Setting boundaries with loved ones

by Alexa Diego | July 2020

Boundaries are what we set with individuals in our lives to let them know:

  • what we can and cannot tolerate, 
  • how we would like to be treated, 
  • and how we communicate our needs. 

We set boundaries not only to keep us safe and to protect our energy, but also because others cannot read our minds. Learning how to effectively set boundaries with others helps us to become better communicators and shows our ability to assert ourselves to others. 

It can be difficult to set boundaries if we never have learned to do so in a healthy manner. This challenge is amplified when it comes to our loved ones as they tend to be the people that are the most difficult for us to set clear boundaries with. Additionally, people closest to us may sometimes not accept our boundaries. However, without healthy boundaries, life can be emotionally exhausting because people can feel they have the permission to treat you in the way they choose to, without considering what you want.

Being gentle with yourself is essentially the first step in the right direction to set boundaries with your loved ones. Doing so gives you the space to remind yourself that you deserve others to treat you with kindness and respect, even if that may cause someone to be upset with you for limiting yourselves to them. Just remember that people who honor and respect your boundaries are the ones to keep close to you in life because they understand you are your own person and you are trying your best to show up as best you can. 

To give you an idea of some healthy boundaries, please refer to these examples:

  1. “I want to support you in the way that you need, but I need some time to recharge first.” The key to setting a healthy boundary is to put yourself and your needs first because you can’t pour from an empty cup. Doing so will allow yourself to show up for others more effectively. 
  2. “Since we hung out yesterday, I would like to spend some time with my best friend today.” This example shows assertiveness in that it was expressed quite firmly, rather than giving the other person a chance to feel like they were given an option to change your mind. 
  3. “I appreciate your invitation to eat out, but I have been so exhausted lately from work. It is best I stay in and get some rest.” A boundary should be expressed in a kind manner, usually considering that the other person may get upset for not accepting their invitation, and lastly, expressing the need to rest. 

To summarize, being able to set healthy boundaries will always do the following: 

  1. define your desired boundary, 
  2. communicate your needs, 
  3. remain simple and clear, and 
  4. state its importance.