Written by: Deb Sabatino, LMHC
Do you ever find it hard to say “no”?
Do you feel guilty disappointing someone?
Do you feel you pull more than your share of the weight in your family?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are you have boundary struggles.
When it comes to boundaries it’s a simple concept; Boundaries are like fences that help us keep the good in our lives and the bad out. They help to keep us safe in our relationships.
Imagine getting a new puppy and letting him run around in your yard. Would you feel comfortable letting him run freely without a fence? If your yard happens to be near a busy street, you would really make sure that you had a fence up before allowing the puppy out. You would also want to make sure the fence was properly grounded with no ‘gaps’ so the puppy didn’t escape out into the street.
Boundaries in healthy relationships are fences grounded in the Biblical truth that God created us not just as relational beings, but as individuals in relationships. They help us to protect our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your hearts for herein lies the wellspring of life.” In their book, Boundaries, psychologists Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend tell us that boundaries define us. “They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.”
When we know what belongs in our fences and what does not, it helps us to make more healthy decisions for our lives. A practical example is in when we decide to diet. If we want to lose weight but struggle with food temptations, then we know it’s best to “fence” those foods out of our houses.
Let’s face it; understanding boundaries is easier than implementing them, especially if you grew up in an environment where boundaries were not valued or respected. When you think of your family, do you sometimes feel like you’re not sure where they end and you begin? Does another family member’s problems take up a lot of real estate in your head- and your schedule? Is there someone who loves to manipulate you with guilt?
There are many reasons that people have difficulties in setting a healthy boundary in their relationships: fear of hurting another person’s feelings, fear of abandonment and separateness, fear of someone else’s anger, fear of punishment, fear of being shamed, fear of being seen as bad or selfish, and the list goes on. What causes you the most fear about setting a boundary? Can you relate to any of the fears mentioned here?
If you have trouble setting healthy boundaries in your relationships then maybe it is time to take a closer look at the strength of your boundaries and fortify your fences.
The most important thing to consider when setting boundaries is that “you can’t develop or set boundaries apart from supportive relationships with God and others.” We have a deep need to belong. Establishing relationships with safe people who allow you to be yourself is essential for the formation of boundaries.
Who are the safe people in your life? Try saying what you need in your relationships; even if you suspect you will get some pushback. One good thing about setting boundaries is you get to see who respects them and who does not. A person who respects your boundaries can be considered a safe person.
To learn how to put boundaries into practice in your life, contact us for some one-on-one coaching to help you fortify your fences and experience a happier and freer life.
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