A boundary is a limit; in terms of emotional health, a limit to what we will and will not accept in other people's behavior. The purpose of a boundary is to protect and take care of ourselves, while also allowing others to get close to us in healthy ways.

There are several different types of boundaries.

Healthy boundaries are typically firm, but flexible. For example, people with healthy boundaries can say yes or no, depending on the other person and the situation, and they realize they have no choice. Sometimes, the boundary is firm with NO flexibility. For example, "It's never okay for anyone to hit me."

Another kind of boundary is described as "collapsed," "confused," "blurred," or "fused." A person who has this type of boundary tend to allow too many people to get too close in too many ways. They feel they can keep other people in their lives only be being undemanding. They fear that setting limits or demanding respect will result in rejection or abandonment. They tend to allow themselves to be treated in ways they would never treat anyone else. For example, a person with collapsed boundaries will go against his or her own personal values in order to please others.

At the other end of the spectrum are people with "rigid" boundaries. Like those with collapsed boundaries, they fear abandonment or rejection. They also fear being controlled by others. Unlike people with collapsed boundaries, people with rigid boundaries put up walls to protect themselves. One way they protect themselves is to resist sharing their emotions with anyone.

We have different boundaries with different people and in different situations. For example, we would feel more comfortable with our spouse standing close to us than we would the butcher at the grocery store. However, if we were standing in a crowded elevator with the butcher, we wouldn't think twice about standing close to him.

The first step in setting boundaries is to know that we have the RIGHT and the DUTY to take responsibilty for how we allow others to treat us.

Creating healthy boundaries:
-defining ourselves (as opposed to allowing others to tell us how we "should" be)
-realizing that we are separate from others
-choosing our values (even if we decide that they're different from our family of origin)
-setting our own limits
-honesty with ourselves and others
-being active, not REactive
-challenging our distorted thinking
-being persistent
-developing the "no" muscle
-using self-control
-constant work to increase awareness of ourselves
-refusing to play the victim role
-not blaming others

What do healthy boundaries look like?

-I make changes in my beliefs, values, and convictions based on logical reasoning, and not on what others want or approve of.
-I can say yes or no, depending on my values, wants, and needs.
-I don't fall apart when others say no to me.
-I share personal information with others only as they earn my trust.
-I do not tolerate any kind of abuse or disrespect, and I don't abuse or disrespect others.
-When I'm in a relationship, I can still function in other areas of my life.
-I am sexual for myself, not because someone nags or pressures me.
-I do not give up my values or principles, even when they are different from others.
-I touch others only when they have let me know that it's okay.
-I know what my life goals are and I make the time and effort to pursue them.
-I listen to the opinions of others, but I make my own decisions.
-I refuse to allow other people to tell me how I "should" feel, or what I do or do not feel.
-I don't stay in relationships in which my partner wants me to be different from the person I really am.
-I tell others what I think, need, want, and believe rather than expecting them to read my mind or guess.
-I understand that others cannot "make" me feel a certain way.
-I understand that I have choices.

Having healthy boundaries means knowing "who owns what." We allow each person to own his or her "property." For example, if someone has acted in a particular way and experienced a consequence because of that action, both the behavior and the consequence belong to that person.

What is our property? Our property includes our behaviors, problems, feelings, happiness, misery, choices, messages; our ability to love, care, and nurture ourselves and others; our thoughts, our denials, our hopes and dreams for ourselves. Whether we allow ourselves to be controlled, manipulated, deceived, or mistreated is our business, and our choice.

(c) APS