, it is for your 235lbs Biker uncle. Truth is, at first your person may be defensive. But that’s part of the work in setting a boundary, getting through the initial reactions, getting past their defences and getting to a place of understanding. Ill show how to do this later in this article.

*You know your Boundary wont be respected. In fact, they may even end the relationship if you speak up. Well then, hate to break it to ya but you are in a toxic relationship. Toxic people don’t respect boundaries because they don’t want their entitlements to be acknowledged. They are used to you putting up with their bullshit, and this dynamic is rarely healed. Toxic people don’t want to grow, learn or love. They want to control or benefit from you. If they cant, they try to punish you instead. It is still important for you to set boundaries with these people for 2 reasons:

1) it will open your eyes to what you’ve been denying all along (ie this person doesn’t actually care about you, this person is dysfunctional, ect)

& 2) It will help you to regain your self respect, regardless of if they respect you. Setting a boundary brings inner peace, and gets all those trapped emotions out of you.

So, as usual, I’ll use some real-world examples of boundaries, and the breakdown of setting them with a friend, family member, romantic partner, and finally a toxic person.

Friends

I have a friend, we’ll call him J. J is a wonderful person, and treats me well in our friendship. However, over the last year Ive been feeling bothered that J only visits me when its convenient for him. Now our relations are strained because I haven’t expressed this to him. I may lie to myself and say “well I don’t want to hurt his feelings”, but in reality, I’m worried he will think I’m high maintenance or end the friendship. So I refused to speak directly about it. I tried hinting, but does hinting ever really work? Now our friendship is on the rocks. He’s confused why I can never see him, and is probably feeling rejected. Finally, I decide its time to speak up. I text him a whole-ass block, kindly explaining I miss him but I’m a mom, I work, I have a full schedule, and that I cannot drop what I’m doing whenever he unexpectedly pops up. I just clearly told him what my problem is, and set a boundary “In the future, if you want to hang out, we will need to decide on a time together. I will no longer be available otherwise”

Whew!!! Yea, it was hard, but I felt sooo much better afterwards. Saying it out loud made me realize I wasn’t asking for much. And you know what? He responded (a day later, probably had to think about it first) and actually thanked me for letting him know. Verbatim: “Thats fair. I understand what your saying and I respect your needs. Thank you for letting me know” No shit, this is how people who actually care about you respond.

Family Member

My Dad,… well lets just say I resent even calling him that. Lets call him Dave. Dave broke my trust repeatedly growing up. I could never understand why I felt anxious around him. Now as an adult, I realize its because I am not emotionally safe with him. Dave was not around much, didn’t fulfill even the most basic of “dad duties” I couldn’t admit to myself until age 36 that this was very hurtful to me. The pain was buried so deep it was hard to acknowledge. And it was backed up by decades of unresolved hurt feelings in our relationship. I tried to set a boundary with him before to not bring his girlfriend (long story) to my home anymore. He said okay but only did this once. He knows its hard for me to set boundaries and that I’d relent to his preference. One day he said he’d come down for my birthday (bringing his girlfriend of coarse) after not seeing him for over a year. I was naively looking forward to it. The day before he cancelled because his girlfriend forgot they had other plans:/ I had to realize he would never respect my needs (such as to be treated with respect and dignity) and drew a new boundary: No Contact. That’s right, I don’t need people like that in my life. It had been 36 years of hurt with this man, and going No Contact had a favourable impact on my mental health. Just setting a boundary helped me to regain the self-love I had lost in this relationship, and to this day, I am so glad I was brave and just did it.

Romantic Partner

I have friend we’ll call A. She has a girlfriend we’ll call B. A and Bs relationship can be tricky sometimes, as its a same-sex romance. There is a need for boundaries if this is going to work. B has a female friend she is emotionally enmeshed with. Problem here is, she refuses to admit it. It is causes hurt in A, as being emotionally enmeshed with anyone other than your partner is inappropriate when your in a relationship. B will write things like “Your my favourite” and leave emoji hearts on her friend social media. This is of coarse, making A uncomfortable. Now in CIS relationships, its okay to say this to your same-gendered bestie. But every relationship is different, so every relationship has its own unique boundaries. A calmly told B how she felt, using examples and asking her to have empathy (ie “how would you feel if I did this?) B admitted, it would hurt her if the shoe were on the other foot, but said she cant stop appeasing her friend or her friend will get mad. Well, A told B that’s her problem (and it is, now B needs to set her own boundaries with her friend, which is ultimately her job anyways) and stayed strong in her own boundary, which was simply “I cannot be in a relationship with someone who is emotionally enmeshed with someone else. Its not fair to me, its not conducive to a healthy partnership” And so they agreed together this kind of behaviour was not acceptable in their relationship. Boom, boundary set. I bring this example up to highlight the fact that in many cases when setting a boundary, the other person is going to face consequences. That is not your problem. We all have to take responsibility for the relationships we choose to have, and if they have appendages that make sticking to a boundary hard for them, thats their problem. If B agreed this wasn’t healthy, doesn’t want it to happen to her in return either, saying its hard to fix is no excuse, and not As problem. Let people sort out their own appendages. If your husbands’ mother stops by uninvited and you create a boundary with hubby stating “no unexpected visits from family to our home” and he gets nervous because he doesn’t want to set a boundary with his mom, thats his problem. Not yours, period. Can you give suggestions or insight if he asks for it? For sure! We are Empaths, we are emotionally intelligent, we love to help. We do NOT do the work for them.

