Lines in the Sand
At Covenant Way Wellness, we want to help you improve your health in a holistic manner. That includes your physical health, mental and emotional health, and also your social-relational health.
Yes, you do in fact have a social health. If you have some doubts, consider how often your interactions with other people affect your emotions and your physical body. Think about how the positive and negative pressure from those around you causes you to make choices that can lead to physical and emotional regrets.
One of the important measures of your social health is your ability to set boundaries. We all have boundaries. Typically boundaries are set between yourself and another person, which is why they are so crucial to your social health, but you can also set boundaries with yourself. One of the easiest boundaries to see is physical boundaries. Physical boundaries limit who can touch you and how they can touch you.
For example, a good physical boundary is to only shake hands with your boss, but with your spouse, you would permit them to kiss your lips. As you know someone better, you increase the amount and type of physical touch that you permit. An extension of your physical boundary is your personal space. How close you have someone in your space and how you allow someone in there is just as important as them actually touching you.
In addition to physical boundaries, we have situational boundaries, which is a limit of what we will allow ourselves to experience. You do not have to subject yourself to situations like yelling, derision, and manipulation, no matter who is doing these things to you. Even if they are a close family member or friend.
Boundaries give you the power to change the dynamic. You don't have to wait for the other person to change; odds are they will not. You change the situation by changing your response.
Here is an example of a situational boundary. Rather than talking to each other about their frustrations with each other, two parents talk to their adult children instead. The children are left caught in the middle and emotionally overwhelmed. They feel like they have to fix their parent's marriage. Their parents have erred by communicating their problems with their children instead of with each other.
In response, the children can't change their parent's behavior, that is the responsibility of the parents. But the children can set a boundary to the situation. When one of their parents starts to complain to them, they can say, "Mom, I know you are frustrated, but I don't want to talk about dad. You need to talk to dad about this."
The new boundary is that the child is not going to talk about her father with her mother. If the mother persists, the child needs to hold to the boundary in order to stop the behavior. This might mean further steps, like ending the conversation with the mother, walking away, or hanging up the phone.
This allows the child to avoid the emotional pressure of feeling like they are responsible for their parent's marriage and also helps create a healthier social relationship with both their parents. It might take some time for the boundary to be established, and that is ok.
Contrary to what it may feel like internally or how other people portray it, setting boundaries is not mean or derisive. It’s an important way to maintain your autonomy. Often people with poor boundaries will feel obligated to stay in situations where they are being treated poorly because they fear how the other person will react.
You are not responsible for other people's reactions. You can still communicate in grace and strive for peace, but their response to your boundaries is a marker of their character, not of yours.
Understanding people will recognize your boundary and honor it. They will communicate with you if they have questions or emotional concerns of their own and work together with you to come to a healthy agreement for both of you. People who refuse to recognize your boundary and respectfully communicate with you, but instead focus on themselves and their own needs while disregarding yours are ones you need to hold your boundaries with.
Interpersonal boundaries can encompass a wide variety of different things, including who you lend items to, how much time you spend with someone, and who you let into certain spaces. Chances are you already have some boundaries of your own but have not labeled them as such.
If you would like to learn more about boundaries, we have two additional recommended reads for you down below to help you better understand the concept and identify how you can move forward to have more healthy relationships.