Boundaries! I love, love, love working with clients on boundaries. Boundaries are a part of any relationship, and are at play all the time. We have talked about how the holidays can often be a good time to brush up on interpersonal skills, just because so many of us have a lot on the social calendar and may be spending extended time with people that we don’t see as often during the course of the year.

Types of Boundaries

There are lots of different ways to conceptualize and talk about the types of boundaries- these are the ways that I like to categorize them in my mind, based off of my clinical experience and training.

1.     Rigid boundaries. The way that I imagine rigid boundaries is like a tall, concrete wall between you and others. Nothing is coming in, and nothing is going out. People tend to employ rigid boundaries in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of being hurt or influenced by others.

2.     No boundaries. When I imagine this boundary, there is none! There is no wall, no fence, nothing differentiating you from others. A lack of boundaries can contribute to you feeling burnt out in relationships, resentful of others not being aware of your needs or wants, or taken advantage of.

3.     Flexible boundaries. This boundary is like a fence with a gate. There is something separating you from others, but you or others are able to come or go based on your discretion.

Setting and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

1.     Know your needs and boundaries! Take some time to sit down and figure out what it is that you need and are comfortable with in relationships. You have to know where your boundaries are in order to set them with other people.

2.     Explore your resistance to boundaries. If you have a difficult time setting boundaries, look into what emotions and beliefs drive that resistance. Are you worried what a person will think about you if you set a boundary? Are you concerned that the relationship will end because of a boundary? Do you believe that your needs are important and valid enough to protect?

3.     Utilize assertive communication. See my post on communication (this pairs really nicely with boundaries). Be clear with your boundary- it is not up to others to be mind readers!

4.     People may push back on you setting a boundary- this does not mean that the boundary is wrong. Relationships are like systems- if one thing shifts or changes within the system, other parts of the system are impacted. People also tend to seek familiarity, and may resist a change in the type of boundary you are setting. This is all normal and okay. It is not your responsibility to control the response of others.

Remember, boundaries help to support relationships. Boundaries are not meant to close off relationships or keep relationships at a distance. Boundaries allow you to exist in relationships in a way that leaves you feeling supported, healthy, and able to continue to engage in the relationship. I am so passionate about working with clients on exploring resistance to boundaries, and setting boundaries- I believe healthy boundaries can transform the way you show up in relationships and the way you take care of yourself.

To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.

Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.