How Boundaries Strengthen Relationships

boundaries strengthen relationships

Boundaries are a hallmark of any healthy, stable relationship – romantic or otherwise. We often assume that the people closest to us should instinctively understand how we feel. Instead of expecting people to intuit your needs and wants, take time to specifically define them.

You can create boundaries with anyone in your life – your partner, work colleagues, parents or siblings, for example. Like any skill, it takes time to master the art of setting boundaries that strengthen your relationships, instead of detracting from them. With that in mind, here are some do’s and don’ts of setting effective boundaries.

Do Take Time to Understand Yourself 

It’s impossible to come up with boundaries without first identifying where you stand. Having self-awareness is essential to setting healthy boundaries with others. Analyze your values and dislikes and how you want others to treat you. In the earliest phases of boundary-setting, you might find it helps organize your thoughts to write them down and define your goals for all your closest relationships.

Do Clearly Define Your Needs

After you’ve taken time to identify your boundaries, tell the people in your life about them. If you don’t actively explain where the lines are, you’ll lay the groundwork for future misunderstandings.

Often, women allow others to continue violating our boundaries because we worry it will seem pushy, or that it will drive the other person away. However, when someone steps over the line, you should politely and respectfully speak up about it. Otherwise, you’re defeating the purpose of creating specific boundaries. In the worst-case scenario, you could start resenting the other person, which will eventually undermine your relationship.

Do Give Yourself Permission

Self-doubt can work against you, leading you to question whether you deserve to have boundaries at all. But having boundaries and working to preserve them indicates a high level of self-respect. If it feels like someone is taking advantage of you, crossing a line or is a drain on your emotional energy, don’t feel guilty about being assertive and telling them no.

Don’t Use Absolutes or Ultimatums

The most effective boundaries have some flexibility. Using phrases like “always” or “never” is setting yourself up for disappointment, because it’s unrealistic to expect the other person will be able to uphold those expectations over the long term.

By the same token, if your reason for defining boundaries is to manipulate the other person into doing something you want or to create a double standard, that’s unhealthy. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to tell a friend you don’t want them to behave a specific way if you continue to do so whenever you like.  

Don’t Be Vague

The most successful boundaries that strengthen relationships are specific. Expecting the people around you to be mind-readers defeats the purpose. Ensure you’re on the same page by communicating the details of your expectations. For instance, instead of telling your partner something ambiguous like “Don’t spend too much money,” set a monthly household budget you can both agree to stick to.

Be Kind to Yourself

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Our residential program combines high-accountability sober living arrangements with first-rate clinical care. While staying in our homes, clients participate in process groups, one-on-one counseling sessions, and hands-on learning opportunities. They also receive ongoing training; in these meetings, life skills like financial management and conflict resolution are imparted. All of this happens with 24/7 encouragement, guidance, and supervision from our clinical team.
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