How Healthy Boundaries Support Healthy Relationships

two men taking a water break

Healthy relationships play a tremendous role in boosting your overall health and wellness. To enjoy strong and healthy relationships, it’s helpful to understand the importance of healthy boundaries.

Boundaries identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for others to behave toward you—and you toward them. People develop different boundaries for different types of relationships. For example:

  • Material boundaries can help you decide whether to give or lend things.
  • Emotional boundaries can help you determine whether to get involved with someone else’s emotions and responsibilities.
  • Physical boundaries pertain to your personal space, privacy, and body.
  • Mental boundaries apply to your thoughts, values, and opinions.

You’re likely to establish different professional boundaries with bosses and colleagues—and different personal boundaries with your spouse or romantic partner, children, parents, extended family members, and friends.

When establishing boundaries, it’s helpful to consider the type of relationship, the depth of trust in the relationship, and the length and history of that relationship.

Boundaries can be viewed on a spectrum, ranging from rigid to porous. Healthy relationships fall in the middle of that spectrum and generally become more flexible as people build trust and feel safer with each other.

Boundaries and relationships grow, evolve, and change over a lifetime. Here are a few strategies to consider when building and maintaining healthy boundaries.

  • Assess and identify your priorities. Reflect and take stock. Your boundaries will stem from your personal and work priorities and values.
  • Communicate upfront. Once you have your priorities and values in place, help others understand your goals and expectations. Also, let them know when they cross the line.  
  • Learn to say no. While it’s sometimes uncomfortable, it’s important to exercise your ability to say no. This can help you maintain your mental health, physical health, and safety—and create space for your wants and needs. Be specific, consistent, and persistent.
  • Learn to triage and delegate. Some things are urgent and need your attention. However, many things can be rescheduled, delegated, or even eliminated from your to-do list.
  • Take time to recharge. In the long run, relationships succeed when you are rested and healthy.   

Here are a few signs that may signify the need to strengthen your boundaries:

  • Experiencing feelings of anger, resentment, or irritation toward someone—or venting about them to others.
  • Wishing someone would change or act differently. You frequently make accommodations for them that you wouldn’t make with others.
  • Avoiding contact with someone and daydreaming about avoiding them for good.

Relationships can be challenging at times. While you can’t always change another person’s behavior, you can change your boundaries. Your Assistance Program is here to help. To learn more about these free and confidential services, or to access them, please visit Member Support.