When most people think of boundaries, they think about boundaries between states or countries. Those boundaries delineate between two distinct and separate geographical regions. Interpersonal boundaries are similar in that they differentiate between one type of relationship and another. Unfortunately, some people have difficulty maintaining appropriate boundaries with others, while other people might actively test those boundaries. These situations can lead to both relational and emotional distress.
Healthy boundaries are important in a variety of relationships such as between friends, coworkers, bosses, teachers, and healthcare providers. These are all types or relationships with differing roles that often need to remain distinct. Poor boundaries are when two people engage in more than one type of relationship at the same time. Examples of not having healthy boundaries include being close friends with a boss or having a romantic relationship with a teacher.
Healthy boundaries involve setting limits on the type of relationship that you want to have with someone, and how you want to be treated in that relationship. Some people have difficulty saying declining other people’s requests, leading you to place their desires before yours. This can involve being assigned work tasks that you feel are unfair, or negotiating the progression of sexual intimacies with a partner. Therapy can help you explore and develop your own sense of healthy boundaries with others. It can then help you feel more comfortable and confident saying ‘no’ to other requests when you feel they are inappropriate.
Setting limits on the type of behavior you will accept from someone is another way of maintaining healthy boundaries. Examples include not allowing a coworker to make inappropriate or unwanted sexual jokes in your presence, or not disclosing more personal information to an employer than you feel comfortable sharing. Therapy can help you recognize when someone else pushing your boundaries. It can also help you feel more comfortable asserting your boundaries.