Tuesday, July 16, 2013


What does a boundary look like? Physical boundaries mark a visible property line that someone holds the deed to. Fences, signs, walls, moats, manicured lawns or hedges are all physical boundaries.In their differing  appearances, they give the the same message: THIS IS WHERE MY PROPERTY BEGINS. The owner of the property is legally responsible for what happens on his or her property.
We have intangible boundaries that are just as real, but often harder to see.I want to help you recognize and define your boundaries as an ever present reality that can increase your love and save your life. In, reality, these boundaries define your soul, and they help you to guard and maintain it.
Boundaries define us! They show people who you are and who you are not. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.
Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. If I know where my yard begins and ends, I m free to do with it what I like. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. However, if I do not "own" my life, my choices and options become very limited.
Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep the harm outside. Basically, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out.
I used to think of boundaries as walls. I now know they are NOT! The important thing to remember is our property lines need to be permeable enough to allow passing while strong enough to keep out danger.
Often, when people are abused while growing up, they reverse the function of boundaries and keep the bad in and the good out. When we were growing up we suffered a lot of abuse. We were not encouraged to develop any kind of boundaries. As a result, I would close up, holding the pain inside; I would not express my hurt and get it out of my soul. I wouldn't let any outside support help me. In addition, I would allow others to add more pain into my soul. So, I was walking around with a lot of pain, still allowing myself to be abused, and "walled" off from any help I needed from the outside. I needed (and still work on this) to reverse my way of thinking. I needed fences, not gates, that were strong enough to keep out the bad and let in good that I desperately needed.

Boundaries are anything that helps to separate you from someone else or shows where you begin and end. Here are some examples:

Skin- Victims of physical and sexual abuse often have a poor sense of boundaries. From early on victims were taught that their property did not really begin at their skin. Others could invade their property and do whatever they wanted. As a result, they have problems establishing boundaries later in life.

Words- The most basic boundary-setting word.is NO. It lets others know that you exist apart from them and that you are in control of you. NO is a good confrontational word. It sets limits. We can say No, that behavior is not okay. I won't take part in that. People who have poor boundaries struggle with saying no to people who exert control, pressure, demands, and sometimes with the needs of others.They are afraid to say NO to someone, they will lose a friendship or relationship with that person. As a result they will comply passively while inwardly resenting the situation. Sometimes a person will be the one pressuring you and other times it is yourself that is pressuring because you feel you have to do it. If you can't say no to the external of internal pressure you have lost control of your property. Your words also define your property for others as you communicate your feelings, intentions or dislikes.It is difficult people to know where you stand when you do not use words to define your property. Your words let people know where you stand and lets them know where your "edges" that help identify you. "I don't like it when you yell at me." gives people a clear message about how you conduct relationships and lets them know the rules of our "yard."

Distance-  Sometimes physically removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries.You can remove yourself to get away from danger, to separate from those who continue to hut you and to create a safe place for yourself. When a relationship is abusive, many times the only way to finally show the other person that your boundaries are real is to create space until they are ready to deal with the problem.

Time- Taking time away from people or a project can be a way of regaining ownership out some out of control aspect of your life where boundaries need to be set. We need to make time to create boundaries against our old ways and create new ways of relating. Time apart can improve the relationship.

Emotional Distance- Emotional Distance is a temporary boundary to give your heart the space it needs to be safe; it is never a permanent way of living. People who have been in abusive relationships need to find a safe place to "thaw out." emotionally.  Don't continue to set yourself up for hurt and disappointment. Many people are too quick to trust someone in the name of forgiveness. If you have been in an abusive relationship, you should wait until it is save and until real patterns of change have been demonstrated before you go back. To continue to open yourself up emotionally to an abusive or addicted person without seeing true change is very unwise. Forgive but always guard your heart until you see sustained change.

Other People- Creating boundaries always involves a support network. You need to depend on others to help you set and keep boundaries.People subject to another person's addictions, control or abuse find that after years and years of "loving too much" , they can find the ability to create boundaries only through a support group. They need supportive others to stand against the  old message and guilt involved in their change.The support system helps give them the strength to say No to abuse and control for the first time in their life.

Consequences- Trespassing on other people's property carries consequences. We need to back up our boundaries with consequences. Consequences give good "barbs" to fences. They let people know the seriousness of their trespass and the seriousness of our respect for ourselves. This teaches them that our commitment to living according to helpful values is something we hold dear and will fight to protect and guard.

We may be moved to give to a person with a need but then this person manipulates us into giving more than we want to give. We end up resentful and angry, having missed something we needed in our own life. Or, we may want more from someone else, and we pressure them until they give in. They give not of their heart and free will, but out of compliance, and they resent us for what we give. Neither one comes out ahead. To avoid these scenarios, we need to look at what falls within our boundaries, what we are responsible for.

I hope this little bit has helped you understand what boundaries are. There is a lot more to it and I could keep going but I am sure you get the crux of what I am saying.


  1. Good article for the majority. The only thing I would definitely change is that with healthy boundaries we aren't to have just a fence. We must have the fence but we must have a gate that we control opening and closing letting in the good and keeping out the bad. Otherwise the good can't get in and the bad can't get out! I learned this in therapy and reading the boundaries book. And makes perfect good common sense. It is so important that we don't go too far on either side of boundaries or then it isn't healthy. I hope this article helps many that struggle with healthy boundaries or even knowing what a boundary looks like. And that my comment will clarify and help in making sure the boundaries keep out the bad and let in the good.