Abuse and Self Care, Encouragement, Health

Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Relationships

What do you think of when when you hear the word “boundaries” in regards to “relationships”?

Do you think of walls going up to keep people out? Or that keep you in?

Do you wonder what “relationship boundaries” even means?

Boundaries in a relationship was once a foreign concept to me too. When I was in the midst of my abusive marriage, a pastor-friend recommended a book about boundaries to me and it was a surprise that such an idea even existed.  Since that marriage, I’ve learned (the hard way) that boundaries have to be set in every type of relationship in life: work, marriage, parents and children, siblings, and friends. There must be clear lines for every person you have a relationship with in your life. What this doesn’t mean is that you’re putting up walls and being unforgiving. Absolutely not and quite the opposite, in fact. God calls us to forgive. He calls us to act in love. But He doesn’t call us to be doormats and to allow and enable disrespect and abuse in our lives.  After all, God tells us to treat our bodies as if they’re temples; we need to take care of them. Is there anything more special and unique about our bodies than our hearts and feelings?

It’s not okay for someone to take advantage of your relationship, your kindness, your time or your personality. Certainly you can overlook a friend who’s late sometimes but to the friend who sets up lunch dates with you and is chronically grossly late or doesn’t show up at all without good reason, you need to speak up. Your time is no less valuable than theirs.  A gentle “I’ve noticed you’ve had trouble keeping our lunch dates. Why don’t we wait to make a date until you’re less busy?” It’s spoken in love, isn’t accusatory, gives grace, but lets the person know your time has meaning as well and that their behavior has become an issue.

For the friend or family member who isn’t interested in your life and has little to no contact with you unless it’s an obvious benefit to them, that behavior is hurtful. It’s perfectly acceptable and nonconfrontational to address this. It’s likely very painful for you and no matter what the relationship is, whether a sibling, parent, or friend, you are within your rights to have a conversation about this. Simply put: “I feel as though you don’t have interest in my life and don’t contact me unless there’s something I can do for you. What can we do to improve our relationship so this doesn’t happen?” Again, it’s reaching out in love while letting the person know things aren’t okay for you.

 

Less subtle approaches are definitely appropriate for egregious behavior: lying, disrespect directly towards you or about you, neglect, and of course, any type of abuse or threat. These require an immediate response: “You lied to me. That’s not acceptable.” Or “You’re being very disrespectful by (insert infraction here: yelling, swearing at me, being aggressive, etc.). This isn’t how family (or friendship) works and I can’t be around you if you find this behavior appropriate.”

It is absolutely healthy for you to defend your own honor. The saying “You teach people how to treat you” is spot on.  If you accept mistreatment, some people will mistreat you. If you allow others to use your good nature and kindness, they will–again and again. It fosters an attitude of “I can be late again. Melanie won’t mind.” What makes them think “Melanie won’t mind”? Because Melanie never says anything about it.

Boundaries exist to form healthy relationships. When you set them, you model good behavior for others. By teaching them how to treat you, you’re also teaching them how to treat themselves and others. 

It is a loving thing both to yourself and to the other person to set these boundaries. If someone is mistreating you, abusing you or the relationship, or taking advantage of you or the relationship, and you simply tolerate it and do and say nothing, that’s not love. You’re enabling that person’s ill behavior. By enabling it, you’re reinforcing to them that this is the correct way to treat others and it’s not.  Boundaries aren’t only for self-protection. They’re a tool that says “I care enough about you and myself to show you the right way.”

I found this interesting article I wanted to share that speaks to this subject of Christian boundaries and I’d love for you to read it and tell me what you think. I found it both informative and inspiring.

What boundaries are you setting in your life? Is there a relationship in your life you need to set firm boundaries in but you’re struggling to know just how? Are there ways I can encourage you, pray for you, and share what I’ve learned?

Be encouraged for you are worthy!

Melanie Pickett Flying Blonde

 


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47 Comments

  • Reply Mary Collins August 11, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Good article, Melanie. I think back to some past relationships where I did not set boundaries and was hurt by it. Everyone needs to understand it is okay to set boundaries so that their relationships are healthy.
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  • Reply Ally carter August 12, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Before I went to bible college the book boundaries by Henry cloud was on the required reading list. I’m so pleased that it was, it really helped me when I started working for a church. Some people just seemed to want to take all I had to give, it made me realise it was ok to say no!
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      Ally, you’re the second person to mention this book so I definitely have to check it out!

  • Reply Melanie August 12, 2015 at 9:19 am

    This is great. I agree that boundaries are so important.
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  • Reply Iris @ The Blue Birdhouse August 12, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Very interesting concept….never thought setting up boundries like that.
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  • Reply Gemma August 12, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Really great post, can really relate to this. There are definitely some boundaries I need to set before I start getting too hurt x

  • Reply MArissa August 12, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I am a firm believer that all people long for boundaries, they just don’t always know it… we see this in kids all the time, but I don’t think we out grow this. I really love the Boundaries Series by Henry Cloud

    Marissa

  • Reply Marie with spreading-joy.org August 12, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Many are often afraid to set boundaries. They are afraid to say no. It’s important to know they have the freedom and right to do so.
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  • Reply Iyanna August 12, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Great article! This comes just in time for me. I have a problem overextending myself to others, especially in relationships where boundaries were nonexistent. Working on improving myself to stand up for me more. Definitely will be sharing!
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      Iyanna, thank you for sharing! I had a long history of not standing up for myself and it’s still a work in progress. 🙂

  • Reply Karen August 12, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I was teaching a women’s class on forgiveness once and had a lady who asked how to deal with people who continually do things to hurt you. I referred her to the book, Boundaries by Henry Cloud who says much the same thing as you point out here. Forgiveness is necessary in all relationships but that doesn’t mean allowing free access into your life. Setting boundaries is not done with anger or malice, but for protection and preservation of your heart. thanks for this great reminder!
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      Karen, boundaries are definitely done out of love for yourself and the other person. I’ll have to check out the book you mentioned!

