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How to set healthy boundaries? And what to do when someone breaks them?

Empowerment Coaching Krakow-How to set healthy boundaries

Today, another guest post with a very valuable and, above all, practical text on assertiveness and the ability to set limits. We find in it, among others answers to such questions: what are our boundaries? how to know when someone is breaking our boundaries? how to deal with too tight boundaries?

Its author, Kasia Fruzynska (pictured) is a psychologist, trainer, and coach. In her work, she helps people get along effectively. She believes that marriage and family are the most important things we can do. She runs a blog and a Facebook group, where she proposes challenges and exercises. In the near future, she is also launching a course for people looking to balance work and home life.


How to set healthy boundaries?

Why do we need boundaries?

Boundaries allow us to be close and safe at the same time. You will not say to the lady in the store "but I want a hug today", but it would be good to say that to your partner. Boundaries are about what you let in and what you don't. For example, you don't eat anything that you don't understand on the packaging. To set healthy boundaries, first, be aware of what you have.

What boundaries do we have?

Physical boundaries - e.g. how close to someone I like to be in a conversation, how do I take care of my space (e.g. I lock myself in a room when I work). I respect someone's border when, for example, I ask if I can touch my friend's pregnancy belly when I don't read my husband's e-mails and texts.

Mental boundaries - I say if I don't want to talk about something, I give myself time to cool down after an argument, and I don't answer prying questions (about how to do it, in a moment).

1. Exercise - what are your limits?

Think about your 3 rules, the limits you apply, and see how they serve you, e.g. I don't do business with my family, I work 7-15, etc. If you want, share your examples in a comment, maybe they will inspire others!

How do we know when someone is breaking our boundaries?

  • Usually, we feel something is wrong

  • We have discomfort ("he said strange, what did he mean?", "I don't know if I reacted well")

  • We feel anger, sometimes transferred to other people (e.g. someone at work pissed me off, I did not react as I would, and it gets to the household members or the cat😊).

How do I know if my boundaries are leaky?

  • When my friend is sad, I also get depressed

  • When someone tells me I look fat, I worry about it, even though I didn't have that feeling before

  • I cannot end relationships that do not serve me

How to deal with leaky boundaries?

  • You don't have to react right away, give yourself a few minutes and see what changes

  • It's good to remember: what the person says is about him, not about me

  • You can decide for yourself whether you agree with what the other person says, whether you allow it to yourself, or whether you want to agree to something

  • You can always go back to the situation (it wasn't fair, I don't agree, I changed my mind)

2. Exercise: marking your boundaries

If you have trouble with this, start with a small step. When someone calls you or texts you in chat, do you have a minute, ask yourself if it's a good time or say that you will answer/call back in 2 minutes. Even if you are not doing anything important at the moment. Do this to practice and see how you feel about it. If someone asks you for something at home, finish this coffee and say you need a moment.

How to know the boundaries are too tight?

  • A human being without boundaries maintains a bond but is not protected. And a man with too tight boundaries is protected, but not bonded. Neither of these states gives you true intimacy.

  • A wall in a too-tight border can be silence, anger, addictions, humor, TV, or too much work.

  • It's hard to tear down someone else's walls. This is often someone's only border protection strategy and it takes small steps.

If you live with someone with too tight boundaries:

  • Encourage contact in a safe way

  • Make small changes

  • Look for a good time to talk

  • Talk about your observations ("I'm worried" instead of "You are anti-social")

If you yourself suffer because of the walls you live behind:

  • If, for example, you don't meet your parents because it costs you too much, think if you would feel better for giving some of the wrongs.

  • Look for the support of loved ones, and know that they want to do well

  • Take advantage of the help of specialists, also if addictions are your wall

How to set boundaries? 3 situations

  1. If a friend or aunt asks you "When is the baby?", "What installments do you pay?" or asks another question that you don't want to answer, you can just say, "I think I'll keep it to myself".

  2. If in an argument you both say something you regret later, make an appointment for a signal, a specific word, after which you will not finish the sentence and take a break of at least 20 minutes. But not one where you think about what to say, but do something completely different. My clients, with whom I work in pairs, sometimes set strange and funny words like "drill" or "parrot". The important thing is that they matter to them and they work!

  3. If you feel guilty at work that you do not work enough, because there is still something to be done, and at home, you are the only person responsible for washing, cleaning, and cooking, you get up first and lie down last, it's time for a serious conversation with the household members and an overview of duties. Perhaps you also get tasks at work that aren't really your responsibility, but you just do them because you're nice? Check it out this week. There are also assertive attitudes and behaviors associated with boundaries.

Assertive, passive, and passive-aggressive behaviors

Assertiveness is honesty towards oneself and others. I say what I think (not always and not to everyone, of course), and I do what I say. I do not explain too much about my needs and choices.

Example? You are hungry and tired, the child makes a noise with a playing toy, and the husband does not react.

It will be assertive to say: I am hungry and tired, I will turn down this toy (to the baby), can you help me and take care of the baby? (to husband)

Passive: I don't say anything, I get pissed off in silence.

Passive-aggressive: I get angry in silence, but when they want something from me, they will see it!

We know We know! And of course, everyone is mean or unresponsive sometimes, but the point is to see what works for me and do it as often as possible.

Interestingly, children are very assertive, I will not count the examples of hearing "Mom, not now, I'm playing" or "When I finish, I'll come." I am comforted that our child learns this from us.

The movie "Day of the Freak" gives many examples of non-assertive behavior.

Border crossing or violence?

Jesper Juul in his great book "Being Together" wrote that in a family of 4, there are even 40 conflicts a day and this is normal because we have different needs. There may be more of them during a pandemic and isolation. And when do conflicts turn into violence?

Remember that you are responsible for your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You are not responsible for someone else's thoughts, feelings, or actions. Therefore, if you hear: "You made me angry" or "You see what you got me to?" then know that it is not your responsibility. Your reaction may be, for example, "Let's take a break for a moment, then talk calmly,"

Suppose the following signals appear in your family. In that case, your priority should be your safety (and the safety of the household), a calm conversation and clear expectations about what should change and what you will not tolerate, and often seeking therapeutic help:

  • Psychological violence (threats, coercion, scaring, blackmail, accusation, ridicule, disregard)

  • Financial violence (limiting access to money, calculating and settling costs incurred, criticizing the way money is spent)

  • Physical violence (use of force, jerking, hitting, name-calling, verbal aggression, shouting)


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