March 23, 2008
By Christie Hunter:
An Introduction to Boundaries
For many of us, at some point in our life, possibly currently, we have been faced with a relationship that has challenged us and caused us to feel out of control.
Whether the individual is a family member, a close friend, a coworker, or an acquaintance, we have been unclear on what we need to do to bring a sense of calm and balance to the relationship. It may be a struggle with how to respond to someone who wants more of our time, or who is depending on us for support, someone who needs our money, or who desperately needs to feel loved. Whatever the need, the role to fill this has been placed on our plate, and with all the other aspects of our life to manage, the demands of one person can throw off the balance of our lives.
This series is designed to help you assess where the emotional strains are on your life and your relationships, how to determine and set a limit with others, what we need to do to maintain this boundary, and finally, how do we move forward with a focus on establishing healthy and mutually beneficial relationships. As we begin, it is important to understand the four types of boundaries that you can place in your life and on your relationships.
The most basic and tangible is the physical boundary. A physical boundary identifies the parameters of where something begins and where it ends. Our skin is a physical boundary that keeps the good things in and the bad (germs, bacteria, viruses, etc.) out. An infant’s crib is designed to protect them, keeping them safe in a place where they cannot injure themselves in the physical limits of their bed. Another example is geographical location, how near or far we are to someone sets the limits on how easy or difficult it is to see someone or how often we will see them. With a physical boundary we are defining something within a tangible and visual definition.
The second type of boundary is a mental boundary. This defines our thoughts and opinions allowing us to choose what we think about and to stop ourselves from thinking about other things. Additionally, as we form opinions, we have freedom in how we analyze a situation, what information we integrate into this assessment, and what our resulting opinion will be. Regardless of whether or not someone agrees with our opinion, it is ours to have and creates a distinction between us and someone else in our lives. Maintaining your own opinion or value about something is one of the components that make you a unique and distinct person.
Emotional boundaries are the third type and include our feelings and how we experience life. When we consider emotional limits with someone, we consider how much we can invest in the person in terms of “emotional” time. Some of our relationships may leave of more emotionally tired or fatigued than others regardless of the amount of physical time we actually spend with someone. Emotional boundaries may include the type of information (personal and private facts) that we share with someone. If we are constantly being judged by someone over our choices in life, we may decide not to share this information with the individual, thus limiting the potential influence they can have in our life.
The last boundary is a spiritual boundary and finds a distinction between our will for our life and God’s will for our life. Often times, in seeking the best for our life we become unclear on whether we are following God’s path for our life or our own direction. Through biblical direction and prayer, we determine how to distinguish the basis for decisions from a spiritual aspect.
This is an overview of the four types of boundaries to show the different areas we can consider when looking to better identify ourselves and develop healthy limits in our relationships. Next we will consider why we really need boundaries and how a lack of healthy boundaries in one relationship in our life can cause all other relationships to suffer.