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BOUNDARIES: Definition and Types of Boundaries (Part 1 of 3)

A definition of what boundaries ARE, examples of different types of boundaries, and how to recognize and define your own boundaries.

This post is for a video which is the first in a three-part series.

In the second video, we will explore how to set boundaries, which includes communicating your boundaries to others.

In the third video, Enforcing Boundaries, I will show you effective ways to assert yourself as you remind others of your boundaries if they continue to violate your boundaries.

Information in this series can be used for any type of relationship—romantic relationships, friend and family relationships, and work relationships.

What is a boundary?

A boundary is a limit you can set on what you will accept of another person’s words or actions. Boundaries can be:

  • Material
  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional

A common misconception about boundaries:

Myth: “Boundaries are BAD because they keep people apart!”

Fact: Healthy boundaries are for keeping bad elements (such as cruelty, abuse, harassment, and manipulation) out of your life and relationships.

Boundaries keep people together in a healthy way!

Healthy boundaries and respect help people communicate more effectively and work together, making people less likely to fight or want to leave the relationship.

“Good fences make good neighbors” and it’s true for all types of relationships!

Take care of yourself first!

Part of a flight’s safety instructions include putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others. This is good advice for other aspects of your life. Not taking care of yourself first can cause dissatisfaction and burnout. It can also lead to resentment—so taking care of yourself is not only good for you, it’s good for your relationships.

Boundaries go both ways

  • You need to be able to say “no”.
  • Learn how to accept “no” from other people—they need to protect their boundaries, too!
  • By setting a good example, you are providing a template by which others can set appropriate behavior.

Material Boundaries

  • What you feel comfortable lending
  • You can tell someone you don’t want them to damage your belongings.
  • Limits on time (your time is valuable)
  • Limits on favors/services/labor

An example that includes a personal belonging as well as your time and labor is common to those who own pick-up trucks. If you have a pick-up truck, you’ve likely been asked by someone to help them move.

Physical Boundaries

  • Personal space
  • Touching
    • WHO can touch you
    • HOW they touch you
    • WHERE they touch you
    • WHEN they touch you
  • Sexual boundaries

Coming too close can be accidental, or an attempt to intimidate you. If you don’t want to be touched on certain parts of your body, or at a specific time or social context, that should also be respected.

Mental Boundaries

  • Thoughts
  • Values
  • Opinions
  • Beliefs

Trying to persuade another person can turn into a shouting match or intimidation when boundaries have been crossed.

Emotional Boundaries

Having indistinct emotional boundaries is common for people who are codependent.

Learn how to separate your feelings from other people’s feelings.

Your feelings should not depend on other people’s thoughts, feelings, or moods. In this way, an emotional boundary is, in most cases, one that you set on yourself.

Give yourself permission to have your own feelings, and not to take on the burden of other people’s feelings.

You don’t need to define yourself by your relationship to other people. You should not be defined by your job, marital status, or your family. Those things affect your responsibilities, but you are not responsible for the burden of how other people think you should feel, or how you believe they think you should feel.

  • Know “where you end and I begin”.
  • Separate identity—you are “your own person”.
  • Be aware of your feelings.
  • Be aware of your choices.
  • You are responsible for your

It’s important to be aware that you are in control of your feelings. Your feelings are a choice.

Just as your feelings are a choice, other people make choices about how they feel. They are responsible for those choices. You don’t need to “carry the weight” of their feelings.

You’re responsible for how you treat other people, but you’re not responsible for their feelings.

When you allow other people’s feelings to rule your life, you make yourself unnecessarily vulnerable and easier to manipulate.

This could make ending an unhealthy relationship DIFFICULT—because a manipulative person can take advantage of the situation—making the vulnerable person who lacks emotional boundaries feel guilty for wanting to end a relationship. Feelings of guilt over the manipulative person’s hurt feelings can keep a vulnerable person trapped in an unhealthy relationship.

To DEFINE your boundaries:

Think about these main points. It might help to write down your observations of these main points in order to clarify these boundaries.

  • Most people don’t realize what their boundaries are until they’ve been crossed.
  • When they crossed the “invisible line” it was your boundary. You might not have known you had a boundary.
  • What upsets/offends you?
  • Who does this? It’s often the same person who crosses your boundaries.

For personalized assistance with defining, setting, and enforcing your boundaries for better relationships, contact us at 317-842-8881.