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Boundaries—Hedges of a Healthy Relationship

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

Article Three—What Boundaries Are

Setting boundaries in your relationships can be refreshing

Shockingly, many people make the decision to continue to exist in their negative relationship pattern and refuse to disrupt or change it—even when the situation feels unbearable to both parties involved. There are individuals who have wrestled with the question as to why they should develop boundaries for their relationship; there is a difficulty understanding how it is beneficial. That’s when the questions become the low-key attempt to stay in their comfort zone that keeps them from self-differentiation.

The term self-differentiationwas coined by Murray Bowen who was well known for his research on family systems theory. Bowen notedtwo facets to self-differentiation: intrapsychic differentiationand interpersonal differentiation. Boiling it down, intrapsychic differentiation deals with how we discern our thoughts from our feelings (self-awareness). Interpersonal differentiation is when we can tell our experiences apart from other people’s experiences we are in relationship with. These branches of self-differentiation are integral because (1) it helps with the awareness to understand our present situations, and (2) it gives us knowledge of how we effect our environments, connections and our impactful movements in them. Self-differentiation is part of the foundation of understanding, creating, and operating in healthy boundaries. So, when self-differentiation is at work, how does it play out in our healthy boundaries? What do healthy boundaries accomplish?

Healthy boundaries:

· Define who we areand who we are in relationship to others. It is understanding where we end and where others in our lives begin. We learn and operate healthily to have good, functioning connections with our significant others, but helps to discern who to let in the gate of our boundaries and who to keep out.

· Helps us to know suitable feelings, thoughts and behaviors within relationships.

· Helps us to rid ourselves from barriers of defenses. These walls are used to supposedly guard us from future offenses, but winds up blocking us from connection and relationship (examples: joking, anger, isolation, incessant talking).

· Creates freedom to be who we are. This allows us room to have our own opinions, make our own choices, and to decide for ourselves to not be manipulated or controlled by others.

· Enables us to accept one another’s differences. We give recognition and honor to others and our own uniqueness and not feel any threat because of those differences.

· Helps to define the legitimacy of our needs, other’s needs, and assist us to meet them. It is about awareness of what our actual needs are and the understanding of our loved one’s verbalized need and not projecting our needs on the other person.

· Empowers us to have intimacy in our relationships. It is the invitation for ourselves and others to know and to be known at a deeper level. It is about the freedom of In-to-me-see—without having to be a false self but being authentic.

· Brings direction and order into our lives. Order and direction allows us to operate in self-discipline which cultivates maturity and character-building.

· Permits us to govern how others treat us. We teach others how to treat us—whether with boundaries or not.

· Informs us of what we are/are not responsible for and instructs us about responsibility. A syllabus in school or college, a job description in business, laws and rules of the road are boundaries. They tell us what one is supposed to do, when, how and why. Without guidelines, we would either take on too much or do very little in our responsibilities. That’s when the powers of our no and yesbecome important and necessary in keeping established boundaries.

As we see, boundaries become the hedges of protection that provide liberty and not constriction. It is for us to live comfortably in our identity and also to provide autonomy for others connected to us to be whom are, but what does boundaries look like for people who operate in them? We will explore that in our continued boundaries conversation in the next article.

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