Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Relationships - a Toronto Psychologist's Perspective
People are social beings who thrive in functional, supportive and loving relationships.
You might have some relationships that would be considered healthy and functional while other relationships that may be dysfunctional or even toxic. But what makes a good relationship? Healthy boundaries are an essential part of healthy relationships. Boundaries can be physical or emotional. Physical boundaries set physical limits and define who and how physically close another person can get to us.
Emotional boundaries on the other hand define where our feelings end and others begin.
Are you able to tell your own feelings apart from other people? For instance, do you strongly empathize or feel others feelings? Do you feel responsible for the feelings and needs of others? Can you say No to others? Our boundaries both physical and emotional dictate how we interact with others and how they interact with us.
Emotional boundaries can be too rigid or too loose; healthy or unhealthy; functional or dysfunctional.
Those with rigid boundaries find it difficult to let others in to their lives and tend to have distant relationships. People with rigid emotional boundaries have trouble trusting others and even find it difficult to show and express their emotions. They could have a hard time asking for help and social support. Imagine living in a house with locked doors, windows that shut the world out and very little traffic in and out of the house. It would seem lonely to live such an existence. On the other hand, people whose boundaries are too loose, can get too close to others too fast, they may be overly trusting, are too emotional, give too much, take too much, say Yes when they mean No. Imagine living in a house with no fences, gates, locks or doors; others can come and go as they please and interfere with all areas of your life, take what they want without any respect. It would be a challenge maintaining any kind of order in such an environment. Life can get chaotic and very emotionally charged. It seems then these styles of being are at extreme ends and equally unhealthy.
Those who are able to establish healthy boundaries (firm but flexible) have healthy, supportive relationships, they give and take in proportion, are respected and respect others.
These individuals accept responsibility for their own feelings and let others do the same, are assertive, able to communicate their needs and their feelings clearly, empathize and listen to others, connect with others, help and ask for help in return. These individuals live in houses with proper door locks, and gates but welcome others who respect them and their space.
Assess your relationships and if you identify the need to set or change your boundaries, do it consistently and in a determined way. Once boundaries have been established, it could take time to change it; you could feel resistance, feel guilty about making changes or even evoke negative emotions.