Mental Health Matters: How to Establish 4 Types of Boundaries

A couple weeks ago, I shared how developing self-worth has helped me be less codependent. This week, I’ll discuss how maintaining four types of boundaries has been useful:

Relationship: Relationship boundaries seem to be the most common. This kind of boundary is mostly discussed within romantic relationships, but over the past five years or so, I’ve developed relationship boundaries with existing friendships. The BFF breakup I recently re-blogged, where I realized I didn’t like to be my friend’s therapist, is a great example. To avoid slipping into a psychologist’s role, I rarely give others advice when asked. Instead, my go-to answer is you know what you should do. Not only does this answer embody my firmly held belief that most of us do have the internal guidance required to live, it also keeps me from establishing relationships where folks constantly lean on me to help them solve their problems.

Time: The next type of boundary isn’t discussed as frequently, and I suspect it’s because people in relationship feel entitled to copious amounts of one another’s time. Take phone conversations, for example. They aren’t really my thing, but I recognize them as something many people enjoy as a way to preserve relationships. However, seldom do I want to talk on the phone, and even when I want to, most days, my lifestyle doesn’t allow for lengthy dialogue. So, friends get a time boundary. Sometimes this looks telling the person ahead of the call that I will only have X number of minutes to speak. Other days, it’s someone asking me if I have ten minutes to answer a question or hear a story. Either way, time boundaries are set, and friendships are intact.

Personal: Personal boundaries are my favorite because they’re unique to each of us. An example of this occurred three years ago. My grandmother wanted visit. My answer was no. I didn’t offer her a reason, but for blogging purposes, here’s why: It was August. My semester begins in August. My oldest daughter was moving to another city. My youngest daughter was beginning her second year of high school. Dwight and I were looking for a house every Saturday and Sunday. There was too much going on and I’d just begun understanding that when life is too much, anxiety kicks in. The last thing I needed was my then 90-year-old Grannie wanting to be involved in all of the things and asking 1,999 questions while doing so. Nope. That’s what a personal boundary is: personal based on your needs.

Conversational: Finally, it is important to set boundaries around what you will and will not discuss. Though it may seem as if there is no topic I won’t share via blog, believe it or not, conversational boundaries exist in this space. Ya’ll can’t know everything. Similarly, I have conversational boundaries with my in-real-life friends, depending on the person. I’ve learned not to talk about anything too serious with a friend I’ve known since senior year, because when I do, he jokes about the subject and never follows-up to see if or how it was resolved. We’re friends, but he’s demonstrated he doesn’t want to hear all that. I only have one or two people with whom I’ll talk about my marriage. Everyone else has proven they can’t handle anything perceived as negativity about Dwight, whom they believe to be an unflawed human being. Conversational boundaries ensure I avoid what feels like toxicity and instead include love and support from the appropriate person. This is not to say I avoid hard conversations, but rather, all topics are not for all relationships.

Relationship, time, personal, and conversational boundaries have supported healthier ways for me to be in relationship with others. Relationship boundaries help me to define how I want to be someone’s friend of family member. Time boundaries ensure I’m not giving too much of myself or asking others to unfairly give of themselves. Personal boundaries allow me to know when to prioritize my needs, and conversational ones help me to not share topics with those who do not have the capacity to deal, while also allowing me to know with whom I can engage.

I hope exemplifying these boundaries helps. Let me know if anything resonates with you.

3 Ways to Develop Self-Worth

No More People Pleasing!

