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Hilal Her

Healthy Boundaries in Interpersonal Relationships

May 2023

There is no disputing the fact that even though relationships are crucial to human survival as well as cognitive and social growth, they can be difficult at times. We have all asked ourselves at some point in life, “Is my relationship healthy?” We crave the security of knowing that our relationships are positive and beneficial. Because relationships are so complex and individual, there is no one size fits all that will tell you whether your relationship is flourishing or withering. Furthermore, establishing strong interpersonal bonds is crucial for creating a positive sense of self. Having strong interpersonal relationships marked by positive interactions is essential to having a strong sense of self.



Interpersonal relationships are categorized into five broad types. The first of the five types of interpersonal relationships are family relationships, which come about as a result of ongoing interactions between family members. Friendships are voluntarily formed bonds between individuals who are not always blood relatives or living in the same household. People who are coupled or married make up for romantic relationships. They are distinct from those with family and friends because they frequently involve higher levels of physical and emotional intimacy and are characterized by romantic love. When we talk about formal interactions that are centered on work tasks, we generally mean professional relationships. The degree of formality in interactions varies depending on the structure of the company’s hierarchy and the position of the individual within it.
To maintain healthy relationships, boundaries are crucial for the sense of identity and personal space. They help to instill mutual respect, protection, expectation, and support. But first, let’s understand what boundaries are, how they differ from person to person and how they are mediated by the differences in culture, personality, and social background. All types of relationships have boundaries, including physical and interpersonal boundaries that define our own and others’ expectations. For instance, personal space varies by culture, type of relationship, and social context. What is comfortable with a partner at home may not be appropriate in a business dinner. Similarly, public physical intimacy considered appropriate varies widely across cultures. Relational boundaries are interpersonal boundaries mediated by differences in personality, culture, and social context. 
There are a few ground rules to remember when establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries define appropriate behavior in relationships, protecting both parties and setting the stage for positive relationships. It is significant to remember that people have their own space and comfort level, so what works for one person may not work for another. By understanding and respecting these boundaries, we can create positive that allow us to maintain our sense of identity and personal space while fostering mutual respect, expectation, protection, and support.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries requires confidence and good communication skills to instill assertiveness and clarity. It involves being clear about your expectations of yourself and others, and what makes you comfortable and anxious in a given situation. Assertiveness means expressing your feelings openly and respectfully. Healthy boundaries involve asserting your needs and priorities for self-care with three simple steps: be clear and direct, avoid raising your voice, and state your needs and desires directly in terms of what you want. Healthy boundaries may include refusing to do what you don’t want to, expressing your feelings responsibly, being honest about your experience, and raising issues directly with the parties involved. By setting healthy boundaries, you can experience good mental and emotional health, develop autonomy and identity, avoid burnout, and positively influence the behavior of others.
Mental Health
Freedom to have your own thoughts and values, respect for the views of others, and the ability to agree to disagree are the key components of healthy intellectual boundaries. These boundaries may be breached when your thoughts or curiosity are ignored, blocked, or disrespected. Appreciation and a willingness to listen and understand are crucial, but this does not mean you must be open to every thought or opinion. Recognizing the difference between healthy and unhealthy discourse is important, especially when opinions are fundamentally harmful. If someone expresses racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, or other harmful views, then it’s appropriate to draw a hard line. You can set limits by letting the person know that you do not tolerate such conversations, by distancing yourself or blocking them.
Responsiveness 
How emotionally responsive a person is towards others relates about their emotional boundaries. We all need support at different times to help us deal with the onslaught of micro-stressors throughout the day, sometimes called “everyday problems” in the psychological literature. However, we may not always be there for people because we often have other priorities, such as work, household and family obligations. As adults, we have to take care of ourselves first. Self-care is the foundation of good health, but codependent traits can put the needs of others ahead of your own, leading to ultimate burnout. Not maintaining healthy emotional boundaries with others can make you feel angry, guilty, and exhausted.
Time Boundaries
Your time is precious and it is vital to protect its use. Setting time boundaries is very important at work, at home and in society. Setting time limits means understanding your priorities and planning enough time for different aspects of your life without feeling overwhelmed. Once you understand your priorities, it becomes much easier to limit the time you spend on others. A healthy time limit might sound like this: “I cannot attend the event this weekend.” Exceeding time limits means asking people for their time, continuing a conversation or task longer than appropriate, being late, or doing too much. 
Physical Limitations
Physical limitations include personal space needs, contact comfort levels, and physical needs such as rest, food, and drink. It is alright to let the other person know that you don’t want to be touched or that you need more space. It is okay to say you are hungry or need to rest. Physical boundary violations include feelings of inappropriate or unwanted touching, feelings of being denied physical needs (like being told to move when tired, or waiting to eat or drink), or feeling like someone has invaded your personal space (such as entering your room without permission). This can range from mild to severe and the most serious violations lead to serious physical abuse or neglect. 
Material Boundaries
Material boundaries are established to regulate the use and sharing of possessions, which may include homes, cars, clothing, jewelry, furniture, and finances. Maintaining a clear understanding of what can be shared and how it can be used, while ensuring that the items are treated with respect is essential for the establishment of healthy material boundaries. It can also help prevent any negative feelings that may arise over time, thereby promoting harmonious relationships. It is crucial to note that using materials to manipulate or control relationships is a severe violation of boundaries. By setting boundaries, you can become more self-aware, increasing your ability to recognize and establish healthy boundaries.
Conversational Boundaries
Have you ever fallen into conversation hell? You know what I mean, whether it’s a colleague, an acquaintance, a stranger, or a family member, for whatever reason you are being attacked by an intrusive question, inappropriate comment, or totally unacceptable behavior. Some people ask things like: “Why don’t you have children?”, “I heard you got fired, what happened?” It is your right to leave conversations that you don’t want to participate in. Provide a simple excuse for exiting, like: “Sorry, I need to use the restroom.” Not everyone deserves your harsh truth. Remember, it is important to distinguish who you are talking to because what is appropriate in one situation may not be appropriate in another.
Internal Boundaries
The inner boundary is the boundary that you set for yourself. Think of these as choices we make and decisions about what we accept or tolerate from others. They also act as filters: how we organize our feelings and decide if and how we want to move forward. It is a way to set boundaries and commitments that help us better interact with ourselves. Many of us are used to setting external boundaries, but it is of paramount importance to be able to say “No” to others as well as to ourselves. 
Be careful not to overdo it or mis-assign responsibilities. See what you can do to prevent burnout and feelings of resentment. Respecting your inner boundaries allows you to take steps to protect your wellbeing. Developing these boundaries can be empowering because it increases your ability to regulate your emotions and gives you more control over your life. Try to recognize, set and maintain boundaries so we would be aptly able to improve our relationships and find peace and happiness. HH


The writer is a clinical psychologist.
Email:[email protected]