Setting Boundaries in your Relationship is vital for a healthy one.
There are four types of boundaries that develop in human beings: physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual. Physical and sexual boundaries are external, while emotional and spiritual ones are internal mechanisms. Each of these may be characterized by a position statement.
- Physical boundaries: I have the right to determine when, where, how, and who is going to touch me. I have the right to determine how close someone is going to stand next to me.
- Sexual boundaries: I have the right to determine with whom, where, when and how I am going to be sexual with someone.
- Emotional boundaries: What I think or feel or do or don’t do is more about me than it is about you. Conversely, what you think and feel or do or don’t do is more about you than it is about me.
- Spiritual boundaries: I have the right to think and believe as I do. I need only face the consequences of my thinking.
Boundaries may be visualized as an inverted bell jar that exists around a person. It is flexible and permeable. For instance, if I choose to hug someone, I choose to allow them into my physical boundary, as they choose to let me into theirs. If I choose to be sexual with someone, I choose to let them into my physical and sexual boundaries. If I choose to share my deepest feelings, I allow a person to enter my emotional boundary.
Allowing a person access to ourselves, inside our boundaries, is a gesture of trust and intimacy. We make ourselves vulnerable. We can either experience affirmation or be wounded to the core. Boundaries offer protection from the emotional or physical assaults of others.
Healthy boundaries though not perfect, allow a person to experience a comfortable interdependence with other people, resulting in generally functional relationships and positive self-regard.
Damaged boundaries operate inconsistently and often dysfunctionally. They are the result of mixed messages and abuse and are usually related to abusive relationships in the individual’s family of origin and/or relationships of choice.
Walls protect the person who has constructed them but do not let anything in or out. This person lives in a state of loneliness, possibly protected from the assaults of others, but also prevented from establishing trusting and intimate relationships. People with walled boundaries have generally been deeply hurt by others and have erected barriers to prevent being hurt again by others’ actions, thoughts, and feelings.
No boundaries is the opposite extreme from walled ones. A person with no boundaries is unable to prevent unwanted intrusions and may be unaware that it is possible to do so.
At the very least, sexual assault and abuse are violations of a person’s boundaries. People with healthy boundaries can have them damaged during assaults. Sexual assaults have repercussions on all levels of a person’s boundary system. It is for this reason that healing from sexual assault and abuse is a slow and painful process.
SIGNS OF HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
- Appropriate trust
- Revealing a little of yourself at a time, then checking to see how the other person responds to your sharing
- Moving step by step into intimacy
- Putting a new acquaintanceship on hold until you check for compatibility
- Deciding whether a potential relationship will be good for you
- Staying focused on your own growth and recovery
- Weighing the consequences before acting on sexual impulse
- Being sexual when you want to be sexual – concentrating largely on your own pleasure rather than monitoring reactions of partner
- Maintaining personal values despite what others want
- Noticing when someone else displays inappropriate boundaries
- Noticing when someone invades your boundaries
- Saying “NO” to food, gifts, touch, sex you don’t want
- Asking a person before touching them
- Respect for others – not taking advantage of someone’s generosity
- Self-respect – not giving too much in hope that someone will like you
- Not allowing someone to take advantage of your generosity
- Trusting your own decisions
- Defining your truth, as you see it
- Knowing who you are and what you want
- Recognizing that friends and partners are not mind-readers
- Clearly communicating your wants and needs (and recognizing that you may be turned down, but you can ask)
- Becoming your own loving parent
- Talking to yourself with gentleness, humor, love, and respect
The short-hand version of the above is to operate in your own Best Interest, when Best Interest is defined thusly:
- Whatever you are planning to do is not intended to be hurtful or harmful to yourself or others.
- Do things to help yourself, not to hurt others.
- If others choose to feel hurt or aggrieved, that is their business and not your problem.