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Setting Boundaries

Are you getting all that you want out of your relationships? Or, are you instead getting less-than-great treatment from people in your life? If your life is filled with more of what you don't want and not enough of what you do want, it's time to set your boundaries.

What is a boundary and what does it mean to set your boundaries?

A boundary is a dividing line between you and anyone else, even a loved one. The line represents both physical and emotional limits others may not violate.

A boundary, when crossed by others, will create intense feelings of anger, hurt, outrage, etc. To set your boundaries is to stop anyone, even your most loved one, from crossing the line with you.

Setting boundaries is not disrespectful, bad or wrong. In fact, boundaries make you feel safe in your environment and actually prevent you from being hurt. Personal boundaries are healthy, good for you. Setting boundaries raises your sense of self-worth, your self-esteem, because you are sending yourself the message that you are worthy of care.

Moreover, setting boundaries makes others feel safe around you. Boundaries let people know what you want and don't want. And more importantly, boundaries let people know what your limits are. This gives your loved ones the security of knowing your relationship guidelines, eliminating their fears about how they should behave with you. When you set boundaries, people in your life know exactly what they cannot do around you.

Boundaries are innate, natural to every being. And, each person has his own internal indicator of when the line is being crossed. What are your boundaries? Where do you draw the line? To find out, think of instances in the past year when you felt intense dark emotions in response to something done or said to you. More likely than not, your boundaries were being crossed.

Now, what does that tell you about where your line is? What does that tell you about what cannot be done or said to you without hurting you? If you come up with some answers, you may want to write them down. Otherwise, they may be forgotten.

Next, educate people in your life about your boundaries. Be careful not to make people wrong for their past behavior toward you. Instead, calmly inform them about what they can and cannot do around you. As you do, you will notice that some will easily comply with your request. Others will continue to treat you poorly. The following boundary-setting process will help you further educate people who ignore or invade your boundaries.

Five progressive steps to take when someone exhibits unacceptable behavior toward you (for this to have a lasting effect, your voice must remain neutral at all times; begin at step one, and move to the next step only if your boundary is being ignored):

1. Inform
"Do you know that you are speaking loudly (or hurting me, saying things I don't like, etc.)?"

2. Request
"Please lower your voice." "Please stop hurting me." "Please stop what you are saying."

3. Instruct
"I need for you not to yell." "I need you to stop hurting me." "I need you to stop what you are saying."

4. Warn
"You may never speak to me in that tone of voice." "You may never hurt me like this." "You may never say this to me."

5. Take a stand
"Stop. I demand you to stop right now."

6. Time out
"What you are doing/saying is unacceptable to me. I am open to working this out when you are able to do so reasonably. I am now leaving for (duration) to protect myself."

7. Extended time out
"I am going to distance from you to protect myself until you can do/say X or stop doing/saying X."

Setting boundaries will allow you to feel safe in your environment. It is a way to exhibit self-respect, thereby increasing the respect shown to you by others.

Your Relationship Coach,
Rinatta Paries

This article was originally published by Coach Rinatta Paries in "The Relationship Coach Newsletter," a weekly e-zine for people who want fulfilling relationships. For singles, the newsletter will help you attract your Mr. or Ms. Right. If you're in a relationship, you will learn to create more closeness and intimacy with your mate. To subscribe, go to

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