The Art Of Building Boundaries

3-minute read

I am not sure if there are many skills in interpersonal communication as important as the art of establishing your own physical and mental territory – probably there aren’t. Establishing boundaries is a fundamental part of the development of every healthy relationship in your life.


But what exactly is “establishing boundaries” and why do I call it art?

One person’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins. This is why it is essential to establish our own psychological “territory” and express healthily and positively your desires, wishes, and ideas about living among your loved human beings.

For instance, in your love life, you will benefit from expressing what you expect from life and relationships in general, what you desire, and what you are not going to put up with. It is not necessary to give a list to the other person on your first date, but when you communicate daily soon you will have the opportunity to give clear information about all the things that are dear to you – dreams, values, etc. Then you will be also able to define some basic rules for the relationship and hopefully, the other person will agree… or not, simply because your freedom invades his or hers.

Here are five ways to establish healthy boundaries, drawing from various psychological and relationship experts:

  1. Communicate openly and assertively: Express your needs, feelings, and limits clearly and respectfully. Use “I” statements to avoid blaming or accusing the other person. Sources like the book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend emphasize the importance of clear communication in setting and maintaining boundaries.
  2. Identify and prioritize your needs: Understand what you require emotionally, physically, and mentally in the relationship. According to therapists like Nedra Glover Tawwab, author of “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself,” it’s crucial to know and prioritize your needs before communicating them effectively to your partner.
  3. Be consistent: Once boundaries are established, maintain consistency in upholding them. This consistency helps reinforce the boundaries and sets a clear expectation for both partners. The book “Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day” by Anne Katherine highlights the importance of consistency in boundary-setting.
  4. Respect others’ boundaries: Just as you set boundaries for yourself, respect the boundaries set by your partner. It creates a reciprocal environment of mutual respect and understanding. Gottman Institute’s research on relationships emphasizes the significance of mutual respect in maintaining healthy boundaries.
  5. Practice self-care: Prioritize self-care to maintain a healthy balance in the relationship. This includes setting aside time for yourself, engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, and nurturing your physical and mental health. Therapists like Brené Brown, in books such as “The Gifts of Imperfection,” stress the importance of self-care in fostering healthy relationships.

Remember, healthy boundaries are not about control or manipulation but about creating a supportive and respectful relationship dynamic. It’s essential to tailor these suggestions to your specific relationship context and seek professional guidance if needed.

The boundaries that you will put will be as unique as yourself in a relationship with that one person, and it is unnecessary to generalize them or make them strict rules. For some people infidelity is a huge deal-breaker, for others it is the opposite – they can’t live without the freedom to have intimacy with anyone they want and are willing to give the same freedom to the person they are dating. Some people will just hate when the other person is lazy or not punctual, while others will find it cute and live with it. What about you?

And this is valid not only about your love life. You establish your limits when you define your relationship with your parents, family, and friends too (usually during and after puberty when you are old enough to negotiate). YOU decide if they will have a word in your love life, your career decisions, not them. You decide if their opinion will be as important as yours or not and why. Remember that people who love you will try to convince you to live your life according to their values because they believe that this will make you happy. This is good, this means that they care, but the decision is yours and it is your responsibility to communicate it to them.

Why do I call this art?

First, because it requires hard work, skills, and a little talent. It doesn’t happen overnight. You need to find the right way to explain every single desire and wish that you have to the people who matter to you, sometimes with the risk of offending them while trying not to be too harsh on them. You need to do your best to explain everything you anticipate or fear, and be open to their opinion.

But it is also not about being selfish and just demanding. It is a two-way process of agreement and understanding, after all your loved ones will know much more about you and this is a great prize. Often our greatest fear is that if we can’t agree on fundamental stuff, the relationship will be in assessment. It could even end. But may potentially be positive too. You don’t want to waste someone’s time just as you don’t want someone to be wasting yours.

After you succeed in defining your clear boundaries, define what you want, and communicate it to the people you love, the result can turn out to be a real masterpiece. People will potentially know what to expect from you and what they can’t ask you to do for them; they might know that even when you are busy you still love them; they will start giving you their love just the way you want to receive it and you will be surrounded of the right people for you.

I am not saying that it will be easy. If you are a natural-born talent maybe you already do all of this unconsciously and you have great relationships with the people you love. If this is the case, great! But in this case, you probably won’t be reading this article anyway. If you are not, remember that you CAN do it better and all you need is some self-reflection and practice. And next time will be better… and it will be worth it!

Want to chat about this article? Leave a comment below or send me an email with your thoughts and don’t forget to like us on Facebook.