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  • Writer's pictureMelisa De Seguirant

Setting, receiving, & maintaining boundaries

Boundaries! What are they? What are they not? How do you set them? Who is responsible for reinforcing them? How can you improve your ability to receive and honor boundaries?

The concept seems basic enough in theory, but often difficult to apply in practice. 


What comes up for you around boundaries? Setting them? Receiving them? What associations do you have with boundaries? What did they look like and how were they reinforced in your childhood? How would you like to improve upon your use of boundaries as an adult?


Check out this brief guide for an overview on boundary setting, along with some more valuable reflection questions!


Notice the difference between boundaries and rules / control.

TAKE NOTE ~ Just because you say the word “boundary” does not mean you are actually setting one! Sometimes the word boundary is used in earnest error due to lack of understanding, sometimes it is intentionally used / weaponized to manipulate and control other people. 


Boundaries sound like ~ 

“I’m not feeling up for that, can we do something else instead?”

“I don’t have the capacity for this conversation right now … can we talk about i

t this evening?”

“We can push the reservation back a bit to accommodate your schedule,

but no later than 6:30pm”

“I feel uncomfortable talking about ___ behind their back … let’s talk about

something else instead”

“I don’t want pictures of me to be posted on social media”

Rules / Control sounds like ~

“You can’t hang out with _____ anymore”

“I don’t want you working that late … 10pm is my boundary”

“You can’t watch that movie with anyone else … if you do you will be crossing a boundary”

“You have to use protection if you sleep with anyone else besides me”


BUT WAIT … what about requests and agreements? Isn’t it okay to make agreements about what each person in the relationship will and will not do? Aren’t agreements and rules the same? When do ultimatums come into play?

Let’s explore some terminology!

➡️ REQUESTS ~ Requests are asks you have of other people. If honored/ accepted, requests result in relationship agreements (behaviors/ practices everyone in the relational unit has consented to uphold)

Example 1: “Would you be able to add your work trips to our shared calendar?”

Example 2: “Will you give me a heads up if you think you are going to be late?”

➡️ BOUNDARIES ~ In the general sense, boundaries are the parameters around something. The boundaries of a piece of property, for example, help us to determine what is part of the property and what is not. We can also have boundaries around ourselves; what we will and will not tolerate, expose ourselves to, or engage with. A few examples of things we may have boundaries around include our time, our energy and our bodies.

➡️ BOUNDARIES IN RELATIONSHIPS ~ Boundaries are the limits we set in relation to others to maintain a necessary space between us and other people. Boundaries are protective, for each of us individually and for relationships in general (more on this on Friday!) Sometimes setting a boundary with someone means communicating what treatment we will and will not tolerate, and outlining what we plan to do should the boundary we have stated be crossed or violated. Other boundaries may feel lower in stakes, such as time boundaries we may communicate regarding our availability to talk on a given day. 

Example 1: “I don’t tolerate name-calling and will take space if it happens in conversation”

Example 2: “I reserve evenings to spend with my kids and don’t answer calls after 6pm”

➡️ ULTIMATUMS ~ Ultimatums are a bottom-line command. They are strong and usually final. Typically they are voiced in a way that attempts to manage or control another person’s behavior. Many ultimatums are harmful, and in general they are not a helpful first tactic in relationships. That said, they sometimes ARE necessary, especially as a last-resort if a boundary has continued to be crossed or violated.

Example 1: “Stop hanging out with them or I’m breaking up with you”

Example 2: “Show my pets respect or we’re moving out”



"Can you have a boundary without stating the

consequence if it's crossed?"


Absolutely!!! When we are first getting to know someone or are interacting with strangers, boundaries will be communicated verbally and nonverbally, sometimes in really casual ways.

Someone stepping back from a hug and offering a handshake instead, for example.


I hope that these words from Prentis Hemphill

resonate as deeply with you as they do with me. 


Boundaries can sometimes seem so much like walls, we overlook their power to help us connect. We are relational beings by nature. Boundaries help us set our proximity to people and communicate how we wish to be interacted with, which in turn creates the potential to preserve the relationship. 

Of course, some relationships prove to be harmful and need releasing rather than preservation. 

The above sentiments need not exclude this possibility.


Consider these words from another important voice in the conversation about boundaries Minaa B., LMSW:

“Physical space, creating distance & loving people from afar is a normal and healthy boundary. Connection doesn’t always have to be in intimate settings. For the sake of our mental health, everyone we love is not required to be physically close to us.”


“When erecting boundaries with harmful people, there might be times when you have to resort to avoidance or ghosting as an option in order to protect yourself from harm. When other people refuse to respect your boundaries, you have to know

when it’s time to disengage”

-Minaa B.



How might boundaries be opportunities to…

  • Affirm yourself

  • Show care

  • Develop trust

  • Create secure attachment

  • Build sustainable relationships

  • Grow Community


💡 What are YOUR ideas?

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