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Types of Boundaries and How to Set Them Effectively

Updated on April 15, 2014

Boundaries are Healthy Limits We Set for Ourselves

What are Boundaries

A boundary is a limit that promotes integrity. At the most basic level, your skin is a physical boundary that protects you when you fall. If you get a cut, your physical body's integrity becomes compromised. Similarly, when people pass your emotional boundaries, or when you fail to set emotional boundaries, your integrity and your happiness becomes threatened.

There many different types of boundaries and a wide array of opportunities in life when setting boundaries is necessary if you want to take care of yourself. Boundaries promote healthy relationships, help you prioritize your life properly, and increase your self esteem.

A boundary is a limit. By setting boundaries, you protect your integrity, your energy and spirit, the health of your relationships, the pursuits of your heart. A lack of boundaries can lead to low self esteem, lack of self worth and increased stress. Setting boundaries can be difficult, but by doing so, you are telling others that you value your own self worth.

No one else can set boundaries for you - only you can change your life.

The Difference Between Boundaries and Defenses

Identifying the different between boundaries and defenses is very important. Boundaries are healthy limits you establish yourself in order to show others that you respect yourself and that you won't allow others to take advantage of you.

Defenses are reactions to situations or circumstances in life that make you feel threatened, afraid or violated. Defenses are instantaneous and prevent you from allowing yourself to feel painful emotions. Unlike boundaries, defenses are instinctual - a survival mechanism embedded in all of us. Boundaries allow you to enjoy the good things in life while still protecting you from being violated.

Boundaries discriminate. In contrast, defenses have the unfortunate characteristic of closing you out from experiencing the good parts of life.

Boundaries are an Integral Part of Self-Care

Time Boundaries

Time is precious. None of us have an unending quantity of time, which means that the way we choose to allocate our time is extremely important. Are you using your time the way you want to be using it? Or are you allowing other people to allocate your time for you? Time boundaries are the best way that you can take back authority over your life, and your time.

You hurt yourself when you sacrifice your time to others against your own wishes. You can begin to set time boundaries by searching for and identifying your own values, being clear and open about your feelings, and protecting your own time needs. Healthy time boundaries are flexible, based off of your own priorities, and are firm. At the end of your life, all that will matter is how you decided to allocated your time.

Be cautious not to fall towards either end of the time spectrum though - either giving away too much of your time or being too rigid with your time.

Setting Boundaries

Anger Boundaries

Many people suppress their anger, labeling it as bad or wrong. Others lash out when they are angry, unable to channel the emotion properly. We all get angry, and most of us cope with it in unhealthy ways. Anger is a powerful motion, but neither lashing out nor bottling up is the solution. This is why anger boundaries are so important.

When you learn how to express anger in a direct, healthy way, you can learn about yourself. You can see a problem from a new perspective, and maybe even see how you might have caused the problem. Expressing anger in a healthy way is a great release, and can even be enlightening.

When you have healthy anger boundaries set, you listen to the other person, you avoid "you" statements that make the other person feel defensive, you don't use sarcasm to hide your true emotions, and you take responsibility for your actions and your feelings.

Healthy anger boundaries allow you to apologize for things you did wrong, as well as accept apologies from others who show you sincere regret. Healthy anger is like a thunderstorm that returns humidity to a comfortable level.

Spiritual Boundaries

Being in contact with your own spiritual nature and exploring ways to access your higher power are essential aspects of being fully human. Anyone that attempts to block or control your connection with your spiritual side is making a clear boundary violation. We are called as human beings to identify our own spiritual connection - whether it is with God, nature, or an unknown higher power. Regardless of who we connect with spiritually, it is imperative that we choose for ourselves where that connection goes. No one should force your spiritual beliefs or push you into a certain religion.

No higher power ever forced their followers one way or another - everyone's spiritual journey is theirs and theirs alone. If you feel like someone is violating your spiritual boundaries, say something. When you allow others to violate your spiritual boundaries, you are compromising your values. By knowing what you value and what you believe in, you can establish firm spiritual boundaries that others will respect.

Intimacy Boundaries

Intimacy boundaries can be some of the hardest boundaries to establish. All humans are born with a desire and a need for the love of others. True intimacy requires that both people in the relationship are completely whole - this is the only way to avoid unhealthy dependency issues. In order to be a whole person, you must have healthy boundaries established that protect you and ensure that maintain your self-respect.

To establish healthy intimacy boundaries:

  • Pay attention when others extend themselves for you
  • Appreciate gifts of time, effort, money, energy, attention and thoughtfulness
  • Take responsibility for communicating your needs
  • State your needs directly and honestly
  • Be honest about your feelings
  • Listen to your heart and express how you feel openly
  • Only compromise with someone else when it is good for both parties
  • Be open to discussion about uncomfortable topics

Depending on the relationship, intimacy boundaries will vary, but regardless, all relationships require boundaries if you want the relationships to last. Boundaries can help re-route relationships that have fallen off track and improve relationships that have broken or are close to breaking.

Creating Healthy Boundaries Promotes Healthy Relationships

Boundaries Poll

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Boundary Violations

A boundary is like a line drawn in the sand that says "this is my space, keep out." When someone crosses that line, they become a threat and are no longer treating you with the respect you deserve. The longer you allow someone to abuse you, violate you, the stronger they become and the weaker you become.

Sometimes people cross your boundaries by accident, and sometimes people cross your boundaries on purpose. Neither of these are okay, and in both situations you have the right to stand up for yourself and express your feelings.

Muster your self power, center yourself, and be clear and straightforward when you state your boundaries. Remember that no one can cross your boundaries unless you allow them. If you don't call someone out who violates your boundaries, they will not feel compelled to stop. The longer you stay in a situation that compromises your values, the more traumatized you become.

You have a responsibility to protect your boundaries and stand up for yourself. If you don't start standing up for yourself, who will?


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    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      7 years ago from Bridgewater

      Hahah Billy! My fiancé is also a writer and we both work from home. He can concentrate even if bombs are falling around him, while I need complete silence. It can be a challenge finding my peace sometimes!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Writers who work from home better establish boundaries very quickly or nothing will get done....but I

    • Cherylann Mollan profile image

      Cherylann Mollan 

      7 years ago from India

      Well-written article with a much-needed message. We all sometimes forget that we need to care about our needs too and that it is necessary to set boundaries, even in close relationships. I found a lot of points I could utilize in my life so great job. Voted up!


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