If you want to have a good relationship with anyone, it’s important to have healthy boundaries. And this is true whether we’re talking about your relationship with your partner, mother, father, child, friend or colleagues at work. When we don’t have healthy boundaries, we have difficulty relating to other people and in experiencing true intimacy. So let’s take a look at what it means to have healthy boundaries.
When we have healthy boundaries, we understand that I am me and you are you and that each one of us has a right to be here and to be who we are. It also means that each of us has the right to make choices for ourselves and then to experience the consequences of all our thoughts, words and actions. When we have healthy boundaries we understand this and respect everyone’s right to be or do what feels right for them (and experience the consequences).
As a result of having healthy boundaries we respect other people’s rights and we expect other people to respect our rights. This means that when someone tells you how you should think or feel or what you should say or do when you don’t specifically ask them for their advice; they are not respecting your boundaries and your right to be you. This is an example of a boundary violation and is why it feels so uncomfortable. Taking good care of you means being able to recognize a boundary violation when it happens and then being able to clearly tell the other person that when you want their advice, you will ask for it! But this works both ways, which means you also respect other people and don’t tell them what to think, say or do unless they specifically ask for your advice or opinion. In other words, you do not violate other people’s boundaries either.
People who have trouble with boundaries usually fall into two main categories: Boundary-less and walls. In the first category (boundary-less) are people who have no boundaries and uncritically let other people tell them what to think, say or do. In this category are also people who tell other people what to think, say and do without being asked first. Both types of people are boundary-less.
The second category (walls) usually arise in people who have been violated so much that they have walls instead of boundaries and never let anyone get close to them. Unfortunately, this also prevents them from showing and sharing who they really are.
And then of course there are people who swing between being boundary-less and having walls. In all these cases, it is difficult to have close, healthy relationships with other people and to experience true intimacy which is the ability to share who one is with other people in a respectful manner.
When we begin to understand what it means to have healthy boundaries, we can learn to communicate honestly and respect both ourselves and the right of other people to say and do what feels right for them. And we can also learn to take better care of ourselves when another person tries to interfere with our right to make our own choices.
Barbara and Tim