Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries
Boundaries are a key element in any healthy relationship. When you love someone, you may think that you should give them your all with no limits. You might be tempted to agree to everything, share everything with them, and dedicate all of your time to them. While this approach may feel great in the beginning of your relationship, it can quickly backfire and result in toxic behavior from you or your partner.
Setting boundaries allows you to preserve your mental health and maintain your sense of self in your relationship. If you’re not used to setting boundaries, it can feel uncomfortable. However, these limits exist so that you and your partner can cultivate a healthy, long-lasting relationship. You should understand what healthy and unhealthy boundaries look like and what you can do to put boundaries in place in your own life.
What Are Boundaries
Boundaries are limits that you put in place to protect your mental and emotional well-being. Although your boundaries can affect those around you, you don’t create them to benefit anyone besides yourself. When you set a boundary, you define what behavior is and isn’t acceptable to you, and you make a promise to yourself not to let the unacceptable behavior into your life.
Boundaries in relationships can be physical or emotional. You might have a boundary regarding personal space or touch, or you may set a boundary about what vulnerable topics you do or don’t discuss with your partner. Everyone has different mental health needs, so everyone’s boundaries look different. Even if your partner’s boundaries vary from yours, it’s essential that both of you respect and honor the other’s limits.
Setting healthy boundaries is an excellent way to build trust in your relationship. When your partner respects your boundaries, they show you that they care about your emotional well-being. By allowing yourself to be open about your needs and your limits, you and your partner can grow even closer.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries
So many people struggle with setting and maintaining their boundaries. If you have a hard time saying “no” or advocating for yourself, you might not even know what healthy boundaries look like. Similarly, if you grew up in a family with unhealthy boundaries, you might have to unlearn some of those beliefs and behaviors.
A healthy boundary is any limit that allows you to maintain your own sense of health and well-being. It’s an opportunity to define what you will or won’t do and what behavior you do or do not welcome into your life. Your boundaries function as a guide for you to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”
Also, when you have healthy boundaries, you set consequences for disrespecting those limits. In a relationship, if your partner violates a boundary, you might call them out on the issue and explain how concerning the situation is for you. Another option is to take some extra space or time away from your partner. Following through with these consequences may seem extreme or unnecessary, but it allows you to express the seriousness of your boundaries to your partner.
Unhealthy boundaries are any limits that are ill-defined or poorly enforced. You might try to set a boundary but struggle to maintain it or communicate with your partner about it. Many people have no boundaries in relationships at all, which can lead to controlling or codependent behavior. Additionally, unhealthy boundaries include any rules or limits that you use to control your partner. Your boundary is a guide for yourself, not a tool for manipulating someone else.
Unhealthy boundaries in your relationship can lead to a concerning pattern of disrespect. One partner might struggle to maintain their own boundary, and the other might struggle to honor it. This may result in controlling behavior, violation of personal space, lack of privacy, and other toxic traits. For a relationship to thrive, both partners must commit to setting their own healthy boundaries and respecting the other’s.
Examples of Unhealthy Boundaries
All relationships are different and may have their own unique examples of healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries. The following are some of the most common instances of unhealthy boundaries in toxic relationships:
- • Not saying “no” when you want to or not accepting when your partner says “no.”
- • Believing that you’re solely responsible for others’ happiness or comfort.
- • Touching your partner without consent or in a way that you know makes them uncomfortable.
- • Refusing to spend time alone or to let your partner spend time alone.
- • Controlling how your partner spends money or allowing your partner to control your own spending.
- • Preventing your partner from spending time with their family or friends.
Examples of Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries are good for you, your partner, and your relationship. The following are some key examples of how you can set boundaries with your partner:
- • Knowing when you need to be alone and advocating for time for yourself.
- • Saying “no” when a situation makes you uncomfortable.
- • Sharing information with your partner because you want to and not because you feel like you have to.
- • Engaging in hobbies on your own and maintaining a sense of identity outside of your relationship.
- • Maintaining your relationships with family and friends.
- • Refusing to take the blame for something that isn’t your fault.
- • Standing up for your beliefs and values and allowing yourself to experience your emotions without shame or guilt.
Learning to Set Healthy Boundaries
Setting and maintaining boundaries can feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s important to remember that everybody has limits. Respecting those limits is what separates a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one. Think about the elements of your mental and emotional health that are the most vital to you. For example, you might highly value your alone time, or you may need to avoid discussing certain topics. Once you identify a boundary, you should communicate it to your partner so that they know what you need.
Therapy can be an excellent opportunity to identify and establish your boundaries. Menachem Psychotherapy Group provides individual and couples counseling so that you can work toward your mental health goals and strengthen your relationship. Contact us today to speak with a therapist in Los Angeles.