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What Are Boundaries?

Boundaries has become one of those buzz words, frequently used in all sorts of relationship discussions. Setting boundaries with spouses, children, parents, co-workers is important of course, but not often easy to maintain. Boundaries imply a permanent line but often the lines become permeable and flexible, depending on our strength to fortify them in the face of a challenge, or our desire to please other people. We set boundaries to protect ourselves from giving too much to other people and losing ourselves in the process. Establishing a boundary also serves to protect others from our resentment if we feel we’ve been put in the position of saying yes to something when we may not want to. While we may not intend it, this resentment can seep into the relationship and undermine it.

Naturally there are different types of boundaries. Some are designed to keep you emotionally safe: someone may cross a line with you that makes you uncomfortable and you may need to let them know it’s unacceptable; you don’t share every emotion with your children because you are the parent taking care of their emotional needs. Some boundaries protect your time: you may not want to socialize with a friend as often as they’d expect, or your extended family may make demands and you need to push back. Are there any examples in your own life right now?

It’s easy to get caught up in someone else’s problems and dramas, to feel good about ourselves because we’re helping them resolve issues. This may or not be true, but we think we get points for trying. The downside is that we may be avoiding what we should be facing and accomplishing in our own lives. If we neglect our own goals and daily to-do lists to support someone else’s life, there may be a price to pay down the road.

It takes awareness to set boundaries and to stick to them. It may mean someone will be unhappy with us. Take the long view, step back from the moment to evaluate what’s going to be most beneficial. When someone is asking something of you, do you automatically need to say yes, or is there a cost to you? If there is, then what is the cost benefit analysis telling you – is it worth it? Sometimes it will be, but if it’s not you deserve to be true to yourself.

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