Boundaries Say I Love You

Updated: Jul 28

BY JEN MAKIN, CMHC


Anyone that knows me professionally or personally knows I love talking about boundaries. I love teaching children about boundaries, helping them take ownership of their own bodies and minds. I love working with adolescents as they build awareness around the boundaries within their own lives. And lastly, the reward of watching adults navigate the ebbs and flows of life and realizing that they have had the power all along.


In this blog post, I want to break down four types of boundaries that can help you shift things today.

EMOTIONAL


Emotional boundaries can be tricky to navigate. This notion that we don't have responsibility in how we make others feel is simply not true. If I walk into a daycare and start waiving around a gun, I will create great distress in those around me. How ignorant would I be to say, “I can’t help that you’re sensitive and my gun scares you. I can’t help that you’re terrified. You have to manage your own emotions, not me.”


We are responsible for our conduct. We are responsible for how we manage our emotions and whether or not our behavior creates safety within our environment. That being said, if we set a healthy boundary and someone throws a tantrum or becomes abusive in some way, we are not responsible for that. We do not move our boundaries just because it creates discomfort to the person receiving the boundary. Boundaries cannot be used as weapons though. They are in place to create safety within relationships and environments. If I go to Walmart and walk out with a milk, I'll be stopped and asked to pay. Boundary.


We have the right to experience emotional safety within our life, in all facets. At home, work, church, social experiences, in public. We have the right to feel emotionally safe. Brene Brown defines trust as: What is sacred to me is safe with you. This is an example of creating emotional safety within relationships.


Unhealthy Example of Emotional Boundary:


Husband: I think I am going to quit my job. I really am burning at both ends and my boss is just a jerk.

Wife: Hmm.. I feel like I’ve heard this before. I am concerned.

Husband: What are you concerned about?

Wife: You!

Husband: Why? Wife: Travis, you can’t hold down a job! It’s a problem. You don’t seem to think it is, but it is. I just can’t…


Healthy Example of Emotional Boundary:


Husband: I think I am going to quit my job. I really am burning at both ends and my boss is just a jerk.

Wife: I understand love. You have mentioned in the past that you are unhappy with things at work. I love you and want you to feel supported. What do you need from me?

Husband: You are doing it. Thank you. I’m not sure if I’m ready to make a decision yet but it’s good to know that you have my back.


SPIRITUAL


Spiritual boundaries are huge. Our relationship with our Higher Power is ours and ours alone. No one can tell us how our Higher Power shows up in our lives. No one can tell us if we received an answer to a prayer or not. No one can tell us that our answer is wrong or that we need to get on our knees again. It is our right to foster a relationship with our Higher Power or not.


I have heard of too many sad cases where spiritual leaders or even loved ones create confusion and angst to an individual seeking spiritual answers.


There are exceptions to this. At times, certain medications, illicit drugs or certain mental illnesses may create spiritual delusions. Psychosis is rare but absolutely happens. Being aware of a change of spiritual speech is important and being mindful of such things is responsible.


Unhealthy Example of Spiritual Boundary:


Friend A: I feel so good about starting my new program. I just feel excited that I’m going back to school for my Masters Degree.

Friend B: Hmmm… Yeah.

Friend A: What do you mean?

Friend B: You have 4 kids. I just can’t see God supporting you being outside of your home. Like focusing on your career. I just think you need to pray again is all.

Friend A: Pray again?

Friend B: Yeah, I think you’re letting your own passions get in the way of hearing God’s voice.

Friend A: I never thought of that. You're probably right. I'll keep praying.


Healthy Example of Spiritual Boundary:


Friend A: I feel so good about starting my new program. I just feel excited that I’m going back to school for my Masters Degree.

Friend B: Yes! I am so proud of you for getting into that program!

Friend A: Thank you so much! I am so excited to get started. I feel so much peace. Truly. I appreciate your support.

Friend B: Of course! You are superwoman. You will kill it!

Friend A: Thank you.


PHYSICAL


Physical boundaries seem simple. What is our property: our home, belongings, bodies. But too many times I work with people that don’t understand these boundaries. They give away things too easily, including their bodies.Toxic individuals can make us feel like they are entitled to what is ours and what is rightfully our physical property.


