How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Your Relationships

By Relationships Australia

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Are you people-pleasing? Bending over backwards? You may need help to set healthy boundaries.

A boundary is a line that marks an edge or limit. It can be physical, like personal space, or your right not to be touched. Or more abstract, like moral or emotional boundaries.

When we talk about setting healthy boundaries, we’re referring to our own personal limits of what we consider to be acceptable.

Between work, family, and social obligations, it can be hard to manage your own needs, let alone other people’s. Boundaries are a way of respecting your values, energy and sense of self-worth, while setting clear expectations for yourself and others.

For instance, you might find yourself taking on additional tasks at home or work when you already have a full plate, or tolerating behaviour among friends that you find disrespectful.

If you find yourself feeling intruded upon, angry, resentful, unsafe or upset, it could be a sign your boundaries have been crossed.

Luckily, it’s never too late to set or reset healthy boundaries. They’re a vital tool to improve your confidence, self-esteem, life balance and mental health.

Here are our top tips to help you get started.

1. Reflect and recognise

What situations makes you feel stressed, resentful, or depleted? Begin by recognising your limits, paying attention to your feelings and thinking about what outcomes would better serve you.

2. Start small and review

Once you’re clearer on what or who oversteps your boundaries, don’t feel obliged to change everything overnight. Even small changes matter.

Check-in on your boundaries regularly and remember, they don’t need to be set in stone – as life changes, your position on them can too.

3. Communicate clearly

Open and honest communication is key. Using ‘I’ statements will help you assert yourself and ask for what you need.

For instance, “I feel frustrated when you expect me to do all the cooking. Let’s sit down and discuss a fairer arrangement.”

4. Learn to say ‘no’

If you have poor boundaries, saying no can be hard. Don’t feel you have to explain yourself or offer an excuse. Saying “no thanks” can be enough.

5. Start as you mean to go on

When embarking on a new relationship or situation, set clear boundaries from the get-go, to help guide how you want things to continue.

6. Keep practicing

Over time it will get easier. Your relationships – and your life – are likely to feel so much more enjoyable.

At first setting boundaries might make you feel guilty, selfish, embarrassed and uncomfortable.

You might even realise you undermine your own boundaries by breaking commitments you’ve made to yourself!

But in starting to advocate for yourself, you can help minimise resentment and burnout, while protecting your energy for the things that matter most.

If you feel like you need some more support to help set boundaries in your relationships, there is help available. We offer online Couples Communication programs, individual counselling, couples counselling and family counselling to help you learn the skills to talk through issues with your loved ones more effectively.

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