Boundaries...a fence or a brick wall?

Boundaries. 

That word can feel like such a big word.  It’s a word that is thrown around in our culture, but I also feel like it’s a word that is easily misunderstood. 

One of the reasons it can feel like a big word is because it often is used in the context of saying no in a relationship.  So, if you are having difficulties with your family, you might say “I’m sick of this, and I’m putting up a boundary! That means that you are no longer allowed to show up at my door step whenever you want!”.  Or maybe you have said something like this at work, “I will not take any more work that is out of the scope of my job description.  That is my boundary and you need to respect that.”

But boundaries are more than just saying no.  Healthy boundaries also allow you to say yes without resentment or frustration.  The whole concept of boundaries is to understand where I end and you begin, so that we can be in a healthy and authentic relationship.  The goal of boundaries isn’t supposed to be to shut people out*. 

The way that I like to define healthy boundaries is to picture yourself as a house.  Your house is on a piece of property, and there are definite property lines, which are defined by a fence. The fence is NOT a brick wall so that you can’t see through or over it.  The fence is like the one in the picture with this blog post.  You can see through it, over and under it, but it still clearly defines what you are and are not willing to tolerate in your life.

Within that fence there is a gate.  The gate is designed to be opened and closed, which means you get to say no to certain things and you get to say yes to certain things and people.  A key element in this is that you have a choice; you get to have a voice in your life; and you also provide the other person in the relationship with an opportunity to respond in a way that they hear you, and honor and respect your boundaries.

Does that sound appealing?  Most of us like this idea, because it can mean less conflict in our lives, and a feeling that we have some control in what we let in or keep out of our emotions, and daily experience.  Are you intrigued??  If so, join me over the next 3-4 posts, where we will explore different components to boundaries that help you achieve the word picture above.

*Please note that the context of this article is for relationships that aren’t abusive in nature.  These are for relationships where you may struggle to be heard or seen, but not where you are experiencing financial, physical, emotional or sexual control.  If you are experiencing that kind of relationship, please contact me if you need further support.