How To Set Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

Let my start this off by saying that I understand in our society today the word boundaries usually has a negative condonation with it. We feel kind of icky when someone says we’ve crossed a boundary of theirs or when we feel someone has crossed ours. Truthfully this is something I have struggled with my entire life. I remember I was in middle school the first time I had a therapist tell me that I was allowing people to cross boundaries in my life that they shouldn’t be.

So what are the boundaries I’m speaking of? Well here’s the Websters explanation:
Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.

Boundaries are something you decide for yourself. Me personally, a huge boundary that I have in relationships is “asking before showing up” (Proverbs 25:17) The quickest way for you to see my fiery redheaded side is to show up at my house unannounced or with very little notice. I do not tolerate people coming over without asking first. It seems dramatic to some, but home is my solace and a space that I protect at all costs. I am strictly scheduled and have routines for a reason, and when people just show up…it crosses a line that I do not allow. You have to have that for yourself. The things in your life that you express to those around you as lines to not be crossed.

Today I want to show you what God says about the importance of keeping peace within yourself. Setting boundaries with the people in your life is one of the best ways to do this. You can’t be of much service to God if you’re bogged down with always keeping busy, and pleasing every person around you, especially at the cost of yourself. So let’s dive in.

First let me highlight that there is an impeccable book series on this very topic that I’ve linked here that you should check out. The series teaches on setting healthy boundaries in every area of life.

  1. Maintain open communication (Ephesians 4:25)
    Have you noticed that basically every relationship in your life that has died, has done so because of diminished communication? Have you noticed how often in the Bible that the Lord talks about a longing for relationship with His people? The key to any and all healthy relationships is communication. The kicker here is that it doesn’t have to be on one person’s terms or the other and it always has to be honest. Part of the reason Nick and I were engaged in seven months and married just over a year of being together is because of the level of our communication skills. We have easily maneuvered (so far) through tough conversations and HONEST conversations, no matter how uncomfortable they are. We’ve told each other our expectations and then worked through them together from day one. I don’t sit around all day getting upset with my husband because he didn’t do something (that I never even told him I wanted him to do). I ask him daily for exactly what I want or feel like I need help with without fear that he’ll be upset. We keep communication open 24/7 and that sets us on the right path for having healthy boundaries that we don’t cross.
  2. Prayer (1 Thes. 5:16-18)
    You cannot have a healthy anything in life without prayer. This is a non-negotiable if you’re wanting to have healthy relationships. You have to pray over the people in your life. When I meet new people, I pray almost instantly about the relationship the Lord wants me to have with them. Some people are only for a season of life, while others are long term. If it’s family, I pray over our relationship constantly. Family members are the most difficult to set boundaries with. Parents especially have a hard time navigating through a child’s stages from adolescence to adulthood and it can be difficult to express to them what your personal boundaries are. However, my friend it’s extremely important to the health of your relationships with everyone that you to pray that God gives you the right words to share with all friends and family about your needs in your boundaries. I’ve even prayed at the beginning of conversations that I knew were going to be tough that God would open our hearts and minds and help us to connect better before ever uttering a word of how I was feeling.
  3. Make a list (Colossians 4:6)
    If you know anything about me at all you should know by now that lists are my favorite thing. I have a list for everything you can think of and it’s brought so much peace to my life. In this instance I made a list about 15 years ago and have made small changes to it as circumstances and life changes happened. It started off with me listing the behaviors of my friends and family, towards me, that didn’t make me feel great. An example, I didn’t like it when my friends talked over me at lunch. I’m a pretty quiet person who speaks pretty low and calm. So when I’m around my more bold and loud counterparts, often what I have to say goes unnoticed or unheard (see a theme here on why I’m a blogger? lol). My list had about 10 or 12 things like this on it. Then I grouped together like items and made a list of my top few boundaries that I don’t like crossed. This one turned into ” I ask that people give me the space to speak” and know what happened? I started waiting until my friends were done talking and spoke only when I had something to say. Years later, very few people cross this boundary of mine because I’ve made it clear to everyone who knows me that I’m not going to fight to be heard. You either want to hear what I have to say or you don’t. Your choice. I challenge you to do the same.
  4. Spend Time With People (Romans 12:9-13)
    Again, without actually working to develop a relationship, you won’t have one. The more time you spend around people, the more likely you are to show your true self and remove any masks or walls you’ve built and the same goes for them. As you become more comfortable around people simply by being in their presence you’ll be more likely to develop a natural rhythm of how you interact with them. That opens up an opportunity for you to develop a closer relationship with them and set your boundaries without feeling like you have to have a conversation about it. People will treat you, how you allow them to.
  5. Pay Attention (James 1:19)
    This is kind of like list making but more focused on knowing yourself a little better. Sometimes we’re quick to blame other people and not focus on the fact that maybe we’re the problem. Do people get irritated with you easily? Maybe you’re kind of annoying (I say that in love). Do your friends and family seem to blow you off a lot or do you feel like they don’t want to spend time with you? Perhaps you’re the one crossing THEIR boundaries. Setting boundaries goes both ways. You first need to become aware of how you’re treating other people and how you’re perceived by others. Pay attention to how people interact with you. Is it mostly avoidance? Do you see people light up with joy when they see you? Are they avoiding eye contact? Once you start to respect other people’s boundaries, it becomes much easier for them to oblige the same respect.

These are all pretty hefty and take some time to work on and cultivate. I’m still working on these in a lot of my relationships, but it’s a lifelong journey and walk with God. I pray that you take a moment for some reflection after reading this. Are there people in your life that you need to sit down with and discuss how they make you feel? Are there people that you need to ask forgiveness from for crossing their boundaries? This isn’t an easy, feel good type of thing to do. Truthfully it’s hard work that just continues to get easier over time with the help of the Holy Spirit and through prayer, but in the world today we as Christians have to work diligently at treating EVERYONE like Christ treats us and He would never cross a boundary or hurt us. Let’s extend that same love to each other.


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