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The Critical Art of Setting Boundaries for Improving Your Relationships

3 minutes to read

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We’ve all been there: that one family member or friend who doesn’t seem to understand your boundaries. It’s like they think they have a free pass to do or say whatever they want, no matter how it makes you feel.

I recently had an experience with one of these boundary-crossers—and that’s when I decided that it was time to put my foot down.

My Situation

It started with a simple request to borrow my Bissel carpet cleaner. No big deal, right? Except this same family member has asked to borrow something almost every week — without returning the previously borrowed thing (for instance, my holiday linens) — and without so much as a “please” or “thank you.”

At first, I kept saying yes because I wanted to be helpful and polite, but then it started taking its toll on me. I began feeling taken advantage of, and my resentment toward this family member grew with each passing day.

Finally, after months of feeling taken advantage of and disrespected, I realized that the only way out was to set some boundaries. But how?

Reading Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab gave me great insight and helped me carve a path for setting boundaries for myself.

Man holding up hand indicating to stop

I learned that setting boundaries are about clearly and firmly communicating what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. And it truly helped my situation.

A few weeks ago, my family member asked to borrow my carpet cleaner (she still hasn’t returned my linens). Instead of giving in like usual, I politely said no and gave her my reasons.

To my surprise (and delight), the response wasn’t as confrontational as I was dreading. All it took was one conversation for things to change dramatically for the better – for both of us.

The Benefits of Setting Boundaries

woman drinking coffee smiling at camera

Setting boundaries has many benefits, such as helping you maintain your mental health and well-being and protecting you from feeling overwhelmed by other people’s demands or expectations.

Having clear boundaries allows us to say “no” with confidence when something doesn’t align with your values or beliefs without feeling guilty about it.

Setting boundaries also encourages respect in your relationships because when you make it clear what you will and won’t accept, others know how far they can push you before they cross the line.

Establishing boundaries with family and friends is essential to maintain healthy relationships. Boundaries help define the limits of behavior for the individual setting them and the person with whom they are communicating. They create a sense of security and trust between each person and help individuals understand what is expected of them.

When done correctly, setting boundaries can help build trust within relationships because it shows that you have respect for yourself and those around you. It also helps create a balance between giving and taking, which prevents one party from becoming overwhelmed or taken advantage of.

Boundaries can also be a valuable tool for self-care. Boundaries allow you to decide how much energy and time you want to give to someone, when it’s necessary to step away from a situation or relationship, and when it’s not ok for people to expect too much from you.

In addition, having clear boundaries allows you to control how much of your time and energy you’re willing to give away and helps you manage your relationships with others. Boundaries make it easier to decide who you choose as friends or partners because if someone is unwilling or incapable of respecting your limits, then they are probably not worth investing too much time in. Setting boundaries can help protect you from difficult or messy relationships down the road.

How to Set Boundaries 

White picket fence on green lawn

Admittedly, it can be tricky to determine where to draw the line.

When setting boundaries with family, it’s important to consider their feelings while understanding your need for space and protection.

Start by verbalizing what makes you uncomfortable in certain situations, as this will help you create an atmosphere of understanding without confrontation.

Communicate your needs clearly but remain open-minded and respect the other person’s wishes, too, where possible. It’s important not to let guilt or pressure affect your decisions either – stand firm by setting boundaries that work best for you.

Similarly, when discussing boundaries with friends, you must be honest about how much time and energy you’re willing to give and what kind of support system looks like for both parties involved. Don’t be afraid to express how something made you feel uncomfortable, as this will create an opportunity for more open dialogues.

Be honest with yourself. It’s important that you understand what kind of person you are and your limits before trying to set any boundary lines with anyone else. Take some time alone to really think about what matters most to you and then use that as a basis for establishing your limits when dealing with others. 

Communicate clearly. Ensure everyone involved understands the boundary by communicating clearly and directly about it. Explain why this limit is necessary for you so that people know why it needs to exist in the first place rather than just hearing “no” all the time!          

Be consistent. Once you have established a boundary line, make sure that you stick by it no matter what. If someone tries to push past this limit, then remind them firmly but politely (and without guilt-tripping) why this boundary exists in the first place so that they understand why their request isn’t being granted this time.

Be flexible. While consistency is important when establishing any type of boundary line, don’t forget that sometimes things change. You may find that certain situations require different rules or limits depending on how serious they are or who else is involved, so make sure that these changes are reflected appropriately within your new set of guidelines.

Setting boundaries with family or friends may initially feel intimidating, but remember that it takes time and patience. Just keep reiterating what works best for you until everyone understands each other’s expectations without causing conflict or misunderstanding each other’s intentions.            

From my own experience, I’ve learned that setting boundaries isn’t only about protecting myself from abusive people or situations; it’s also about showing those around me respect by teaching them how I expect to be treated in return.

Plus, by establishing clear expectations between myself and my friends/family/coworkers, I can avoid unnecessary conflict and create healthier relationships overall.

When Your Stomach Feels Like It’s Tied Up in Knots

Woman holding her stomach from pain

Before I committed to setting boundaries, the thought of upsetting or disappointing someone could make my stomach feel tied up in knots.

I hope you discover, like I did, that boundaries help you feel less anxious, overwhelmed, and sick in the stomach.

Another thing I do every day to put my tummy in a state of “Zen” is to take Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Biotics™.

If you feel like your stomach is often tied in knots due to stress or other factors, consuming our daily probiotic Dynamic Bioticsmay help to reduce digestive issues and increase overall health.

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