A lot of difficulties and stresses in marriage and other relationships arise from underdeveloped personal boundaries. But to understand this, we need to make sure we’re on the same page as to the meaning of the term “boundaries.”
Some confuse “putting up a wall” with “maintaining good personal boundaries.” A wall is a solid structure that keeps you inside and keeps everyone else out. I’m sure you’ve seen it happen that a family member will hear nothing you have to say and will reveal nothing of their thoughts or feelings to you. They “put up a wall.” Have you ever been there yourself?
Personal boundaries are not walls. Think back to high school biology when you learned about cells and semi-permeable membranes. The semi-permeable membrane around a living cell is the cell’s way of allowing nutrients to enter and waste to exit. In other words, the cell uses its semi-permeable membrane to allow in only what it wants to let in. Furthermore, it allows only certain things to move out, but keeps everything else safe inside.
Your personal boundaries work just like the cell membrane. If your boundaries are functioning effectively, you allow in only what you choose to allow in, and you allow out only what you choose to allow out. And you do it with relative ease; you don’t have to focus on rules or protocol.
Personal boundaries simply mean knowing your own feelings, wants, desires and needs and then having the ability to ask for it in a non threatening manner. We act in our own best interest without trying to make others uncomfortable. We work for our own rights as well as the rights of others. We maintain a balance between giving taking and asking for help.And try to resolve issues without conflict.
How good are your boundaries when it comes to keeping out what you don’t want to let into your space? Are you able to decline someone’s request for help when you know that helping him or her at this time would compromise your other responsibilities and your self-care? Can you decline a request with grace and without guilt? Do you stay in charge of yourself, or do you end up feeling like a doormat? If you often feel used by others, it may indicate weak boundaries in terms of keeping out unwanted intrusions.
How well do you stay in control of what you let out, that is, what you say and do when interacting with others? A person with good boundaries can easily keep personal stuff personal and yet still be open.
In sum, if your boundaries are serving you well, you are in control of preventing unwanted intrusions into your mental/emotional/spiritual space. You are also in control of just how much of yourself you will expose in each interpersonal situation.
Your personal boundaries should be effective, easy and fluid, no matter what the situation. Are yours up to standard or do they need some fine-tuning? Or a major overhaul?
Healthy boundaries make for a more peaceful, easier flow of life.