Signs of Healthy Boundaries
- I teach people how to treat me
- I decide what is right for me even if others disagree
- I speak my mind, share my ideas and allow others the same privilege.
- I let people know limits and boundaries pertaining to me, what I own and what I am responsible for, ahead of time
- If I think I have been shortchanged, I will confront the responsible person
- I can say “no” and respect other’s rights to say “no,” turn me down, or look elsewhere to get their needs met
- I get permission before using anyone else’s stuff
Various Kinds of Boundaries & Violations
Physical Body Boundaries:
- Anything pertaining to the body—who touches you, where and how
- Making decisions about physical contact, hugging, kissing, sex, handshakes, etc.
- Decide on medical/dental treatment—with whom and how it is administered
- Deciding what is a comfortable distance to sit or stand by a person
- Deciding what goes onto or into your body
Physical Boundary Violation:
- Unwanted touch, hitting, pinching, slapping, pushing, tickling, biting, sex, etc.
- Doctor or surgeon treating you without your permission
- Intrusion on personal space
- Physical abuse
- Who uses or makes decisions about a property is decided upon by the legal owner or someone legally designated to make those decisions
- Property lines, deeds, legal agreements or documents
- Title showing ownership to a car, home, property
- Locks, blinds, fences, walls
- Signs: No Solicitors, No Trespassers
Property Boundary Violation:
- Someone uses your property without permission
- Trespassing private property
- Causing damage without fixing it
- Take responsibility for your own happiness and not depending on any outside person or thing to make you happy
- Own your own feelings—not blame others for how you feel. Example: “You made me feel…”
- Allow others to be responsible for their own feelings. (If someone is mad because you won’t let them drive your car, let them manage their feelings & don’t make your decisions based on their feelings.)
- Refuse to have a discussion with an angry person until they have settled down and are rational
- Appropriate expression of all feelings. Example: It is okay to express your anger but it is not okay for you to abuse me because you are angry
- Show empathy for other’s feelings without becoming enmeshed: Example: “I can see you’re sad. So sorry you’re feeling bad, I hope you feel better soon.” (Leave emotions with the one dealing with them. Example 2: “I’m sorry you don’t like what I’m doing. I hope you can find a way to deal with that.” Example 3: Parent to a child having a melt-down, (kindly) “It’s okay to cry, but please do it in your bedroom so the rest of us don’t have to hear. When you stop crying you can join the rest of us.” “I will happily continue this conversation when your emotions are under control.”
- You are responsible for your feelings, let other’s be responsible for theirs.
Emotional Boundary Violation:
- Taking on someone else’s emotions. Example: After listening to my neighbor’s sad life I feel depressed for the rest of the day
- Allow other’s feelings to determine vital life decisions Example: Because my mother is sad because I’m leaving home, I won’t attend college”
- Immobilized in making important decisions for fear of offending others.
- Expecting others to rearrange their lives to manage your feelings.
- Judging or trying to control what others feel.
- Saying yes when you mean no to manage other’s feelings.
- Restricting certain or all feelings. Example: (It’s not okay to ever feel angry.)
- Requiring another person to fix your feelings or trying to fix other’s feelings.
- Purposely doing behaviors to manipulate or hurt other’s feelings. Ex: “If I tease her long enough it will make her cry.”
- Revealing shocking information just to get an emotional reaction or attention
- Carried emotions: Example: Feeling guilty for someone else’s wrongdoing. “I feel guilty that my son is in jail.”
Intellectual or Mental Boundaries:
- Sharing and expression of ideas
- Own your own thinking even if others disagree
- Deciding what is right for you
- Respect and protect your ideas with copyrights
- Choosing your own political affiliations and ideologies but be open to new ideas.
- Be open to but filter all information from outside sources.
- Turn off old negative tapes running through your head.
Intellectual or Mental Boundary Violation:
- Attack, punish or criticize another person’s ideas.
- Limit what others can learn. Example: Hitler’s Germany destroyed any reading material that contradicted his agenda
- Prohibiting others from learning.
- Revealing too much information about yourself, too soon.
