How to Set Better, Stronger Boundaries

Boundaries are all the hype right now, and it’s about time they get special attention. I often hear people say they’re working on their boundaries, yet still misunderstand and misuse them.
Unless you take psych classes, you don’t formally learn about them, which is unfortunate. Even when you reach out to learn about boundaries, they remain only academic. So you understand what they are, yet an additional skillset is necessary to establish your own and use them.
People we love will inevitably cross boundaries from time to time, we aren’t talking about them. A heartfelt conversation is typically all we need to solve those types of issues. However, we ARE talking about the people in our lives that have a behavior that rocks apart our inner peace, makes our heart hurt, or potentially even takes an action that appeases them but not us. In other words, the heartfelt conversation didn’t work, and now we have to set a proper boundary to keep our sanity.
Boundaries represent our standards and values, whether applied to new people or existing relationships.
It’s attractive and sets significance to the relationship when boundaries define high standards. Our early boundaries set the stage for successful productive interactions when meeting new people, friends, or romantic interests.

What Is a Boundary?

  • Primarily, it is a rule for action(s) you take in response to another’s behavior.
  • It is a tool to teach others how to interact with you peacefully.
  • A known set of actions that protect you.

What is NOT a Boundary?

  • Boundaries are not used to control or threaten someone.
  • They are not a simply stated demand. (We can’t control other people’s behavior.)
  • They are not negotiable to solve a problem.
  • They are not unrealistic – we can’t stop someone from being who they are. If they are selfish at heart, this isn’t going to help.

Why Do We Need Boundaries?

  • When we feel emotional turmoil that doesn’t meet our standards (our heart hurts)
  • When people say or do something so frequently that it bothers us to our core.
  • More than a simple conversation is required.

The formula for establishing a boundary is reasonably straightforward. Again, this is for occurrences that happen with significant impact or repeatedly.

The Template

We’ve talked about ________ It bothers me and hurts my heart. If you continue ________, I will ________.

Please note that it is not a proper boundary unless you state your action and take the action you said.
Keep your tone calm. This is not a threat. Remember, we are setting a boundary around something bothering us; this language may sound direct or harsh. Feel free to modify it to your style, but the outcome needs to be the same.

Examples of Setting Boundaries

  • We have talked about texting me after work hours and the issues it creates with my family time. I will not answer your texts until I return to work during regular business hours. If it is an actual emergency, please call. (No, you can’t answer any of the texts, none.)
  • We have talked about what happens when you are late for dinner. It creates worry, and evening activities become stressful. Unless we have talked about it earlier, we will eat dinner without you, and your dinner will be in the refrigerator. I enjoy your company, please make it home in time.
  • You are bringing up past issues again rather than talking about the current problem. Reviewing past issues makes both of us more emotional. If we stay focused on the current issue, I can continue this discussion; otherwise, I will need to end this conversation and take a walk.
  • If you escalate that anger, I will have to leave. (If it continues, or if you are afraid, leave and don’t make another statement.)
  • If you continue to call me names like stupid, I will hang up. (Hang up immediately if called another name)
  • I heard you tell me that my thoughts are wrong several times now. My thoughts are valid, stop discrediting them. If you continue disrespecting and discounting me, we won’t be able to talk anymore.
  • I understand you’d like to meet today at 9 pm, but I have other plans. I have plenty of availability in my schedule, but I will only be able to see you if we can plan a date in advance. I’m not available last minute. (Do not apologize!)

If the other person is accustomed to wearing you down, getting what they want, or treating you how they want, this language may irritate them. Setting boundaries early in a relationship will make it easier in the long run. The less time the behavior is tolerated, the faster we move into cooperative, productive togetherness.

Setting Boundaries While Dating – Dealing With Conflict

In the early stages of dating, boundaries are a big part of establishing standards and values with a partner. Knowing what bothers you to your core, what is healthy for you, and where your boundaries need to be before you’re in a dicey situation is the key to success. That way, you can take your known action step the first time someone goes too far. If you stop the conversation in its tracks, it’s less likely to happen again. 

Partnership requires everyone to try their best. People who casually date often have low or casual boundaries. Your date will devalue you if you have low standards and bend your rules, making it very difficult for that person to become your partner down the road.

Rejecting people because they crossed a boundary when they didn’t know it is also common in dating. Make sure to communicate boundaries before it’s a big deal; let them rise to your standards, people can surprise you if you give them a chance! That’s what makes them a keeper. However, don’t keep giving more opportunities to people who keep rocking your inner peace. 

Need More?

Need help with something specific? I can help you work out issues with even the most challenging people. Find my pricing options under the “services” tab, and book now for a free consultation.

Keep your peace and set your standards high. Boundaries help keep your heart merry and secure.