Understanding Boundaries

Understanding, developing, setting and following boundaries is a vital part in having healthy and productive relationships whether they are work, intimate, family or friend relationships. At times, it can be difficult to both set and enforce our own boundaries and respect boundaries set by others. When difficulties in setting or following boundaries arise it can create conflict, hurt feelings, disrespect and anger in our relationships. It is also important to note that the way you set boundaries will differ depending on your environment. For instance, you may have more strict boundaries at work than you would with your family members or friends.

There are three types of boundary styles (rigid, porous, and healthy):

Rigid boundaries: Rigid boundaries are boundaries set that are too strict and lack flexibility. Rigid boundaries become an issue when they prevent us from interacting or encourage us to push relationships away. Individuals with rigid boundaries often have a hard time asking for help, seem detached or distant, and are very protective of their emotions and personal information.

Porous boundaries: Porous boundaries are the opposite of rigid boundaries in that they are often too loose and allow for inappropriate interactions. Individuals with porous boundaries often have a hard time saying no, display co-dependency, and accept abusive behaviors from others.

Healthy boundaries: Healthy boundaries fall somewhere in between rigid and porous boundaries. They allow for some flexibility in relationships, but also keep the individual and others safe. Individuals with healthy boundaries can both accept and say no, value their opinions and the opinions of others, and know what they want and communicate it to others.

Identifying your current boundary style and evaluating whether it works for you can help you to identify the need for change in your ability to set and follow boundaries. For example, if you often feel taken advance of or feel that others don’t respect you, you may by utilizing a porous boundary style. In this case, your therapist will help you to identify areas that you can set more firm boundaries with others to protect your physical, emotional and mental health. If you have concerns about how your boundary style may be impacting you or your relationships, a therapist can help you to identify and modify how you set boundaries with others.