- University professor flunks students for not adopting his philosophies.
- Mind-reading: Assuming you know another person’s thoughts, emotions, motives.
- No one has the right to dictate what your religious beliefs may be
- Take from religious services what applies to you and leave the rest
- Acknowledge that leaders of a church or religion are NOT GOD.
- No person should ever be forced into living a religion or spiritual belief system
- Teach children of your religion but also expose them to others, and then support them in making their own decisions when adults
- Join or leave any religion at will and respect the right of others to do the same
- Listen to differences without condemnation or criticism—just share
- Find your own relationship with God then you and God decide on the right spiritual path for you
- Have respect and congenial relationships with those whose spiritual beliefs are different than yours unless those beliefs pose a threat to the safety and well being of you and others
- Own your individual spiritual experiences even if others disagree
Spiritual/Religious Boundary violation:
- A person in a power position assumes the role of God to others. Example: James Jones claimed he was Jesus Christ and ordered his followers to commit mass suicide. (Jones Town massacre)
- Punish or try to gain power over others in the name of God
- Use the threat of punishment from God to control others
- Forcing religious compliance to a particular dogma
- A person is shunned by family and friends when leaving a religion
- Determine with your sexual partner what is safe and acceptable sexual behavior
- Decide with whom, when, where and how you have sex
- Age-appropriate sex education and sex with others: Keeping sexually explicit material out of the access of children and the general public
- Sexual trust in marriage
- Confronting and reporting inappropriate sexual comments, behavior, jokes
Violation of Sexual Boundaries:
- Forced sex
- Drug a person to have sex with them
- Coerce a person into performing violating sexual acts
- Sexual remarks, looks, innuendoes, conversations with unwilling party
- Sexualizing others. Example: Staring at a woman’s breasts instead of face while talking to her)
- Sex with strangers (unprotected)
- Religious leaders, therapists, doctors, etc., using their position to sexually prey on people who consider them authorities
- Work a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable wage
- Separate work and personal life
- Staying within the limitations of training and abilities
- Respect owner’s property
- Keep confidences
- No fraternizing with clients or patients
- As a professional, don’t claim you can do anything more than you can do
- The client or patient (who is paying the bill) is the one in charge, not the professional
- Professional’s keep all personal information private
Violation of Professional boundaries:
- Office Manager gives himself a raise without the permission of the owner
- Business owner shares too much personal drama with customers and employees
- Employee steals office equipment or eats food without paying for it
- The boss/company expects employees to work extra hours without compensation
- The boss projects his/her unresolved personal life issues onto employees
- Bullying in the workplace Example: A narcissistic boss
- Retaining individuality/autonomy in thoughts, feelings, beliefs, etc. in a family system
- Share equally in work and responsibilities; age-appropriate tasks
- At the age of 18, children become emancipated and are no longer subject to parent’s rules if living separately and self-sustained. If still living at home, rules & expectations must be agreed upon and respected by the adult child in order to stay. Example: “You can live at home as long as you are working on a college degree or working full time.”
- Parents let children help make rules in all areas of life (with guidance from the parents), for protection & fairness; consequences for violation are decided upon with all, explained in advance and executed equally and fairly. Consequences are intended to teach valuable life lessons, never to punish
- The system is there to support the individual, not the individual to support the system
- Children are considered autonomous human beings, even if they were conceived and raised by the parents—they have a right to their own feelings, ideas, and goals, separate from their parents. Children are trained and expected to eventually emancipate
Family Boundary violation:
- Children are expected to follow the family patterns instead of following their heart. Example: Because all the men in our family have been lawyers, you have to be a lawyer
- Children are not allowed to express their ideas or feelings
- Parents share their adult problems with children, make a child be the parent to other siblings, make their child the surrogate spouse, make their child be a parent to the parent.
- Parents try to control their adult children lives as they did when they were young
- Parents give their children no right to make choices
- Parents use children as pons to hurt the other parent. Example: Narcissistic father tries to hurt his ex-wife by turning the children against their mother.
