Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Do they help or hurt our relationships?
When working with individual clients and families to set and maintain boundaries inside their relationships I often hear, "I'm afraid to place too strong of a boundary in this relationship because I'm afraid that it will hurt our relationship." Sometimes I hear, "I don't want to have boundaries in our relationship." I even get, "Placing boundaries in our relationship makes it hard for me to connect with them." All of these sentiments come from a place of not truly understanding how boundaries and limits actually strengthen our relationships and create increased experiences of healthy connection.
First, let's define the word "boundary." A boundary inside of your relationship is a limit that you place in order for you to uphold your values. It's necessary when developing your boundaries, that you first become clear on what your personal values are. Once you confidently understand your personal value system, your ability to effectively set and maintain boundaries within relationships will be much stronger.
Inside of a healthy relationship, boundaries and limits don't waiver. They are value-based hard-lines that determine what you will or will not accept. Inside of any relationship boundaries become imperative because without them, we're left unknowing where the other person begins and where they end. We're left without knowing what our ability to lean on them looks like when those moments arise. The question goes unanswered regarding whether or not they are a safe space. Because boundaries are unwavering, they demonstrate consistency. Consistency lends itself to security because it leaves the people inside of the relationship with understanding of how the other person will "show up." This creates the space for empathy, which we know is essential inside healthy relationships. When boundaries are implemented in relationships, the consistency leads to security, and when we are in secure relationships there is then ability to practice vulnerability and engage in empathy.