A boundary is a space between you and another person. Think of it as a fence or a gate. As the gatekeeper, you can decide how close another person gets to you physically and emotionally. By setting boundaries, you allow the other person to prove his trustworthiness before you let him get closer into your life.
Method One of Four:
Understanding Healthy BoundariesEdit
1Understand the purpose of healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries are a way to protect yourself, giving yourself freedom to conduct your life in a way that helps you flourish. People model boundaries based on what they’ve learned in previous relationships – with their parents, siblings, friends, and romantic partners.
2Compare healthy and unhealthy boundaries. Before you can establish healthy boundaries, you need to recognize what unhealthy boundaries look like. Some unhealthy boundaries include:
- Needing to always be together with your partner.
- Manipulating your partner.
- Inability to have friendships with other people.
- Using alcohol and drugs to make yourself feel more comfortable in your relationship.
- Wanting the relationship to never change.
- Jealousy or lack of commitment.
3Recognize what emotional boundaries are. Healthy emotional boundaries mean that you are able to voice your desires and preferences. Your emotional boundaries separate your emotions from those of another. They protect your self-esteem. These “include beliefs, behaviors, choices, sense of responsibility, and your ability to be intimate with others.”  Some examples of healthy emotional boundaries are:
- Your own health and well-being are important, and you will not be forced to neglect your own needs.
- You have a right to be treated with respect.
- You will not be manipulated or forced to do things you don’t want to do, even if the other person is attempting to make you feel guilty.
- You won’t allow others to yell at you, make you feel bad about who you are or what you are doing, or call you names.
- You don’t blame others for things that are your responsibility, and you don’t allow others to blame you for things that are not your responsibility.
- You keep your emotions separate from other people’s emotions, although you empathize with the people you care about.
- You convey your own needs assertively, and work towards cooperation if possible. This helps maintain mutual respect.
4Recognize physical boundaries for your physical self. Another aspect of physical boundaries is the physical distance between us and another person. People who are good friends or family members have less physical distance between them in their interactions.
- When someone intrudes on our physical space, we feel it internally. It feels awkward and unnatural.
- When you are in a relationship, make sure you are comfortable with how you express yourself physically with the other person. Have a conversation about what will make you feel safe and loved.
- Northern Europeans and North Americans observe the largest personal space distance.
- People in Middle Eastern countries, South America, and southern Europe have the smallest personal space distance, and touching is common.
- Eastern cultures consider touching or patting on the back as taboo and offensive.
5Recognize physical boundaries for your possessions. Physical boundaries are often described as personal space. Personal space includes physical possessions such as your home, your bedroom, your belongings, your car, etc. It is well within your rights to establish boundaries with others about respect for your privacy and your possessions.
- It is a violation of physical boundaries to go through another person’s belongings without their permission. Even if you are concerned for their safety or suspect that there is a problem, the healthy and respectful route is to approach the person and speak to them. Make sure the other person knows that this has crossed a boundary and is not respectful behavior.
6Set emotional boundaries to improve your sense of self. When you learn how to be a gatekeeper of your emotional boundaries, you can achieve certain results that give you a better sense of who you are. These include:
- Having a healthy sense of who you are, independent from any other person.
- Knowing that you have the choice in how you want to feel and your ability to act on it.
- Being able to monitor how much you share about yourself so that you respect yourself.
- Being able to say “no” at times when you need to be assertive and true to yourself.
Method Two of Four:
Setting Healthy BoundariesEdit
1Decide to set boundaries. Recognizing that you need to establish boundaries or improve them is a first step. Boundaries are an extension of love and respect for yourself and others, instead of a reaction to fear or rejection. They are the path to freedom from the need to please others in order to be loved and accepted.
- For example, your roommate keeps borrowing your car. She never fills up the gas tank or gives you gas money. You can’t continue to pay for all the gas.
2Define the boundary. Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish with a particular boundary. You will want to define each type of boundary, physical and emotional, for different settings such as at home, at work, and with friends.