84 thoughts on “Mental Health Matters: How to Establish 4 Types of Boundaries

  1. Yes to all of this. I don’t give advice, but I will share if I’ve experienced something similar and how I’ve handled it. I also have a friend who I call an emotional vampire that I have to redirect when she gets too doom and gloom. I do this by asking, “Tell me something good that happened to you” or by not responding directly to the complaint. For example, once she was complaining about a Thanksgiving dinner she was at and I was like, “Whose house? Oh, that’s so nice that they invited you. When did that happen?” etc. I mean, obviously, I will also get off a call or just won’t respond to a text, but I have also found that a good way for me to continue to engage in a conversation I want to have in a way that works for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a cousin like the person you described. We don’t even talk on the phone; she texts, but every…single…text is like guess what happened to her at the doctor? Guess what happened to her parent at the doctor? Guess who’s in the hospital. And I’m on the other end about to lose my mind. I tried what you said, but when I do, she stops talking lol

      Like

    1. Thank you for providing this link. I’ll be submitting something. Much of my work is already published on my blog or elsewhere, but I’ll take a look at the themes and create something new, even if it’s a photo.

      Like

  2. It took me (also) time to learn to set boundaries. I remain a pretty open person, however, I choose to whom, about what and how often. A little while ago, I heard someone say: I’m not anti-social, I just like to control who and when I invite into my house. Could totally resonate with that and I go even further: ‘house’ equals ‘life’ 😉 Great post, dear Katherin. XxX

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Favorite. Post. Ever. I added the Boundaries graphic to my Pinterest as well. 🙂 Boundaries are the basis of sooooo much that affect our interactions with others and how we see ourselves. I think a “part two” to the Boundaries discussion could then be Expectations, i.e., understanding and dealing with others’ boundaries! My mother always hated my boundaries that I established, trying to push the guilt of her favorite mantra “you can’t choose your family” on me whenever I asked that we improve our relationship and shared what hurt me as my therapist have always recommended, and that mantra always made me laugh because I totally disagree with that…my chosen family is my husband first, and establishing boundaries (that sometimes necessitate outright walls if their behavior is destructive enough) with others has helped me so much over the years. thanks 🙂

    (PS I’m completely off WordPress for blogging now, 100% using Wix now at eemia.org and my career coaching blog at aimeelevens.com/blog if you’re interested!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I think there should be a guide, in general, about how once you’re an adult…your current circumstances (whether you’ve created a family or not) supersede your “family’s.” We cannot continue to make each other beholden to these made-up rules of everlasting ties…maybe I’m projecting, but I’m just saying lol

      😦 I’ll click on the link you provided and see if I can follow there?

      Like

    2. So a few things: the new site is much cleaner, like streamlined looking. I can’t follow though, right? I just have to memorize it and go there 😩 I think I use wix for my business.

      Like

  4. I need this so much right now Dr. G! Family is the ultimate test of boundaries and I am off to visit my 84 year old Dad this weekend. The complexity of it all is how to navigate the ‘other’ love part with the ‘self’ love part. Which is easy with my grown up ‘self’ but S T R E T C H I N G with my 8 year old self. Which is why I am once again grateful for your MH posts. You balance your real life experiences with science. You Dr. G are incredible. ❤ ❤ #bornwriter

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Home Visit Boundaries Update: Your blog ^ helped tremendously Dr. G! Conversational boundaries are a big one in our famiy. So I printed off a copy of your post + visuals and brought them with me (in my back pocket.. literally!) Game changer. Reminded me to show up as my adult self. Thank you :))))

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to agree with everything stated here. I think an important thing for us to do is to realize that we have boundaries. Sometimes we don’t realize that we allow people to cross those lines and it can affect us later in the day (or in some other aspect).
    I would feel negative after a productive day and not really understand why until I realized it was due to a recurring encounter with someone that crossed one of my boundaries. Limiting people can be as healthy as limiting sugar or junk food.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your blog is so very helpful to me, and I hope you know how much it is appreciated. You bring up important points that I recognize in myself! I’m always amazed when people tell me that I’m so open in my blog, because although everything I say is as true as I know how to be, there are certain subjects I don’t address in it. Some people think that honesty means no boundaries, but that simply isn’t true.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another good, thought-provoking post, K. I’ve always been especially weak in this area, attributing it to being a child of an alcoholic. And now having 3 generations in one house, I really could see my issues in this area as I read your post. Something I need to do more than think about though, and take some action after working out what’s needed in which areas. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s who Beattie originally began talking about…people who are tied to alcoholics and other substance users, so this makes a lot of sense to me. It’s hard to be firm in these, so I’ve practiced one at a time; otherwise, it’s too overwhelming, you know? You’re welcome for the reminder ❤