I oftentimes use the examples with my client about a honey bucket. I let them know that at about 6pm that night I am going to have a honey bucket porta potty dropped off in their yard. See, I walk every night and right about when I turn the corner halfway through my walk, I see their house. It's right about then that I have to go. I have some clients say, "Sure." And others stare blankly at me ... wondering if I'm serious. Only a handful say, "No." Most don't understand that I cannot, under any circumstances, drop a portable toilet onto their lawn without their consent. It doesn't matter if I have needs. It is their property, not mine.


Unhealthy Example of Physical Boundary:


Adult Daughter: (calls mom) Hey mom!

Mother: Hey Cheryl! How are you honey?

Adult Daughter: I’m good, I’m good. I have a question for you mom.

Mother: What is it dear?

Adult Daughter: A friend and I are traveling cross country and we need a place to crash. Could we stay with you?

Mother: When is it?

Adult Daughter: Next week.

Mother: Oh dear. Dad and I are going to be out of town at the time. And if you remember, Dad and I sent out an email last fall and decided that our new rule is that we don’t let anyone stay at our home when we are gone. We have had some negative experiences, as you know.

Adult Daughter: I know mom, but I didn’t cause that. And that’s my childhood home. I have a right to be able to sleep in the same bed I did when I was a kid. You still have it set up the same way for hells sake!

Mother: I understand dear. And no, you didn’t cause that. I guess it’s fine. You know the garage code.

Healthy Example of Physical Boundary:


Adult Daughter: (calls mom) Hey mom!

Mother: Hey Cheryl! How are you honey?

Adult Daughter: I’m good, I’m good. I have a question for you mom.

Mother: What is it dear?

Adult Daughter: A friend and I are traveling cross country and we need a place to crash. Could we stay with you?

Mother: When is it?

Adult Daughter: Next week.

Mother: So sorry dear, that’s not going to work for us. Dad and I are headed out of town. Remember last year when we emailed about our rule when we go out of town. No one can stay there. It’s our rule.

Adult Daughter: I know mom, but I didn’t cause that. And …

Mother: Cheryl, it’s the rule. We can discuss when we will be in town and see if you can make it work. Otherwise it’s a no go.

Adult Daughter: Fine, let me talk to my friend and look at things.

Mother: Wonderful. I hope we can make it work!


The mother doesn’t move her boundary because her adult daughter throws a tantrum. This is the same with children. Children get louder and louder and up the ante when they don’t get their way. The parent thinks they are torturing their child or inflicting some kind of trauma by saying no instead of allowing the child to learn to respect the boundary and experience and manage their discomfort.


Our society has too many individuals who are unable to experience discomfort and decision-make independently, instead waiting for the boundary to move so that their comfort increases.


SEXUAL


This one should be easy, right. Everyone knows where their private parts are and that they are theirs and theirs alone. There are times though when private parts are violated in some way.


During one training I had years ago, I learned how to teach children about boundaries with their bodies and touch. Instead of saying Good Touch or Bad Touch they trainer taught us to teach Yes Touch and No Touch. This technique allows children (and any human) to zone their bodies into Yes and No touching areas. Because sometimes Bad Touch can feel Good and that creates confusion and shame and an individual won’t speak up. This skill supports setting healthy boundaries.

I taught this to my children and one day one of my children came home and said, “Momma, I thought that my stomach was a Yes Touch zone but then Jimmy tried to tickle it and I said No and realized it was a No Touch zone.” I praised her and squeezed her.


Unhealthy Example of Sexual Boundary:


Fiance A: I think last time we went a little too far. Fiance B: You’re a prude.

Fiance A: I don’t think I’m a prude because I have limits. Ouch.

Fiance B: You’re a sensitive prude. It’s not that big of a deal. And you didn’t seem to mind at the time.


Healthy Example of Sexual Boundary:


Fiance A: I think last time we went a little too far.

Fiance B: You're a prude.

Fiance A: Stop.

Fiance B: Stop what?

Fiance A: I am not discussing this anymore right now (grabs keys and goes).