Boundaries 102

Boundaries get a bad rap: they are walls; they are invisible lines in the sand that need to be redrawn; and they are limiting. None of that is true. Boundaries are stop signs – a signal to slow down and re-evaluate something. These metaphorical stop signs are one of the keys to a successful academic career and to finding balance in your personal well-being.

All healthy relationships – whether they be with friends, partners, objects or activities – have boundaries! Setting boundaries can help you communicate your needs, wants, limits, and expectations. Think of your boundaries as guidelines for how you want others to treat and respect you. They can also help you discover what is important to you and achieve your goals. Setting boundaries is a rewarding form of self-care and is so important for students!

Check out these tips for setting boundaries:

  1. Think about what you want and what is important to you. Are there days or times when you don’t want or can’t talk with your partner(s) or friends? How much time can you reasonably commit to school, work, family, friends and other activities while still taking care of yourself? What is okay for others to post online? If you’re in a romantic relationship, how do you feel about “The L Word”? Are you ready to be physical and if so, what does that look like for you? These are just some questions to think about.
  2. Communicate your boundaries. Nobody will ever know where the stop sign is if you don’t tell them! Talk with your partner(s), friends, family, etc. about your boundaries – and ask them about theirs. Boundaries are all about respect, and everyone’s boundaries are worthy of respect.
  3. Check in with yourself. Boundaries can and do change! It is okay if you feel differently after some time. If something does change, be sure to communicate that.
  4. Follow through. If your someone crosses or doesn’t respect your boundaries, hold them accountable for it. Have an honest conversation about how that made you feel. If you are making a plan to limit an activity or use of an object, stick to that plan. Ask someone to help you by reminding you of your boundary and why you set it. Think of upholding your boundaries self-care – you are creating space where you feel safe and good.
  5. Reflect on your actions. Make sure your partner(s), friends, family, etc. know that it is okay for them to hold you accountable for overstepping their boundaries. If you do overstep, take responsibility. Then, reflect on your actions and strive to do better in the future.

Interested in learning more about boundaries in intimate relationships? Check out this article from Love Is Respect or this checklist from Scarleteen.

-Cate Heaney Gary, Relationship Education and Violence Prevention Wellness Coordinator