My previous relationship started out as innocent as the next. Our first date was over seven hours long. Seth was easy to talk to, pleasant to be around and charming. That first signal of not kissing him that night should have been a red flag on boundaries. Boundaries are slowly broken over time in any abusive situation. By developing healthy boundaries, one can slowly start to heal the hurt they’ve experienced from others.
So, what are boundaries? After leaving my first marriage, I realized I had a lot to learn about healthy boundaries. What did healthy boundaries look like, how could I implement them and how on earth could I recognize bad boundaries in others? I learned about healthy boundaries in counseling and Bible study as I rebuilt my life after domestic violence. To top it off, I worked in a place where I needed to implement healthy boundaries and what I was learning.
When it comes to surviving domestic violence, boundary setting is vitally important. Boundaries are “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.” Boundaries reveal who we are and what we value. When we are pushed beyond that dividing line, we end up comprising ourselves and living a life that isn’t fulfilling or abundant.
Once you realize that your boundaries have been violated, it is important to ask vital questions to figure out what is “my stuff”? What do I think? How do I feel? What are my values and standards? How do I look, what I do? What about my body and health? What belongings are important to me? What about my friends and family? What are my personal problems? My child-rearing practices? What are my political and religious beliefs? How am I going to develop personal self-worth? How can I develop the ability to tune into feelings and intuition? All of these questions are important to ask in order to move forward with boundary development.
- Boundaries are lines you draw in your life in general. Others can’t cross these lines without consequences and repercussions.
- Boundaries, if created and defended appropriately, will help prevent you from getting angry as often, because you will feel less violated, offended, abused or exhausted.
- The boundary system is a sanctuary for the soul, a place of safety and security where the spirit thrives, where self-esteem flourishes, where we learn our value and the value of others.
- When my boundaries are not intact, I can’t say no and have trouble living up to my yeses.
- When my boundaries are solid, I can give you my best with confidence.
- With solid boundaries, I can practice healthy self-care and know that this will contribute to the overall health of all my relationships.
Boundaries are the life work to which we are called, as we become the unique person God created us to be. In doing so, we become the most authentic and effective witnesses to the will and work of the Lord in our lives. Through becoming our true and authentic selves, we “shine light” and “shake salt” (Matthew 5:13-14) more effectively.
Cultivating our authentic self involves six areas of development: emotional, social/relational, vocational, intellectual, spiritual and physical. Each area includes a process of learning and growing to become who we are made to be. Emotionally, we learn to experience and express our feelings in mature and productive ways. Relationally, we learn to how to play our relational roles effectively. Vocationally, we learn why we are here and how to live that out. Intellectually, we learn to think critically, make well-discerned decisions and come to our own conclusions. Physically, we become comfortable in our own skin. We enjoy this body we’ve been given, and treat it with respect and honor. God created each area in us, and He will help us become our authentic selves. Ask God to guide you into healthiness. He will provide a way to become the light and salt of the world.
Questions for Boundary Setting
The questions below are ones I ask in every relationship. Hopefully they help others with boundary development and self-preservation.
- Is boundary setting an act of selfishness? No, it’s an act of healthy self-care. As God’s creation, we are responsible for guarding the gift of life and protecting ourselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually.
- It is OK for me to stand up and speak up in my own behalf? It’s not only OK, it’s part of being a mature adult.
- Is it wrong to represent my rights? Not at all. Every individual has basic human rights. It is your responsibility to do everything possible to protect your own well-being.
- It is appropriate to assert my wishes? It is 100 percent appropriate to let others know when something matters a great deal to you. To act otherwise would be dishonest.
- Is it acceptable to ask directly for what I want/need? It’s unacceptable NOT Grown-ups ask directly for what they want and need — children manipulate.
- Is it legitimate to let people know how I’d like to be treated? It is an act of mutual respect. When you tell your friends and family how you want to be treated, they no longer have to guess. This works both ways, of course.
- Did Jesus set boundaries? Jesus was a brilliant boundary setter. He established boundaries consistently, gently and powerfully.
*Questions for Boundary Setting Carol Cannon, MA, CCDC, The Bridge in Recovery, Bowling Green, KY