Relationships require boundaries in order for them to be healthy and to maintain connection and independence, all at the same time. A boundary is necessary for psychological wellbeing, physical autonomy and emotional independence from others. It can regenerate respect, surprise and connection when coming together again. This can be at the end of a work day, a big family gathering or even when going for a drink with friends. It can be a safe space to exist, set goals and experience life with its ups and downs, next to those you care about.
Boundaries can be very difficult when there are cultural tones and expectations. These can be set or conditioned in a family during childhood and as such, setting your own boundaries can be challenging. These situations can make setting boundaries and keeping independence from others even more difficult. Healthy boundaries encourage autonomy, they reduce the likelihood of codependent relationships and they give a sense of empowerment. Having separate goals, feelings and decisions that are your own is essential for psychological health. Without these, psychological health is compromised and for some, it becomes a cycle of resentment, anger and abandoning of their own needs. Here are some tips to help with setting healthy boundaries include:
Get in touch with what you want/ need:
Notice and attune to what you want and need from the other person. How do you feel when you are with this other person? Does this person align with your values? Are you being with or showing up to this person out of expectation? What qualities do you admire and how is it that you enjoy your time with the other? Does the other person treat you as an independent thinker and decision maker, or is this person infringing on your sense of control. If you own wisdom respected and respected?
Communicate what you need from the other person:
Thinking about this communication and planning ahead is a good idea. Think about what you want to say. Using “I” statements is necessary. This gives a clear account of you as a separate being and with separate needs to the other person. Other things to consider is the timing and location of when this communication takes place. For those who have certain expectations, communicating boundaries may trigger a response that may cause discomfort. This may be because the other person has learned to expect a certain relationship with those around them. So, practice what you want to say, and remember why it is important that these boundaries are being put in place; it gives the discomfort you may have a purpose!…
If the other person crosses the boundary you put in place:
If you are reading this, you may know whether the other person is doing this intentionally or it may be accidental. Either way, communicating the boundary again is crucial. This demonstrates that the boundary is to be respected, that you have not forgotten and that this boundary is crucial in maintaining a relationship with the other person (and possibly your loved ones or children). Make clear those consequences you want to put in place.
Hanaan Haddad is a registered Psychologist who has worked in Australia and the UK in both clinical and forensic settings. She has worked extensively with a wide range of complex mental health conditions.