Learning how to set boundaries is a vital part of learning to own yourself, of learning to respect yourself, of learning to love yourself. If you never have to set a boundary, then you will never get in touch with who you really are--will never learn to define yourself in a healthy way. We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Boundaries are healthy and are not necessarily "barriers" but bridges toward healthy interaction between individuals.
There are basically three parts to a boundary. The first two are setting the boundary - the third is what you will do to defend that boundary.
- Part 1: "If you" - Is a description of the behavior you find unacceptable (being as descriptive as possible).
- Part 2: "I will" - Is a description of what action you will take to protect and take care of yourself in the event the other person violates the boundary.
- Part 3: "If you continue this behavior I will" - Is a description of what steps you will take to protect the boundary that you have set.
- Setting a boundary is not making a threat - it is communicating clearly what the consequences will be if the other person continues to treat us in an unacceptable manner. It is a consequence of the other person's behavior.
- Setting a boundary is not an attempt to control the other person - although some of the people who you set boundaries with will certainly accuse you of that - just as some will interpret it as a threat. Setting a boundary is a part of the process of defining yourself and what is acceptable to you. It is a major step in taking what control you can of how you allow others to treat you.
- Setting a boundary is not a more sophisticated way of manipulation - although some people will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate. The difference between setting a boundary in a good healthy way and manipulating is this: When you set a boundary you let go of the outcome.
- Setting boundaries reflects your right to say "NO" to those things that aren't right for you.
Setting boundaries means that you are taking responsibility, being adult and expecting equality and respect in a relationship.