In my opinion, any relationship that doesn’t have healthy boundaries is not living up to its full potential. Yet, many are either unwilling or unable to set them. Many clients I see can not even define what a healthy boundary might even look like or are afraid of the consequences of setting them. Why would this situation, which in effect, is one of the healthiest practices we can engage in, go so wrong so often? The simple answer is that you cannot practice what you have never been taught. Many who find the setting of boundaries difficult, come from backgrounds where there were none, they were too tight or too loose, meaning that an element of fear exists in using them. Boundaries define your personal physical and psychological space and teach others how you wish to be treated. They define you and your values and define you as an individual. They are an essential part of interacting with others and good boundaries build bridges in a sense of emotional honesty. They do not destroy if set in the right way. More importantly, it allows you to define who you want in your life. More on healthy boundaries HERE.
People like me are always trying to make others see the value of setting healthy boundaries in the spirit of emotional honesty. That is expressing what you feel honestly and assertively when there is a feeling that a boundary needs to be set. In my opinion, if this is done consistently and without the fear of judgment, it can lead to a much deeper sense of intimacy in any relationship.
For a variety of reasons, it is very often very difficult for some people to even think about the value of boundaries. Some have never been exposed to healthy boundaries and have no idea when and how to set them. Some know how but are afraid for fear of “rocking the boat” or the reaction that might come from the other side. Some feel they do not deserve to say anything and live in resentment. Some hold back from saying what they think as a way of controlling the response of the other person. So you can maybe already work out that setting boundaries is not as easy as the theory suggests and people struggle badly with it. My advice is don’t be afraid of boundaries… they are extremely healthy and they can tell you a lot about the person you are setting boundaries around. One thing to keep in mind is that your responsibility is only to deliver the boundary in an assertive, honest way and without aggression. How the receiver takes it is not your issue. You are not responsible for the reaction from the other side.
One category not mentioned above are those who can and do set healthy boundaries but have them destroyed by someone who doesn’t accept the boundary or feels that people are not allowed to set them. They are knocked back with anger, insult or gaslighting. Some people then find it difficult to set a second boundary and allow this abuse to happen. This gives some the idea that the setting of boundaries is not worthwhile or useless or is too much trouble and takes too much energy. This is exactly what the other side might want and the resistance of healthy boundaries is abusive and controlling. If open discussion does not help and you have maybe tried getting outside help… what is to be done?
Should you ever stay in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect healthy boundaries and doesn’t allow them to be set? Definitely not. The healthy setting of boundaries is a major part of the 4 pillars of trust, honesty, respect and the mutual meeting of needs that go to making up a solid foundation for a healthy relationship. It deepens intimacy and brings security and stability to the relationship. Without boundaries and intimacy, we can only ever hope to have a superficial relationship with another person. Boundaries define you as a person and how you want to be treated. We mostly all know how to set physical boundaries. We would never allow anyone to touch us inappropriately or to invade our physical comfort zone. The concept is exactly the same with our emotional boundaries. I always describe it as a house with a white picket fence. You have to decide who is allowed past that fence under what circumstances and who stays out outside. Those who break through need to be pushed outside. It is never too late to start this very healthy process.