- For example, you might decide that you won’t let others take advantage of you and disrespect your time and personal space.
- For example, you want your roommate to contribute gas money when she drives your car.
3Establish the boundary. Share your boundary with the people in your life. This way, they will understand your expectations and needs.
- For example, tell your roommate in a calm and polite way that you need her to contribute to the car’s upkeep with gas money. If she doesn’t want to do this, then she doesn’t need to drive your car.
- For example, if your friends have a habit of popping in unannounced and this bothers you, tell your friends that you would like them to call first before coming over. Establishing the boundary also means that in the moment when something occurs (i.e., someone borrows something without asking), you can address it and let the person know that it is not acceptable. Speak in a calm and polite way. Tell your roommate that you would like her to ask first before borrowing your car.
4Maintain the boundary. For many people, this is the most challenging part of having boundaries. You are not only helping others to respect your limits. You are also retraining yourself.
- For example, if your roommate forgets to give you gas money, give a gentle but firm reminder.
- You may slip and forget, but don’t forget: this is a process. Re-establish your resolve and firmly hold your boundary.
- You may find that others are resistant to your boundaries at first. If they respect you, they will be willing to adapt.
- Remember, you are not trying to change others or control them. Your focus is on how you want to be treated. You will communicate this through your words and actions. For instance, a friend still comes over without calling first. To maintain the boundary, you can say, “I’m sorry you came all this way but I am in the middle of a project for work and I cannot see you now. Next time I hope you will call first.” This strategy politely reinforces your boundary for respect of your time and personal space.
5Be direct. Being direct and concise is a respectful way to let others know what your boundaries are. In contrast, being indirect, whiney, or using lengthy explanations will send mixed messages. Here is an example of direct communication:
- You: “Nick, we’ve been playing video games for hours. I’m tired now and I want to go to sleep.”
- Nick: “Oh come on, it’s Friday night. Let’s watch a movie or order a pizza.”
- You: “Sorry, Nick. You gotta go, buddy. I’m going to bed now.”
6Take care of yourself. One of the hardest parts of establishing and maintaining boundaries is our fear of appearing rude or selfish. Put yourself first by recognizing and honoring your feelings. This does not mean that you are dismissive of others or their feelings. Your quest for boundaries hinges on your willingness to take care of yourself so that you can be there for others.
- Give yourself permission to recognize and honor the boundaries that you need to function successfully.
- When you live your boundaries, others can choose to respect them or not. When they do not choose to respect your boundaries, you have the opportunity to reinforce them in a self-affirming way.
7Eliminate toxic people from your life. You have the right to eliminate toxic people from your life, those who would manipulate and abuse you. Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time but you will be successful if you surround yourself with supportive people who respect you and your choices. 
- You do not have to allow anxiety or poor self-esteem to prevent you from taking care of yourself.
- You are not responsible for the way others react to you when you maintain your healthy boundaries.
8Start small. Begin with a boundary that is manageable as you learn this new skill. Choose something non-threatening.
- For example, perhaps you have a friend who stands too close or looks over your shoulder while you are reading your emails. This is a good time to practice asking for more personal space.
- As you define and establish clear and healthy boundaries, you will find it easier to maintain them. At the same time, you will notice your confidence growing and your relationships improving.
9Be patient while building relationships. Establishing boundaries is a good step in developing a healthy relationship. Deep friendships are built over time. They cannot be rushed by crossing social boundaries or sharing more than is appropriate.
- You can still feel connected to another person even when you have healthy boundaries. But you will be able to respect yourself, your time, and your own needs without being enmeshed with the other person.
- You should feel free to hang out with other people. A healthy relationship doesn’t require that you ask permission to do things. If your boyfriend or girlfriend gets jealous when you hang out with other friends, have a talk that establishes a boundary about your activities.
Method Three of Four:
Establishing Boundaries at WorkEdit
1Communicate boundaries to coworkers. It is easy to overextend yourself if you don’t set or maintain boundaries. Make sure coworkers understand your boundaries by communicating them clearly.
