Interpersonal relationships can be difficult, as everyone has different beliefs and opinions about the world. Boundaries are limits people set in order to maintain their own identity and personal space. In general, boundaries are guidelines people determine for themselves that dictate what interactions they are willing to accept from others and how they want to be treated. Boundaries are influenced by experiences in childhood, culture, and other factors. For example, people whose parents set healthy boundaries are more likely to set healthy boundaries for themselves because they learned how to do it growing up. Furthermore, some people may live in a culture where personal space and individual dependency is of high value, whereas other people live in cultures with a more collectivist style.
Why are boundaries important?
Healthy boundaries allow people to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Having healthy boundaries can lead to healthier relationships and reduced negative feelings such as being manipulated, violated, or mistreated by others.
Healthy boundaries help each person understand that they have their own thoughts and feelings. Healthy boundaries also are flexible and open to negotiation and help people recognize others’ points of view. Boundary intrusions, on the other hand, are toxic, non-negotiable, and very often happen when someone becomes critical and/or when they experience disappointment, confusion, and resentment.
Unhealthy boundaries often result in an individual feeling used, emotionally drained, or even violated. Unhealthy boundaries also might include feelings of incompleteness and might make an individual more susceptible to being taken advantage of by others, while also causing emotional pain that can lead to depression, anxiety, dependency, and even physical illness caused by stress.
Unhealthy boundaries exist when
You feel responsible for others.You are unable to say “no” for fear of rejection or abandonment.You feel powerless and let your partner make decisions for you.You are extremely attached to your partner, expressing too much; or, you are at the other end, closed off to yourself unable to express your needs and wants.You have a weak self-identity and your feelings about yourself are based on how your partner is treating you at any given time.
Healthy boundaries allow you to
Have a mutually sharing and trusting relationship.Have an equal partnership where responsibility and power are shared.Have high self-esteem and self-respect.Separate your thoughts, needs, and feelings from your partner’s.Take responsibility for the decisions you make.
Why boundaries are important.
Boundaries are important for you to maintain self-respect and self-care, express your needs and wants in your relationship, and set healthy limits in the relationship.
Types of boundaries.
Physical boundaries provide a barrier between you and an intruder and include your body, personal space, privacy, and sexual orientation. They are mainly expressed through clothing, body language, and verbal instructions. Physical boundary intrusions may include inappropriate touching and invading others’ personal space, among other things. Examples of setting physical boundaries include letting people know that you need space and saying to someone that you don’t want to be touched.
Mental and emotional boundaries protect you so that you are not affected by other people’s words, thoughts, and actions. These boundaries include behaviors, beliefs, responsibility, choices, and intimacy. Some of these boundary invasions include not separating your feelings and thoughts from your partner’s and behaving in a way to comply with your partner’s wishes or to please him or her; sacrificing your dreams in order to satisfy others; not taking responsibility for your decisions, and blaming others for your problems. Healthy emotional boundaries are about respecting people’s feelings and recognizing when to share and when not to share emotional information.
Material boundaries refer to items and possessions like houses, cars, jewelry, money, and other assets. Healthy material boundaries exist when you understand whether you can or cannot share or give things away and when you know how your items are going to be treated by the people you share them with.
Spiritual boundaries relate to our beliefs in connection with God or a high power. Spiritual boundaries are also internal boundaries, meaning they involve information from inside ourselves or from other sources that we allow, process, or block.
Sexual boundaries protect your personal space and include consent, agreement, respect, understanding of preferences, and privacy. Every person has the right to say NO at any time.
Boundaries in marriage.
It has become common to hear that somebody you know is getting a divorce. According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States get divorced. It is important to understand why the numbers are high and it is helpful to know that some of the common issues that may lead to a divorce include infidelity, financial issues, addiction, a lack of mutual understanding, poor communication, and lying. It needs to be understood that marriage is not just unconditional love and support between two people. Marriage means hard work and finding a balance within your relationship in order to maintain a healthy and long-lasting marriage. For people who are getting married, it is important to set boundaries. All boundaries must be agreed upon, fair, and respected by both partners. Setting boundaries will help protect the marriage, enable self-control, help resolve conflicts, eliminate the chance for manipulation, create responsibility for each partner’s actions, set priorities, and offer freedom and independence for each of you. On the other hand, boundary intrusions may produce arguments, which in turn raise anxiety, which results in stress.
