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Setting Healthy Boundaries in a Healthy Relationship

boundaries boundary setting communication emotional boundary energy boundary healthy boundaries healthy communication healthy relationships physical boundary relationships time boundary toxic relationships Feb 27, 2022

Solid boundaries aren't just for toxic relationships. Healthy boundaries are necessary for healthy people in healthy relationships too. It's preventative measures to ensure a relationship doesn't turn sour. If you've looked for articles on boundaries in the past, you've most likely found a lot of material on how to set them with toxic family members or toxic friends, but a lot less on healthy boundaries for healthy relationships. But we're going to change that together in this blog post today.

The problem with waiting to set boundaries until a relationship is toxic is that the boundary will be more challenging to place due to feelings of worry or even fear. When a relationship with a friend, partner, or family member is toxic, it's moved beyond unhealthy and now is poisonous to your being. As humans, we can't exist in toxic environments without becoming sick and even risking death. It is never too late to begin setting healthy boundaries but let's go upstream and look at how to set boundaries now in your healthy relationships.  

Relationships can be unhealthy, but boundaries can also be harmful if too rigid. When a boundary becomes too rigid, it's most likely made out of fear or carried over from our family of origin, and we are using it as a "should." I'm always on the lookout for "shoulds." The primary function of our brains is to keep us safe & alive. Scrutinizing our decisions to ensure we make the best possible appears to help keep us safe, but a side effect is that it erodes our self-trust. We then set very rigid boundaries due to a lack of trust. The temporary product is safety, but the long-term effect is lost.

A healthy relationship has boundaries that contribute to a loving, supportive connection. You may not be mindful of the boundaries, but it is key to the health of your relationship. So let's bring it to the surface so you are aware and can be intentional about the health of your relationships. 

There are many different types of boundaries. These are a list, but not exhaustive, of the boundaries I want to discuss with you. They include energy, physical, emotional, and time. There's an interplay among these domains, yet each has its now unique set of details. Let's look at each of these and illustrate the differences between healthy and unhealthy boundaries. 

There are many sayings related to time. Time is money. Time is the essence of relationships. Time shows respect.   Time orientation is also a value system. People have different types of relationships with time which means they look at its passing differently. So setting healthy boundaries related to time in your connection will require a conversation.   If you feel that showing up on time 100% is a show of respect and your partner feels like timeliness is just a suggestion, you're going to have conflict. For example, if there is a specific event occurring that is critical, then communicate this to your partner to help them prioritize time differently. Or perhaps it might mean sharing that while you are working, you prefer not to get memes messaged to you and that you only want to be contacted in the case of an emergency.

Physical boundaries include your personal space and your body. Physical boundaries are passively communicated through structures like a closed door with a sign that says "knock before entering" or a "no solicitor" sign in your yard. These signs communicate to others that they need permission to enter your physical space. Boundaries related to your body should ensure that you feel comfortable. Any touch that makes you feel uncomfortable is boundary-crossing.   It is always your right to communicate to another person you are uncomfortable with and request what would put you at ease. This may include a complete absence of physical touch to a co-worker who has a habit of touching people on the back when they pass. Or perhaps your partner is more comfortable with physical touch in public, and you may make ask not to be touched in a specific way outside of the bedroom or home.

The key to healthy emotional boundaries is understanding your values. Being aware of what is most important to you will help you do the most difficult of tasks, such as keeping a firm boundary with your emotions. Healthy emotional boundaries also mean expressing your feelings and opinions without fear of judgment. For example, if you experience an emotion that requires rest, a healthy boundary is accepting the emotion and communicating it to those around you. It can be as basic as asking to postpone a conversation. Emotional boundaries also include asking for what you need. The last blog post, on February 13, talked about how to ask for what you want. This includes asking for someone to listen to your concerns and not provide solutions and try and "fix it."

The final healthy boundary I want to look at with you is your energetic boundary. This involves prioritizing yourself and saying no to things you don't want to do or don't have to capacity to do. There is always a consequence of crossing a boundary. In the energetic boundary, the result is most often your health. All too often, migraines, fatigue, or gastrointestinal concerns arise when the active boundary is not upheld.  

Once you know what boundaries you'd like to set, it is time to communicate them to your loved ones. A healthy relationship has healthy communication, so delivering the information can either hurt or help your efforts. For example, presenting the boundary using an "I" statement rather than beginning with "You need to.." can allow the recipient to listen more closely. On the other hand, if the communication is enhanced with a finger pointing at the other person, reconsider your delivery. If you have a close enough relationship, adding details as to why you need the boundary can also help gain understanding and acceptance.

Making it a habit to communicate regularly with those you love about how the relationship is going makes it less difficult to set a boundary. It doesn't always mean sitting down to an earnest conversation and hashing things out. With a friend, it might look like reflecting on how you appreciate how your friend continuously checks in if it's a good time to text before launching into a lengthy massive text session. Or conversely mentioning to a friend the time your child goes to bed, and you'd prefer not to get a call or text during this time as you're unavailable.   It might look like you are asking others what they like and need to model the type of communication you'd like to have in the relationship. 

There is so much more to say on this topic, so I am putting together a Pop-Up Podcast. It's a personal podcast just for my email subscribers. It'll include five episodes that you'll receive all at once. You can binge them (let's face it, you and I both know you will) or listen to one each day for a week like a course. Each episode will take a deeper dive into an aspect of Setting Healthy Boundaries in Relationships.   The length of the episodes is meant to fit into your life so you can listen on a commute, while doing dishes, waiting in the lobby at your kid's dentist appointment, etc.

Setting boundaries doesn't happen overnight. It requires time and effort to establish new ways of communicating. And when done with patience and an open mind, the boundaries will deepen relationships as you share your needs, wants, and hurts. Getting clear on the boundaries you want in your relationship makes it possible for your healthy relationship to flourish.  

What would you say if I told you that spending 5 minutes per day supporting your mental wellness could improve your gut health? And 5 minutes per day helping your gut health could improve your mental health?


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