      Like

  8. Thank you for such a thought-provoking post, Katherin. Boundaries were always challenging for me because I didn’t want to upset the other person. But it’s all in the delivery and I have gotten better at saying no and setting limits. Even with my children, which has been evolving.
    I liked your statements about time boundaries. I often avoid calling people because I don’t want to spend the time. This leads to a sad feeling – like I’m withdrawing socially from the world. Instead, I could reach out in a more structured and limited way and that makes a lot of sense. I just don’t have the patience to chat for a long time, lately.
    Thank you again, so giving me great food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome Judy! I think what you’ve described is the case for many of us. None of us wants to be seen as the “bad guy.”

      As far as the time boundary, I completely understand what you’re saying. Sometimes, I feel as if I could be doing anything else, but of course, I don’t tell anyone that lol I hope setting a time boundary works for you and others in your life.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It all resonates, especially “All topics are not for all relationships.” I was just discussing this today!

    I’ve definitely missed reading your posts! I’ll be catching up on all your goodness soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Boundaries has been a very important learning aspect for me and ongoing. Having all family on the other side of the planet, phone calls have been the only way to keep relations intact. It served well and yet I am having to reset what works for me and what doesn’t. Your post is so clear and gives me some reinforcement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are so welcome. Time boundaries seem especially important nowadays, when we think we have a BUNCH of time (if we’re still sheltering at home). We really have the same amount of time, but we have to now be responsible for dividing it in useful ways.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. This is a really helpful post. I never really thought about the fact certain topic are for certain people and having clear boundaries around that. This is going to take some thought for me but I think this will benefit many of my relationships. Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re welcome and thank you for reading/commenting Irena. Although I tend to talk about (almost) anything with anyone, this really is a useful concept. I mean, think about it…your family doesn’t wanna hear about your sex life or something like that, and your boss doesn’t wanna hear about your family, maybe…I’m glad this helped re-frame a boundary for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I agree keep some distance “you know what you have to do” is a great answer if only because they actually do. I hate phone conversations, I’m like my Grandfather who’s replies were little more than a yes no………….. however my mother can be on the phone with someone for 2hours! But then she’s the nicest person I’ve ever met in my life, boundaries don’t exist she’s happy to talk to anyone. Though I do have one self preservation boundary, I (try to) never discuss politics or religion because people only get upset and it’s just not worth falling out over…………and I’ll write anything in a blog especially if I’ve just slept with her and they do end up being a popular read :D.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I tend to agree about politics Andrew. I’ve recently started discussing religion with people, but first I do a test with a few questions. The answers usually help me to decide if there will be a future argument.

      Those blog posts are very intriguing lol People don’t want to talk about what you write about, but they will read about it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post, KE. When you set a boundary, expect pushback and stand your ground. People will test you. If you hold firm, they will adjust their expectations. We used to visit my parents for every holiday, bringing our pets in our RV. When the RV got old and the furnace turned futzy, we had to make a new plan. Mom didn’t want animals in the house. We didn’t want to pay a sitter or freeze to death in the driveway or drive the RV on icy roads. So we decided we would travel up there for Thanksgiving (while the weather is still warm) but spend Christmas at home. Mom would call, wanting to know when we were coming for Christmas. It took two years of holding firm before she accepted that we weren’t coming. We have both made our peace with it. We talk on the phone on Christmas and exchange gifts on Thanksgiving or send them in the mail. Your post got me thinking about boundaries I hadn’t considered, like personal and conversational ones.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Joan, you are preaching to the choir. The same thing happened when I stopped going home for Christmas. Almost every single family member kept asking me when we were coming. I just kept saying, we’re not…it took a minute for them to realize I was serious and they would be okay without our presence and presents (lol).

      Thanks for this comment. It’s always good to know I’m not the only one out there 😉

      Liked by 2 people

Comments are welcomed

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s