Setting Boundaries for a Healthy Relationship


Broaden your definition of what it means to love. Expressing boundaries by saying "no" is a critical part of healthy relating. Too often people think that if they make others upset they are causing them emotional damage. But good parents know that setting boundaries, limits, and structure for their kids is more likely to result in emotionally self-contained children, and that principle carries through to adult relationships, as well.

Don’t teach others that they can manipulate you into changing your mind.

It is critical that people be allowed to feel their full range of emotions, including sadness, anger and disappointment.  But it is not okay to attempt to manipulate other people’s feelings through the use of anger or tears.

Learn to say "no" and to explain why you are saying "no."  It will help others to understand you.  Then, follow through on your “No!”  If you say "no" and then end up giving in, you teach others not to respect what you say. 

If you truly value healthy and meaningful friendships, you will have to learn to speak your peace in order to experience true intimacy. When setting boundaries, there is no need to defend, debate, or over-explain your feelings. Be firm, gracious and direct. 

When faced with resistance, repeat your statement or request.

To set a boundary with someone who’s angry:

"Please do not yell at me.  I can't hear what you’re saying when you yell.  If you continue, I'll have to (... hang up, leave the room, go for a walk ...)

To set a boundary about receiving personal phone calls at work:

"I've decided to begin taking my personal calls in the evening in order to get my work done.  Thanks for understanding.  I will call you later."

To say “no” to extra commitments:

"Although this is important to me, I am unable to help out at this time because I have too many other commitments I need to follow through on."

To set a boundary with someone who is critical:

"It's uncomfortable for me when you comment on my (weight, finances, marital status). Please be conscious that I'm vulnerable about that."

To buy yourself time when making tough decisions:

"I'll have to give this some thought.  I have learned to give myself time to make important decisions like this."

To back out of a commitment:

"I'm so sorry to have to do this, but after reviewing my schedule, I now realize that I won't be able to do what I spontaneously volunteered to do. I'd like to help you find a replacement by the end of next week, though, if that might help."

To set a boundary about borrowing money:

"I love you and I understand that times are tough.  But my lending you money is not healthy for our relationship. Although this is difficult for me to say, I cannot lend you money anymore.  I value our relationship too much to let money be a factor in how and when we relate."

Back up your boundary with action. Stay strong. If you give in, you invite people to ignore your needs

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