What makes for a healthy relationship, whether it’s in dating, or in a spouse? Do you believe that the family dynamics you grew up in influence the relationships you are in today? I believe they have an effect and play a part in whom we choose as our partners, either consciously or subconsciously.
I previously wrote an article based on dads and daughters, and the influence that dads have on the partner that their daughter will choose someday. The same goes for moms and sons, and I also believe that siblings and other immediate relatives also can influence who we choose, in healthy and unhealthy ways.
Are you tired of picking the same kind of person on the dating scene? It never works out, and often leaves you feeling broken or wanting to give up. Or are you married, and realizing that marriage is work, and not just rainbows and roses every day? Whatever the situation you are in, there is hope for you.
God made us to balance each other out and to be a supporter and encourager of one another, not the other way around. It is a choice to wake up each day and commit yourself to your spouse, or your partner. God gives us free will and choices, but He also gives us boundaries. Boundaries are specifically important in marriage to protect us from faltering and making grave mistakes that could cost us everything we love.
I often talk with my clients about the topic of boundaries and the effect they have on significant relationships in their own lives. This is something that is commonly frustrating for most people, especially if they did not learn healthy boundaries in their family growing up.
I have people as young as 16 wanting to get help in this area, to older clientele in their 50’s, still struggling with this issue. If you never learn the right techniques and are lacking in confidence to keep these in place, then this article is for you.
First off, you might be asking, “What is a healthy boundary?” That is a great place to start! A definition that I found which is a perfect example of a healthy boundary is as follows: “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows where you end and someone else begins, leading to a sense of ownership. We have to deal with what is in our soul (Prov. 14:10), and boundaries help us define what that is. The Bible tells us clearly what our parameters are and how to protect them, but often our family or other past relationships have confused us about our parameters” (Boundaries Workbook, Dr. Henry Cloud & John Townsend).
This basically states that even God has given us the gift of using boundaries for a reason, to protect our souls and hearts from what is not good for us. This is how I read this definition and I believe it is fundamental to understand why this is important to do for our individual selves.
This is important because no one can do this for you. You can have great teachers about boundaries from your parents or those who raised you, but you must be the one to put the boundaries into place and stick to them! This is hard for people for many reasons, some of them being, “They always know how to break through my boundaries,” or, “I’m great at boundaries with everyone except those that I date.”
When let’s be honest, your boundaries should be in place with everyone in your life around you, not just certain people or certain situations. If you have a healthy developed sense of self, then healthy boundaries are essential to everyone and everything around you. Why? Because God made you to have these boundaries to protect yourself from people and things that are not good for you.
I have often counseled people who struggle with boundaries with their siblings, parents, and even their in-laws. This can be tough, because as a woman, I hear this often, “I don’t want to come across as a (fill in the blank). That’s what people perceive of a woman standing up for herself and having healthy boundaries.”
This is unfortunate, because as a woman, I have experienced this as well many times in my life. If you are strong, independent, opinionated in a healthy way, and have healthy boundaries, people can perceive that differently.
Little girls who are told to act nicely, behave, not show anger or disdain, be cooperative, and do what others tell you can often turn into women who never learned to listen to how they feel and exude a self-confidence in who they are, thus leading to instilling healthy or unhealthy boundaries, depending on what they were taught growing up.
The same goes for little boys, who are told not to cry or show emotions, to be a man, to deal with it, etc. They in turn grow up to be men who don’t know how to own their feelings, express them in healthy ways, and thus have either healthy or unhealthy boundaries as well.
Counseling can be very beneficial in learning and processing your emotions and feelings, and begin to define where you begin and someone else ends. This is a healthy way of starting to instill boundaries in your everyday life with everyone around you. Is this easy? Of course not. It will be incredibly uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier with time as people realize that “the new you is here to stay.”
What Does God Say about Boundaries?
What does God say about boundaries, and are there Bible verses to back this up?
I have done some research on that for you, so here you go:
“For each will have to bear his own load.” – Galatians 6:5
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – Colossians 4:6
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18
And is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. – Philippians 1:9-10
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17
I hope those verses give you some hope and understanding that God wants you to be successful and happy in life, which includes having healthy boundaries with those around you.
Here is a brief example of how boundaries can be effective in your own life:
Let’s say you have a friend who is always coming to you for advice and she tends to spill her every thought and feeling on you, every time you meet up. She may see you as a trusted confidant, someone who gives great advice, and therefore leans on you when she is weary. This can be what friendship is all about, but it can also get to be too much for the person who is the rock.
If this is you, one way you can set a healthy boundary is to simply say to her:
“I hear what you are saying and I know you are going through some difficult things in your life right now. I like to be there for you at times, but I can’t be there all the time as I have my own struggles that I am dealing with. Have you ever thought of seeking out counseling to help you with some of these problems?
For me, I need to make it clear that it drains me to be there for everyone, all the time. I love and care about you, but I cannot be this for you all the time. I hope you understand this comes from a place of love and setting a healthy boundary for myself.”
It may sound easy, but this is not easy to do. I have helped many people come to this place in their lives and relationships, with time and building these types of skills related to boundary work.
Tips for Creating Healthy Boundaries
Here are 7 tips to create healthy boundaries with others, from Abigail Brenner, MD:
1) Know thyself: Get to know yourself as best you can. This means that you need to learn what’s really important to you, what you really value apart from anyone else.
2) Take responsibility for yourself: This means to become aware, to develop the capacity for active conscious involvement, to know what needs to be done for yourself.
3) Develop a healthy respect for yourself: All of your experiences, including the mistakes you’ve made help to shape your character – who you are. No one besides you, no matter how persuasive they may be, can define you or try to control who you are.
4) Heed the warning signs: Stay away from anyone who has his or her own agenda and thinks nothing of pushing the limit, of invading your space for their own end.
5) Don’t try to fix people (unless it’s in a counseling session!): Fixing others is a way of trying to get love, attention, and/or validation. Getting love/attention/validation must mean you’re “okay” – right? It’s a waste of your time and energy to try to fix them because, bottom line, they’re not interested in becoming any other way than they are.
6) You are in charge of your choices: You have the right to change your mind or your direction at any time. You don’t need to feel that you owe anyone anything more than you want to give with your free and conscious heart.
7) Separate yourself from others: It may be difficult to imagine being emotionally attached to others while remaining psychologically and intellectually detached. This means that you are able to separate your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs from others. You understand that your boundaries are different from others.
I will leave you with a poem I found on boundaries:
“Setting boundaries doesn’t make me ‘mean.
I can set limits and expectations for my life and still be ‘nice.’
Considering your wishes doesn’t mean I have to do what you think I should do.
My feelings and thoughts are part of the decision
And if you don’t like it, that belongs to you.”
If you need help or counseling regarding boundary work, please don’t hesitate to contact me from my information below.
“To the ends of the earth,” courtesy of Brian Holland, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Sunset,” courtesy of Dave Meier, picography.co, CC0 License; “Committed,” courtesy of freestocks.org, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Relax,” courtesy of Maxime Lelievre, unsplash.com, CC0 License