- For example, some coworkers might assume that you’ll answer email at all hours. If you want to save emails for work hours, you need to convey that. If a coworker says, “I’ll email you a draft of the project tonight,” you can respond with, “I’ll be sure to look at your draft when I get to the office.”
2Ask for help when you need it. If your workload is becoming too burdensome, ask your supervisor to assign someone to helping you. You can also give suggestions about how to rearrange your workload to meet immediate obligations and prioritize other tasks.
3Set appropriate interpersonal boundaries. It is important to maintain certain boundaries so that that workplace remains professional and productive. Your company may have policies in place to establish certain boundaries, especially ones about workplace respect, technology use and so on.
- If you’re in a management position, you can help develop these policies to ensure proper boundaries.
4Have structure in your workday. Set boundaries with your time by having structure to your day. Bring an agenda to meetings so that the conversation will be productive for everyone. If you spend too much time answering emails, restrict yourself to checking email for 15-minute blocks a few times a day.
5Strategize how you will respond to boundary violations. It is inevitable that someone will cross a boundary that you’ve set. Consider how you will respond. Making an exception may be acceptable one time, but keep in mind that inconsistent boundaries will not be respected as much.Advertisement
Method Four of Four:
Getting Out of Abusive or Manipulative RelationshipsEdit
1Recognize abusive and manipulative behaviors. Some behaviors are not just poor boundaries. They are abusive and manipulative. The following are some warning signs of behaviors that may be abusive or manipulative:
- Physical abuse: This can include hitting, slapping, punching or other forms of physical harm.
- Threats of violence: According to the Northwestern University Women’s Center, “healthy relationships do not involve threats.”
- Breaking objects: This is used to intimidate the other person and it can be a precursor to physical violence.
- Using force during an argument: Someone may try to physically restrain you or block the way so that you cannot retreat to a safe place.
- Jealousy: A jealous person may question or monitor their partner about their activities.
- Controlling behavior: Someone might be overly involved with your movements to the point that they begin to control appearance and activities. Controlling is evident in interrogating a person on where she has been, what she was doing, who she was with, or why she was late getting home.
- Quick involvement: The abuser may pressure you into a relationship before a sufficient amount of time has passed to develop feelings and desires for commitment.
- Isolation: This can include attempts to eliminate your contact with friends and family.
- Cruelty to animals or children: The abuser will use this as a way to coerce you into doing what he wants without regard for the pain or feelings of the animal or child.
2Get out of the relationship. If you recognize abusive or manipulative behaviors in your relationship, it may be past the time to talk it out. Even with setting good boundaries, your abuser’s behaviors may not end with a conversation. If you can end the relationship safely, then leave the situation as soon as possible. 
3Establish a support system. If your relationship is not safe to get out, establish a support system of people who will take your safety seriously. These might be friends or family that you can trust.
- Come up with a code word or phrase that will signal to your support people that you need immediate help. This may be difficult to do if your abuser is tightly controlling your activities and never allows you to be alone.
- Use your phone or the internet to connect with outside contacts. Have secure passwords so that your communications are private.
- Have a list or memorize phone numbers of places and people you can go to for help.
- Know where the emergency room is for physical injuries and help with local resources.
4Make a plan for escape and be ready to act immediately. Plan out a route that you can take to get to a safe location. Be prepared to leave most things behind, like clothing and possessions. Take only what you need.
5Secure your cell phone and computer settings. Be sure to keep your cell phone and computer secure so that your abuser cannot track you or discover your location.
6Know where your local shelter is. Most cities have shelters for domestic violence victims. These are locations where you can seek shelter and safety from your abuser, with your identity being kept confidential. Most are set up for temporary shelter and may be able to assist you with transitional housing.
- Visit the Domestic Shelters website to locate your nearest shelter.
7Get a restraining order or no contact order. If your relationship is dangerous, you can also use the legal system to help you establish a restraining order or a no contact order if necessary.Advertisement
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