3 Types of Relational Boundaries You Must Embrace

For some people, “boundary” can feel like a negative word. Boundaries in relationships feel like roadblocks or limitations, as if they are designed to prevent us from experiencing something. For some, boundaries in relationships sound like a pair of shackles. To others, they sound like a safety net. Truthfully, we need boundaries to establish rules and norms. Boundaries keep us away from dangerous things. Very few people complain about the painted lines or guardrails on winding mountain roads.

If we set boundaries properly, we can expect safer results. If we set them improperly or fail to set them at all, we increase the chance of a long fall down the mountain. Boundaries will help protect our important relationships and nurture each other’s hearts. Here are 3 types of relational boundaries you must embrace.

1. Time Boundaries

It sounds obvious, but you should get to fill in your calendar based on what is most important to you. The problem is not everyone cares as much about your time as you do. People will try to squeeze their way in, and if you don’t like disappointing others, you’ll begin to give your time away. Setting solid time boundaries protects what’s important to you.

It’s special to get invited to things, but “no” is a complete sentence. We often forget that. How do you set boundaries around your time? If you truly have a conflict, try saying something like, “I’m sorry, but I have other plans.” If you are free but would rather not give up too much of your time, try “Thanks for the invite. I can only stay ___ minutes.” You should be able to prioritize by saying “no” without fear of abuse or guilt. A “no” to others is a “yes” to your priorities or the things God wants you to do.

We are all entitled to our feelings, and there is nothing shameful about them.

2. Verbal Boundaries

I think we’ve all been chewed out by somebody in our lives, whether we deserved it or not. Words can sting, and nobody has the right to belittle you. Not a boss. Not a spouse. Words should be spoken with kindness and respect. They should build people up and not tear them down. There is no law forcing you to sit and listen to a disparaging barrage of nasty language.

Establishing a verbal boundary means you are not required to endure language that insults you, degrades you, or trashes your character. Set a verbal boundary by respectfully voicing your concerns and asking to be treated with the same respect. If someone crosses your verbal boundary, you can walk away, take a break, and resume the conversation later.

3. Emotional Boundaries

Big emotions are part of life. Sometimes, we are discouraged from showing true emotion. But we are all entitled to our feelings, and there is nothing shameful about them. While we all have emotions, not all of us build strong emotional boundaries. Failing to establish those could leave us taking responsibility for how others feel or allowing their emotions to trample our own.

If your feelings are frequently discounted or become unimportant in any relationship, that is problematic. Your feelings are valuable and should never be overlooked or ignored. To ensure others recognize your emotional boundaries, use statements like, “I understand you feel that way, but I feel ______.” Don’t allow the emotions of others to control how you behave. Be firm and remind people what matters to you.

Sound off: What are some boundaries you have implemented in your life? What boundaries do you wish you had put in place? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think it’s important to have boundaries?”