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5 Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

Updated: Mar 27

Are you a people pleaser? Do you say yes when you want to say no? Are you overwhelmed with commitments? Feel anxious? If these questions resonate with you, it may be time to set healthy boundaries in your relationships. Healthy boundaries are the foundation to positive, respectful, caring relationships in your life. The following steps will teach you how to set healthy boundaries in your personal and professional relationships.

1.Understand Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries are vital guidelines that you set to establish your personal limits.  They define what behaviors you are willing and not willing to accept. Boundaries determine your response when someone crosses those limits. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, and can also be vulnerable in close relationships. Boundaries safeguard your emotional, physical, and mental well-being in relationships. They are evolving and need to be adjusted as circumstances change and relationships grow.

2. Establish Your Boundaries

The second step for setting healthy boundaries is to decide how your personal boundaries should look by establishing what is important to you. This requires self-reflection. Ask yourself these questions: What are your values and beliefs? What makes you feel uncomfortable or violated in a relationship? What boundaries of yours have not worked in the past? How do you like to spend your time? What are your short and long-term goals?

After gaining a deeper understanding of yourself, you can begin to imagine the types of boundaries that will support those needs. For example, if you value equality you may want to ensure that you and your partner have an equal say in decisions, big or small.

3. Communicate Clearly and Directly

Once you have identified what matters to you and what you are willing to accept, you have to shares these boundaries.  Communicate your decisions clearly, directly, respectfully, calmly, and without engaging in excessive explanations. For example, say “I need privacy when I am working from home.” Express your boundary at an appropriate time, use a neutral tone and express gratitude towards your spouse, friend or colleague for their understanding.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Setting healthy boundaries can feel uncomfortable at first, especially if you are used to putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. You are worthy of the love and respect of your boundary. You have the right to prioritize your own needs without an explanation or apology. Not to mention that it’s in everyone’s best interest that you prioritize your well-being above all! The first time you politely decline requests or invitations that don't align with your values expect to feel a little funny. Be kind to yourself throughout this process, and don't be afraid to seek support from friends, family, or counseling from a licensed therapist if needed.

5. Be Consistent and Firm

Lastly, setting healthy boundaries is an ongoing practice that requires consistency and firmness. Expect pushback or resistance from others, but stand your ground. You are not responsible for how others react to your boundaries. Stay true to yourself and your values.

In conclusion, healthy boundaries are acts of love that you give yourself and others.  After some practice, implementing healthy boundaries with your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, friend or colleague will be second nature!

setting healthy boundaries for anxiety depression
Set healthy boundaries for your relationships


Carly Cohen is a therapist and founder of Counseling Center of South Jersey, LLC. She works with individuals, couples and families in New Jersey, including Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Marlton, Haddonfield, Moorestown and Medford. She specializes in anxiety, depression, relationships, communication and self-esteem. Contact Carly for a free consultation at 856.209.3035 — —


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