Couples may choose to set different types of boundaries within their marriage. The following are simple boundaries that can stabilize your marriage and ensure that both partners are satisfied with each other:
Partners should protect themselves from any tempting situations and each partner should not put themselves at risk for infidelity.
If a partner wants to text, message, email, or communicate in any way with a person of the opposite gender, they should inform their spouse and never keep it secret. Partners should maintain trust and not constantly check on their spouses.
Partners should be comfortable confronting each other if there is an outstanding issue or if they want to express their thoughts. Maintain healthy and open communication with one another regarding all issues.
Setting healthy boundaries through marriage coaching.
To keep your relationship from heading for a breakup or divorce, it is critical to get marriage coaching for boundary intrusions. As mentioned in this article, limits should be designed in a way that embraces both mutual understanding and respect, in an effort to maintain balance and lasting harmony in a relationship or marriage. To achieve this, you may need some of these steps to create healthy boundaries with the help of your marriage coach:
Marriage coaching teaches clear communication and outlines what is important in your marriage. Sessions will train you on how to remain honest and open about your needs and wants. Marriage coaching will help partners listen to each other’s desires and needs. You will learn how to compromise. You will learn what is real and what’s not. You will learn how to change yourself without trying to change what is important for your partner. Marriage coaching will help you communicate about what is working and what is not.
Sometimes, it is easier to understand something when you see it. Boundaries are tricky because they can be vague and difficult to understand because they can be conceptual as well as concrete. Some boundaries can be easy to understand, like when your partner checks your messages without your permission. Others are almost unexplainable, for example, when one partner changes their mood to match their partner’s mood. Boundary intrusions are a common issue in marriage coaching. Only then can boundaries be seen as they are, in their complex dimensions.
One dimension is characterized by how separate and distinct you are with different parts of yourself; these are called internal boundaries. For example, are you in the “here and now,” or do you find yourself reliving the past or projecting into the future?
Another dimension is called self-boundaries, and these are characterized by how separate and distinct you are with others.
Finally, the third category is called family boundaries: how separate and distinct you are from your family and friends. This is when family and friends control parts of your life without consulting you. When receiving marriage coaching, it is important to work on your interpersonal boundaries. The coach should set goals and be clear about the fact that you are there to resolve your issues and meet your needs. We often see what we call “thin boundaries: during coaching. This happens when professionals reveal excessive information about themselves or other people losing the focal point, which is you—so, work with your coach and stay on track.
Factors that ensure success:
The coach maintains a nonjudgmental attitude. The coach does not affect any decisions the couple makes. The couple stops sharing their problems with family and friends. The couple is learning from the sessions. The sessions are honest and the partners aren’t keeping any secrets from each other.
We need to keep in mind that numbers may vary. If someone is lying to their partner about their behavior, why would we expect them to tell researchers the truth? That being said, the statistics are powerful one way or the other.
Infidelity is the most frequently cited cause of divorce reported by couples (Fincham & May 2017). Research suggests that women are most likely to be unfaithful between the ages of 30 to 50 years (Wiederman, 1997), while for men, it is the ages between 55 and 65 (Atkins et al., 2001). Research supports the finding that couples who receive marriage coaching after infidelity show improvements during relationship coaching, including greater marital satisfaction, greater forgiveness, and less traumatic symptoms (Atkins et al., 2010). A 2014 study by researchers from UCLA and the University of Washington found that when couples tell the truth, they are more likely to work hard and recover from infidelity in both the short term and long term (Marin et al., 2014).
Therefore, contrary to what most people believe, not every marriage ends because of infidelity. It is important that every couple seeks marriage coaching immediately after infidelity as it increases your chances of repairing your relationship. Nonetheless, marriage coaching is not only for repairing marriages but also for couples to explore their thoughts and emotions and discover the options they have after this kind of experience.
APA, American Psychological Association (2019). Marriage and Divorce
Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (1994). Fighting for your marriage: Positive steps for preventing divorce and preserving a lasting love. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Whitehead, T. (1993). Boundaries and psychotherapy, part I: Boundary distortion and its consequences. http://www.hakomiinstitute.com/Forum/Issue10/Boundaries.pdf