By: Jessica Gilstrap LMHC, Heartspoken Counseling Inc.
We commonly define boundaries as a border or a limit that is set. Usually we will personally establish these in our lives; occasionally those around us help to set our boundaries. We establish boundaries through our experiences and relationships as children, adolescents, and adults. Every person has certain boundaries, which are usually not verbalized. Personal space is a good example of this. Individuals have varying levels of comfort when talking about personal space. What may be comfortable to one person may not be comfortable to another. There are several types of boundaries, physical is just one; there are emotional, financial, sexual boundaries and numerous others too numerous to cover in such a short article.
There are many reasons why individuals do not set boundaries. Very often people aren’t aware that there is a need for boundaries. Sometimes people don’t know how to set them and maintain them, and frequently people are “overwhelmed” with their lives and setting boundaries is the last thing that they think they can do. Every week I have parents come to me to help them deal with their children and one of the very first issues that we address is boundaries. I help the parents identify where the boundaries need to be set with their children/adolescent. Take a look at this checklist and see how many of these statements relate to you:
q You have someone in your life who won’t take “no” for an answer.
q You have children who beg and beg and beg until they get you to give in and give them what they want.
q You feel uncomfortable with someone because you feel like they are “all over you” and in your “personal space”.
q You have someone in your life who always wants to borrow money from you or someone you know.
q You have children who will not adhere to family rules and set curfews.
q You know someone who will consistently go into work early and work very late subsequently making them very tired and fatigued.
q You know someone who, time after time, dominates discussions and conversations.
q You feel like you can never do enough or make people feel good enough.
q More times than not, you leave a conversation feeling drained and tapped out.
q You have people in your life that do not respect personal information that you share with them (they tell others).
q Do you know someone, or have children that take/borrow things (clothes, brushes, toys, jewelry …) without asking?
q You feel like your children “run” your life most of the time.
If you have identified with some of these examples, you probably have a “boundary breaker” in your midst. Boundaries are such a huge part of our lives and are extremely important. Without boundaries we would be living in a very frustrating and chaotic world. Many of you reading this may be living frustrated and chaotic lives. There is hope. Set boundaries.
One of the major keys to setting boundaries is making sure to set appropriate and manageable boundaries. Boundaries set are only as good as how well the person can uphold them. Being well aware of the areas where the present boundaries are being broken is another key to being able to set boundaries. Basically, if you don’t know that it’s broken, you can’t fix it. Boundaries are also set on an individual basis, and people need to be aware of not only their own boundaries, but also the boundaries of others.
There has been a lot of talk about boundaries in the last several years, and for good reason. It seems now that we have a generation of “boundary breakers”. Some of that may not be their fault entirely. One can not follow boundaries that are not set. As parents, it is our job to set and maintain these boundaries at home. As individuals, it is also our job to set and sustain our own personal boundaries. And finally, as couples we must also set and preserve boundaries within our marriages. You may want to consider looking into the readily available Christian literature on boundaries if you have a “Boundary Breaker” in your life.