Healthy relationships need healthy boundaries

Boundaries are established, or not, in childhood relationships with parents or care-givers. These enable us to know and express what is acceptable and what is not in our interpersonal relationships. Boundaries include our physical, emotional and spiritual space. They also help us to make healthy choices as we manage the challenges of life.

If we haven't been taught about boundaries or have had our boundaries crossed by authority figures, we may find it difficult to:

  • Recognise that boundaries have been crossed
  • Understand that we have a right to have our boundaries respected
  • Feel powerless to express what it is that we think and feel when this happens
  • We may also find it difficult to respect the boundaries of other people and get upset when they try and establish healthy boundaries
  • We may think that crossing boundaries is a normal part of all relationships.

Clearly this list is not exhaustive. There are many reasons why we permit others, consciously or unconsciously, to cross our boundaries. Some of these might be:

  • We don't want to upset them or make them angry
  • We don't want to lose the relationship
  • We are afraid of them
  • We hope that if we please them they will love and accept us
  • We don't know who we are outside of our relationship with them
  • We are afraid of being assertive and anxious that there might be conflict
  • We are dependent on them financially.

If we don't set healthy boundaries we may find it difficult to express our needs and think that what we have to say doesn't matter and we won't be listened to. We may find that others impose their will on us, knowingly or otherwise.We internalise and suppress these thoughts and feelings until we become overwhelmed. This can then lead to anxiety, resentment and anger.

It is crucial that we value and respect ourselves so that we can set healthy boundaries around all our relationships. This will empower us and enable us to say no without feeling guilty or that we have to give a lengthy explanation for our decision. When we have healthy boundaries our voice will be respectful and assertive.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Godalming GU7 & Weybridge KT13
Written by Stella Goddard, BA (Hons) Registered MBACP (Accred)
Godalming GU7 & Weybridge KT13

Stella Goddard has extensive clinical experience working with communication in relationships both personally and professionally. Being able to communicate and establish respectful boundaries is a vital aspect of healthy relationships. Not establishing these can have a serious impact on psychological and physical health.

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