Setting Boundaries with Friends & Loved Ones

Setting Boundaries with Friends & Loved Ones - The Becoming Counseling

Personal boundaries are established as a way to remain safe. It is up to you to decide what is acceptable and unacceptable in your life and to draw the line in the sand so that your friends, work colleagues, and family members understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It is important to remember that you can’t expect other people to read your mind.

Setting healthy boundaries is no easy task. First, you must consider past relationships and the behaviors that made you uncomfortable or unhappy. Only then, can you decide on specific actions that are off-limits.

When setting healthy boundaries, you have to consider all aspects of your life. Assessing the areas of your life where healthy boundaries are important means thinking carefully about personal space, your emotional life, your possessions, your time, your sexuality, and your culture. You deserve to set the rules for your life and to decide who is allowed in it.


Why Setting Boundaries Is Important

Healthy relationships are built and nurtured based on mutual respect. Problems arise because of the different expectations of each individual. The good news and the bad news about people is that we are all different with unique backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. Since we are all so different, it is easy to hurt each other’s feelings or communicate the wrong message unintentionally.

Setting boundaries is essential for maintaining healthy relationships that last. It is far too easy for resentments to build when you feel like another person is not being considerate or is taking advantage of you in some way. That’s why it is so crucial to let the people in your life know what you expect from them in a friendly and non-threatening way.

Since our happiness is directly connected to healthy relationships, setting better boundaries is a step in the right direction toward a happier life. As social creatures, we all need the support of friends and family members to thrive.


Verbal Boundary Violations

Words can hurt. If you are alive, you have been hurt by someone’s words. Cursing at another person or gossiping about them behind their back is common. If another person screams at your or won’t let you talk by talking over you, then they are most likely crossing over boundaries that the majority of people would set to feel safe and respected.

There may be people who are okay with cursing as long as you don’t call each other names. Setting better boundaries means explaining exactly how you want to be spoken to and standing up for yourself when another person crosses the line you’ve set for acceptable behavior.


Physical Boundary Violations

Physically, we all need to feel safe from unwanted touching. This is not exclusively about sexual touching. If you don’t like a friend holding your hand or kissing you on the mouth when they greet you, then you need to tell them.

Other physical boundaries should be set related to your stuff. Privacy issues often come up related to your cell phone, laptop, and personal records. When anyone goes snooping into your private things, then you have the right to say that is not acceptable if it bothers you.


Psychological Boundary Violations

There are many ways to abuse another person mentally, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Any action taken to undermine your confidence or hurt your feelings are clearly beyond what is appropriate and should be discussed. Lying, judging, criticizing, or embarrassing you are all acts that should be considered violations worthy of discussion when setting boundaries.


How to Set Boundaries

Establishing healthy boundaries is not the type of skill we are taught as children in most cases. You have to be assertive and tell people how to treat you. If you remain silent in the face of actions that cross the healthy boundaries you need in place to feel secure, then you are essentially saying that their bad behavior is okay.

When you ask yourself how to set boundaries, just remember to speak your mind whenever you feel like you are not being treated the way you want to be treated. Once you’ve spoken out, then maintaining boundaries is also a necessary part of managing the way you are treated by others.

For example, if you tell a friend that you don’t want to be called after 11 pm at night, then they continue to do so, you have to explain that you expect them to be considerate and stop calling you late at night.



Establishing and maintaining boundaries is one way to protect your emotional and physical health. Being vocal about your expectations from others gives the people in your life a roadmap for success in their relationship with you.



Wes Cain, LPCA, NCC, IHC



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