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How Boundaries Create Positive Relationships

It’s a common misconception that someone may set boundaries in order to remove or exclude others from their life. Quite the contrary!

THE reason we set boundaries is to keep someone in our lives in a way that allows for a positive relationship.

We do this by expressing how we feel (not always, it may depend how close you are with this person), stating the boundary, then explaining consequences if that boundary is pushed or broken (again, depending how close you are and perhaps how this person tends to handle boundaries, assuming they don’t respect them currently).

For example, you tell your mother that you feel disrespected when she feeds your children junk food when you asked her not to. You then let her know what is/is not okay with you (“if you want to give them a treat, these options are okay to give…”). Then, you let her know the consequences if she doesn’t maintain this behavior “if you can’t do this, I won’t be able to leave them for overnight visits anymore.”

This is HARD you guys.

I think what a lot of us don’t want to face is that often we are sacrificing more than just the positive relationship in this exchange / when boundaries are broken.

In this example, maybe you don’t have other reliable overnight babysitters and you really need to be able to leave your kids with your mom. So, it’s a bit of a lose-lose when she doesn’t respect this request of yours in the moment.

The WIN is your own self-respect, which is the aim here. You only allow people to treat you with respect.

But, as with discipline for toddlers and children in general, if there are not consequences to breaking these rules you’ve stated, then why would someone uphold them when their default is to not?

I am not here to replace a therapist. Please seek family or personal therapy if you’re struggling with your relationship with your mom, spouse, etc. I know, however, that often you’re in a place that the other person or people aren’t, and bringing them to therapy isn’t going to happen.

One of the hardest parts about setting boundaries is realizing that when the other person can’t be in a relationship with you in a way that feels good for BOTH of you, they may *choose* no relationship at all!

How have boundaries shown up in your relationships?

Comments 2

  1. This is timely. I’ve been doing some hard work around my relationship with my mom for past few months and trying to figure out “what do I want my relationship with my mom to look like?” And, “how do I set boundaries with her to help mold that relationship?”
    Thanks for the examples and explanation of what boundaries do for relationships. I’m always fearful that they’ll turn people off but when I do use them it’s only helpful and I feel better about myself.

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