You already know that strong, healthy boundaries are important and lead to strong, healthy relationships with others as well as with yourself. But what types of boundaries are there, and how do you set them?
What Are Boundaries, Again?
Boundaries are a way to distinguish what you want from what you don’t want. They’re about how you will act or feel, not about how anyone else acts or feels. You can’t control others, but you can control your responses.
Boundaries Around Time
Boundaries around your time are about how you spend it and when and with whom. Your time is yours to spend how you want, and yours to value how you want. Examples of boundaries around time might be, “I respond to texts when I have the time to respond,” “If a loved one needs my help in a work context, my hourly rate is $X,” and “my free time is mine to fill.”
Boundaries Around Space and Material Objects
Boundaries around your space are about how you move through it, who you welcome into it, and what you do within it. Examples of boundaries around space include, “Shoes are not worn inside of my home,” “I am allergic to [cats, dairy, alcohol, etc.] and do not want that in my home,” “I am interested in spending time in my home with people in various ways, but I am not interested in sleepovers.”
Boundaries around stuff include who you share things with and how you expect them to treat it if you share. Examples of boundaries around stuff include “If I lend someone a book, I want it back,” “It is okay for someone to wear my clothing if they sleepover, but not okay for them to take it when they leave,” “I am the only one who drives my car,” and “My email and texts and devices are private to me.”
Boundaries Around Money
Boundaries around money include how you decide to allocate your financial resources, from savings goals to donations to how often you eat restaurant food to who stays in your house to who pays for dates. You are allowed to have boundaries around money even if you make more or less of it than the people around you. Examples of boundaries around money include “I only order Postmates once a week,” “I prefer to split the check on dates,” “My friend can stay in my spare room for a month, but if it’s longer than that I need them to contribute to my household,” and “It’s enough for me to know whether I can or can’t afford something, I do not need to justify it to anyone.”
Boundaries Around Your Body
Your body is yours to take care of and yours to make decisions around. Examples of boundaries that honor your body might include “I need to go to bed by this time,” “I don’t want to have serious conversations when I’m hungry,” “I don’t discuss my diet,” “I am comfortable with nudity around my friends, but not around strangers,” and “When I have a migraine, I need to rest.”
Boundaries Around Touch and Sex
Again: your body is your own. Boundaries around touch and sex relate to how you physically relate to others and include everything from how you demonstrate physical affection to what you do in bed to when and how you talk about everything in between. They might include “I don’t want to make out in line at the grocery store,” “I don’t want to be penetrated,” “I am comfortable with this word for my genitals but not that one,” “I practice safer sex with barriers and do not have sex with people who do no do the same,” “Here is what I am comfortable sharing about my sex life with my friends and here is what I am not comfortable sharing,” “To me, consent looks like this,” and “I don’t want to send or receive surprise nudes during work hours.”
Boundaries Around Thought
You are allowed to have different opinions from others. You can engage with those who think differently from you with respect and compassion while trusting yourself to be true to your values. You can end conversations before they get out of hand. You can also respectfully choose to not engage with people you find bigoted. Examples of boundaries around thought include, “If I am belittled in a conversation, I will politely end the interaction” and “It is okay to respectfully disagree.”
Boundaries Around Feelings
Your feelings are your individual feelings, and they are distinct from the feelings of those around you. This is a good thing. Empathy can be healthy, but so is knowing where you end and someone else begins. Examples of boundaries around feelings might look like, “When I have a conversation about feelings, I prefer to be somewhere quiet and private and to not be hungry,” “I don’t have the bandwidth to chat about this now, but I am available [this other time],” and “I am responsible for my feelings and actions, and I am not responsible for how others feel or act.”