Boundaries are invisible limits and rules we choose to follow in our relationships. Unlike popular misconception, boundaries don’t set people apart, they help people build healthy relationships without cruelty, abuse or manipulation. They define how you want to be treated by others and help you communicate your expectations. Healthy boundaries decrease the chances of fighting, resentment, being offended by each other and when breaking up. The extent of boundaries can vary between rigid, healthy and porous. People who maintain rigid boundaries tend to have few close relationships, and they put a lot of effort to set a safe distance. Porous personal boundaries, on the other hand, are usually a sign of people-pleasing behaviour. People with weak boundaries allow themselves to compromise their comfort to respond to other people’s expectations which is ultimately damaging. People who set healthy boundaries can maintain intimate relationships and build meaningful connections while honouring their own preferences.
To set healthy boundaries, first try to understand what you are comfortable with in every facet of your life. What are your core values, what matters to you in a relationship, what are your limits, what are the things that are not negotiable for you? This stage helps you define your boundaries. Secondly, you need to figure out how you can communicate your boundaries and how you can act when they are violated. When you are trying to express your boundaries, be consistent and remember that you have every right to have some boundaries. Boundaries are not selfish, and don’t feel guilty for protecting and respecting your own feelings and needs. Say no to things that don’t feel right. Saying no doesn’t make you a mean person. Make sure that you are direct and clear about your boundaries and the message is communicated properly. Another aspect of working on boundaries is respecting other people’s boundaries. Accept that not everyone will show you respect. If a person is constantly invalidating your boundaries, this shows that they are toxic and/or manipulative. Finally, if defining, setting and maintaining boundaries feels challenging, consider asking for professional support. A psychotherapist can help you gain the tools needed to set healthy boundaries.
Now, let’s take a look at different types of boundaries:
Time boundary is all about how you want to spend your time. You get to decide what you want to prioritise, how much time you want to spend for each role in your life and what your time is worth for you. Some of the things you might want to consider are: how much me-time you need, what is your greatest priority which needs to take a greater portion of your time, and how much money you want to charge per hour in a professional context. To have a healthy balance where you have time for each facet of your life, you need to set your time boundaries. When a person demands more time than you are comfortable with, this is a violation of your time boundary. Some examples of time boundary violations are: taking a professional’s time without paying, showing up late, cancelling at the last minute, and keeping people busy for longer than was agreed upon.
Physical boundaries are the boundaries related to physical contact. Physical boundaries can be set about anything related to your body including touch, space, privacy, what you want to eat or drink, rest and sleep. For example, if you don’t want to drink alcohol on a certain occasion, it is okay to do that and not let others pressure you into it.
To define your boundaries question the situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Who is allowed to touch you and to what extent? Your body belongs to you and physical boundaries can help you to define how you want to protect it. If there are areas of your body that you don’t want to be touched, it is okay for you to express this and expect people to respect your choice. Setting your boundaries as early as possible is the best approach. Express them with confidence and without fear. Inappropriate touch, physical violence and abuse, being denied your physical needs like drinking water or going to the toilet, sitting very close to someone in a disturbing way are areas where you can set boundaries.
Sexual boundaries address issues related to physical intimacy such as consent, safety and communication. Sexual intimacy can be a vulnerable subject. Many men and women are disturbed by their traumatising experiences from the past and setting boundaries are necessary to enjoy a healthy and happy sexual life with your partner/s. Your comfort matters and it is important for you to clearly state your likes, dislikes and red lines. Setting sexual boundaries is important in every relationship including with long-term partners. It is okay to express your limits and you don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel right. It is fun to explore new things with your partner and spice things up but it is equally important to feel safe and respected during your adventures together. Pressuring people to perform unwanted sexual acts, misleading people about contraception use and sexual health history are some of the examples of crossing sexual boundaries.
To set your boundaries, you need to consider your choices on intimacy. What feels right, who feels right? How can you communicate consent verbally and non-verbally? Asking for consent, expressing your likes and dislikes, discussing contraception methods, requesting to use a condom, expressing discomfort and pain are some of the issues you can consider to set healthy sexual boundaries.
Intellectual or mental boundaries include boundaries related to your thoughts, ideas, values, opinions and beliefs. Respecting people’s opinions is a sign of healthy intellectual boundaries. On the other hand, belittling, shaming and dismissing them shows boundary violations. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to accept all ideologies. Harmful and hurtful opinions such as racism and homophobia can require you to set a clear boundary. It is okay to distance yourself from such opinions. You don’t have to tolerate people who hurt you and others with their views.
To set your boundaries you need to think about your core values, and how to respond when you feel that they are not respected. Think about what makes you feel uncomfortable, do friendly debates feel right? Would you like to avoid talking about religion with your family? Consider ways to remove yourself from conversations you don’t want to have. For example, if your partner tells you that you are wrong and calls you names when discussing your conflicting political affiliations, this is a boundary violation. You can remind the person that your values and opinions matter and you will not have such conversations with them if you feel disrespected. Defensiveness, getting very emotional and argumentativeness can be signs of weak mental boundaries.
Emotional boundaries are related to how you honour other’s feelings. Emotional boundaries help you feel safe when you are communicating your feelings and building intimate bonds. Weak emotional boundaries can make it harder to distinguish your emotions from others which is a sign of codependency. Weak emotional boundaries can make you an easier target for emotional manipulation, people can try to make you feel guilty for your feelings and to get what they want from you. Boundaries help you to maintain a positive self-image.
You can’t direct your every choice in life according to other people’s feelings, as it is not healthy for you nor for the other person to take the burden of their emotional states. Everyone has to learn how to deal with their feelings at some point in life one way or the other. You are responsible for your actions towards others but not for how they feel. Everyone is responsible for their own emotions and it is important to differentiate your feelings from other people’s.
There is a limit to how much you can take when it comes to emotions. For example, you can’t be emotionally available to others’ pain at all times and your capability to take in emotional information can fluctuate. Criticising feelings, assuming you know how others feel or telling them what they need to feel, manipulating others’s feelings, sharing emotionally charged personal information to an emotionally unavailable person are examples of emotional boundary violations.
If you’d like to apply key principles of Tantra to your personal relationships and study this ancient wisdom to improve your connections with other people, we invite you to take part in our Tantra Method Practitioner Training.
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