Relationship Boundaries

Relationship boundaries promote healthy relationships. Many people believe that there should be no personal boundaries in a perfect relationship. This could not be farther from the truth. Personal boundaries define us as individuals. And individuality, along with mutual trust and respect, is an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship. Relationship boundaries do become more flexible as people grow closer, but they should never disappear.

Acknowledging that each person always has complete control over his or her actions, reactions, emotions and attitude (AREA of Control) can help in establishing and maintaining relationship boundaries.

Every relationship - personal and professional - begins with an introduction of some kind. This is a time when relationship boundaries should be their strongest. Discovering the individuality of each person should be the primary goal. Personal boundaries are very important at this stage because they are a first step in building mutual trust and respect.

This first meeting may well determine if there will even be a future relationship. As with most things, extremes can be dangerous. If one person exhibits obnoxious or abusive behavior, the other may want nothing more to do with them. Or if one person seems to have no personal boundaries at all, or just goes along with whatever is said, the other may see no long-term future. In both situations, respect is lost. And without mutual respect, a successful relationship is virtually impossible.


Things to Remember about Relationship Boundaries:

Any relationship can end for a variety of reasons.

No one wants to think about the potential end to a strong relationship, whether it is friend, family or job-related. The truth is that friends can move away, people can grow apart or in a worse case scenario, someone close may die. Workplace relationships can also change or end when there is a job loss or change in management. (In this case, additional workplace boundaries may be helpful.)

To survive the end of any relationship, we have to be strong enough as an individual to move on. This is true with any life change. In some cases, this may mean strengthening relationship boundaries or relying solely on personal boundaries.

Personal dreams and goals are important relationship boundaries.

Every person is entitled to personal dreams and goals that do not depend on the encouragement or approval of another person. Therefore, this is a boundary that should never be lost. Ironically, the stronger the relationship, the more each person supports and encourages the other. Each is genuinely happy when the other achieves a personal goal. (Not having goals is a missed opportunity for enthusiastic support and encouragement that can result in a real boost to self-esteem.)

Boundaries can relax or strengthen.

As time goes on, and mutual trust and respect grows, boundaries can become more flexible. But they should never disappear. Our individuality is too important. We are entitled to personal thoughts and feelings. If these thoughts and feelings directly affect the other person or the relationship itself, however, they should be communicated in an appropriate manner.

If overall trust and respect within the relationship lessens for one reason or another, boundaries may need to be strengthened.

Setting boundaries in relationships does not limit happiness, it encourages it.

Establishing and adjusting boundaries allows us to eliminate or minimize unhealthy relationships and focus more on strengthening positive relationships.