  • Reply Kristen August 12, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    I learned as a child that boundaries were important, but it took until I put them into practice that I realized just how important they are. Thanks for posting and sharing!
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  • Reply andi August 12, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    and if one didn’t grow up with having boundaries in the first place…
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      Andi, that’s definitely tough and hard to set them once they’ve been pushed or abused. But it’s still possible. Like any good thing, it requires work. I’ve worked hard to set boundaries and it’s not easy. 🙂

  • Reply Autumn August 12, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    This is a great post and exactly what I wanted to read right now. I have been trying to determine what I think about a few of the friendships I have in my life and you broke it down really simply!
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  • Reply Sarah Noel August 12, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    What a personal thing to share. That’s so brave of you. I agree that boundaries are important in relationships. You need to respect one another and realize that you’re different people with different needs.

    Sarah Noel | http://www.sarahsmirks.com
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      Thank you, Sarah. It’s personal and so important to me. Once respect is abused it’s so hard to get it back!

  • Reply Deborah August 12, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    I think that hardest example I had in my past was establishing boundaries that hadn’t formerly been there. I’m glad to be through the process now, but it was a bumpy ride getting there.
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  • Reply Caroline @ In Due Time August 12, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    This is so good! Have you heard of the Keep Your Love On ministry? You would LOVE it! It’s right in line with this!
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  • Reply Elizabeth Spencer August 12, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Many years ago, my husband and I did a Bible study at church on boundaries…very interesting and thought-provoking. Now, we ‘re trying to pass wisdom on this subject along to our t(w)een daughters as they navigate the tricky world of adolescent relationships. Blessings to you…visiting from Christian Blog Comment Exchange on Google+.
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Elizabeth, I never thought of a Bible study or small group about boundaries. That would be so helpful and powerful. I’ve been working hard about teaching my teens about boundaries too.

  • Reply Caneeka August 12, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    SUCH an awesome post! God called me to empower those faced with tough seasons in their marriage so my husband and I started a marriage ministry and hosted our first retreat back in April. Boundaries was a huge topic at the retreat and has been since then. It is actually the one topic that I have started encouraging couples to discuss in depth because MANY people perceive boundaries as only applying to certain things or people.
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  • Reply Britni August 13, 2015 at 12:38 am

    Setting boundaries in a relationship is something I’ve never thought of. Glad I stumbled upon this article. Thanks for sharing!!
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      Britni, having survived a difficult (to say the least) marriage, boundaries have become very necessary and valuable. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  • Reply Ariella August 13, 2015 at 2:03 am

    Thank you very much for this good article. It is important to set these boundaries!
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  • Reply Shingai from Kamiliko August 13, 2015 at 7:17 am

    Thank you for sharing this, it’s really hard when you are a people pleaser to know how to set boundaries in ways that you hope not to offend 🙂

    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life and I’m recovering. I’m still often way too nice but boundaries have helped be nice AND healthy. 🙂

  • Reply Ashley August 13, 2015 at 9:14 am

    I love boundaries and am so thankful you wrote about them! I think boundaries have a bad name, especially in relationships – but I love that you gave such kind ways to preserve a relationship while still living with boundaries! Thank you!
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      Ashley, I agree. I think people bristle when they hear the word “boundaries” and equate it with being mean or unfeeling. It’s really quite the opposite. 🙂

  • Reply Megan @ Wit & Wander August 13, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Setting boundaries is so important. My husband and I talk about our boundaries about twice a year. Just checking in and seeing how we’re doing.
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  • Reply Pamela August 13, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    It’s best to set boundaries at the onset of a relationship/friendship. It’s hard to establish them in the middle of things. It may not be easy in the beginning but the health of the friendship depends on it.
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 14, 2015 at 2:45 pm

      Pamela, that’s so true. It’s harder to establish boundaries later on if they’ve been crossed.

  • Reply Anne Campbell August 13, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Sometimes this is so difficult to do, and it is especially difficult to recognize and accept that you need to do it. I have had to make the difficult decision to back off from a toxic friendship when reality finally hit. It took me so long to see it, though. It would be much wiser to establish parameters from the beginning. Thanks for such a helpful article~
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    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com August 13, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Anne, I’ve been where you are. I always gave people second, third, twentieth chances. I learned (after a long while and lots of hurt) that it’s not only okay but healthy to gently walk away from that destructive behavior. Peace to you!

  • Reply Roxanne August 14, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Dealing with boundaries that have been crossed is one of the hardest things to do. This is an excellent post.
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