Establishing Healthy Boundaries


Do you find it hard to say no? If you have to change your plans do you feel guilty or that you are letting others down? Would you rather keep your feelings to yourself so you don’t “make waves”? These are common feelings for many people. Fortunately, putting proper boundaries in place can alleviate these uncomfortable feelings. The definition of a boundary is the ability to know where you end and someone else begins.

We all have personal boundaries that govern our lives. We have physical, mental, and emotional boundaries that help shape the way we interact with others. Having boundaries makes it easier to set limits for yourself and others. Consequently, having unhealthy boundaries in relationships can lead to overly connected relationships which are called, enmeshed or co-dependent. In a healthy relationship, you know that you both are separate entities and that you cannot change or fix the other.

Knowing what healthy boundaries are and learning to be assertive can be tough for some. It is difficult to set healthy boundaries if you grew up in an environment where unhealthy boundaries were in place. Each person’s boundaries are mainly determined and shaped by the family of origin. Whatever boundaries that were modeled to you in childhood are carried along into your adult life. However, it’s never too late to learn and implement healthy boundaries in relationships.

Unhealthy Boundary Red Flags:

Placing the needs of others above your own.

Frequently offering unsolicited advice to help others.

Doing things that others should do for themselves.

Overcommitting yourself.

Taking advantage of others.

Expecting others to read your mind.

Feeling guilty when you say no.

Keeping your feelings to yourself.

Becoming overly involved in another’s problems.

Touching someone without permission.

Trying to fix or change another.

Finding yourself feeling unappreciated, resentful or exhausted.

Allowing others to define you.

Disregarding your beliefs to not hurt another’s feelings.

Accepting unwanted sexual advances or touching.


Ways to effectively communicate boundaries:

Be open to discuss boundary violations. Make sure you are being assertive in your message. When you are talking maintain eye contact and speak in a direct and clear manner.

Have clear and firm boundaries in place. Furthermore, have clear and firm consequences for violations. If there is no consequence for a boundary being violated the boundary will loose its meaning.

Do not be apologetic for your feelings. “No” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to feel bad for your feelings or give excuses to why you are saying no.

Use “I” messages instead of “you” messages. Remove blame and take responsibility for your emotions by using “I” statements.

Actively engage in problem-solving. Have solution talk rather than problem talk. Don’t just complain about the problem find a way to eliminate it.

Check in. Ensure that others are receiving the message you intended by asking for feedback.

Lastly, having proper boundaries also has to do with the ability to effectively set limits with others who have poor boundaries. Model the behaviors you want to see in others. When proper boundaries are in place you no longer have to feel guilty or that you have to please others. You will know what is best for you and what your willing to do in relationships with others. Having firm boundaries makes it easier to know when a line has been crossed. Being able to effectively communicate your needs will increase your feelings of empowerment. As a result, you will have increased self-esteem, intimacy, and stability within your relationships.

About Whitney Doyeto LMFT

I am Whitney Doyeto, M.A., LMFT, the licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Serenity Marriage and Family Counseling, LLC. I earned both a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Oral Roberts University. ​I feel called to give hope and renewal to individuals, couples, and families. I strive to create more support, structure, and stability, into the lives of those I serve. I have been married for six years and recently welcomed my first child, a baby girl, in April of 2016. I am passionate about exercise, traveling, and volunteering at Church.