Lets do another romantic example, because attachment relationships are so varied. This time I’ll use my own. I started dating a man who, in my opinion, is still emotionally enmeshed with his co-parent. He says they’re just friends, I thinks he doesn’t know what emotionally enmeshed means. Either way. He talks about her a lot. Like, every time we hang out. In the past, I never felt yucky feelings when the man I was dating was friends with or mentioned the ex, but this time was different. And that is my point here, while I may not have had to set a boundary like this in my previous relationships, this was a different scenario. His life seemed to revolve around her, her house, her family. Sure they were “co-parents” & “friends” but this way way over the line. He talked about her on our first date, and every one since. So I stressed about it until I made myself sick. No joke, its not easy to tell someone how you feel at the beginning of a connection, but it is important if you don’t want to keep getting hurt. I eventually got up the nerve and asked him if we could talk. And the next day we did. Remember, it matters NOT if you setting a boundary causes the other person to have to confront their imbalances. In fact, that’s sometimes the point; somethings wrong in your neighbourhood and Id rather not be a part of it. So I let him know that his constant mentioning of his ex was making me weary and hurt, why I thought it was inappropriate, and asked him not to mention her anymore around me as I’ve had my fill thankyouverymuch. I know this will cause a shitty chain-reaction (for him) because now he’ll have to put up boundaries with her (ex. she often bugs him to ask me stuff that’s not her business, like where I work ect) Not My Problem. And that may have stressful consequences such as her withholding access to their child. Not My Problem. He’ll eventually have to admit they are in fact enmeshed as he cant even have a conversation without mentioning her because their lives are so intertwined. Not My Problem. Other peoples inability to properly manage their relationships is Not My Problem. Ill support and give suggestions if asked. But I wont sacrifice my own health and sanity to appease someone else’s dysfunction.

Toxic People

How to have a conversation with a toxic person about boundaries? Um, don’t bother. Okay, try at first, but once you realize they don’t respect boundaries, maybe re-evaluate why you have someone like this in your life. In fact, having a conversation about your needs is one of the easiest ways we can tell someone is dysfunctional and toxic. You see, shitty people aren’t always shitty. My fav dog was usually so awesome. Usually loving, usually protective of my kids, usually fun. But at dinner time, she refused to stop guarding the food bowls. She guarded toys too, but anyways. We often had to be extra vigilant or she would bite the other dogs. One day, while we weren’t looking, she attacked our elderly dog who had found a morsel of floor food, and then my son who was trying to protect the ol’girl. This wasn’t the first time she got aggressive. The vets labeled her “highly aggressive” after taking a history. This came to a surprise to my brother, who said “No shes not! She usually so sweet!” and that’s the point I’m trying to make here, toxic people are hard to spot for the beginner Empath, because they’re not toxic 24/7. They get toxic at key times, like when you try to put up a boundary or they dont get what they want. So go ahead and try to implement boundaries with toxic people, it’ll be a good way to see where you stand with them, and if they’re capable of empathy. Just don’t make excuses for them when the writing on the wall becomes the reality in the room.

(if you’re truly confused about whether they are simply negotiating or are actually toxic, heres an article showing what a controlling person looks like https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/friendship-20/201506/20-signs-your-partner-is-controlling A little reading should clear the confusion)

Setting boundaries is an act of kindness and self love. They say to the universe “Hey! I love myself and I respect myself!” which of coarse, is then reflected back to us. Relationships have such a huge impact on the entirety of our lives. At Reiki and Alternative Healing, we believe in seeing things holistically, and healthy relationships are a big part or a holistically healthy life. There is not enough Reiki that can undue the emotional damage done by having your boundaries repeatedly crossed. It is your emotional/energetic body to manage, and a big part of that is having boundaries. So get out there and express yourself! If you need help or support with this, give me a call and lets work this out together

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