- Parents allow their older/stronger children to bully weaker/littler siblings
- Making fun of other family members
- No locks or privacy in bathrooms or bedrooms—parents or older siblings expose naked bodies to children
- Parents getting their self-esteem from their children’s accomplishments
- Respecting other’s space in a room, office, workplace, closet, parking spot, etc.
- Having respect for others’ space even if living in the same house
- Leaving enough space between you and another person, that all can feel comfortable. You have the right to tell someone to move back because they are crowding your space.
- Leaving enough space between moving vehicles that each can easily stop without affecting others.
- Creating your own living space with fences, locks, walls, doors
- You decide how far or how close you sit or stand by others
- Parking your car in a way so that others can’t park
- Taking more space than is your fair share
- Filling your living space with so much stuff, it cannot be used
- Entering someone else’s space without their permission
- I allow others to get so close to me that I feel uncomfortable
Friend & neighbor boundaries:
- Keep separate, even if living close. Honor property lines and property that belongs to the other.
- Be sensitive of loud noises, smells or unsightly property that could affect the peace of another’s home or property
- Get permission before entering or borrowing neighbor’s property
- Keep confidences—stay out of others business unless invited
- Keep in mind how the upkeep of one home can affect the price value of the whole neighborhood
Friend or neighbor boundary violations:
- Play loud, offensive music that can be heard by others in the neighborhood. (Also noise boundaries)
- Borrowed items are broken and not repaired or returned
- One home and yard in the neighborhood is trashed and unkept, affecting the appearance of the whole neighborhood
- Entering a neighbors’ home without permission
- Children invading the neighbors’ pantry for snacks without permission
Financial (Money) boundaries:
- Couples make and alter money decisions together: Both have access to money, both decide on how money is spent, both decide what are spending limits and violations
- Living within your means
- Children ask permission before taking money from parent’s purse, wallet, credit card or such— consequences applied if boundaries are crossed
- Saving money for a rainy day
Money boundary violations:
- Money secrets—one spouse spends freely, but withholds money from the other spouse.
- One spouse incurs debt without consent or knowledge of the spouse
- Invading wallet or purse without permission
- Parents depend on children to support them financially. (The exception to that rule would be in dire circumstances)
- Parents support adult children long after emancipation
- Excessive debt
- Failure to pay back a loan
- Failure to meet financial obligations
- Imbesseling or counterfeiting money
- Choosing to be together, but retaining individuality in a relationship
- Respect others needs and differences while retaining your own interests and uniqueness
- Be prepared to live alone and thrive, even if the partner goes away and/or the children emancipate
- Chores, responsibilities and expectations are discussed, divided equally & agreed upon by both (all) parties.
- Both are willing to provide a support system for the other especially if ill or disabled
- Teaching your partner and other family members how to treat you. Doing the same for them.
Violation or relationship Boundaries:
- Individuality is lost for the sake of the relationship (enmeshment)
- One partner or family member tries to control the other
- Violation of commitments agreed upon in the relationship (extramarital affairs, etc.)
- Expect your partner to read your mind or meet your needs without being told what they are. (That is also intellectual abuse)
- Expect your spouse to make you happy & meet all your expectations
- Try to fix or change a partner against his/her will
- Giving unsolicited help or advice
- Giving credit to an individual for their own ideas and creativity (copyrights)
- Allowing children and others to freely express their own creativity (as long as it does not violate other’s rights)
Violation of Creative Boundaries:
- Sexually explicit, ethnic, gender or religious slurs in art or literature
- Stealing someone else’s creative idea
- Stifling a child’s natural creative abilities
- Living within the laws of the land and changing them through legal channels
- Elected officials sustaining the laws and representing the will of the people who voted them into office
- Government protects and provides fair trials and consequences for citizens but does not try to control
Civic Boundary Violations or poor boundaries
- Government officials make laws without the consent of the people
- Governments enable irresponsible citizens
- Respect the differences in cultures
- When entering a home or country of another culture, comply with their rules while visiting
Violation of Cultural Boundaries
- Racist or ethnic jokes, harassment, discrimination
- Tolerating abusive cultural patterns
- Punish others who are not a member of your culture or race
- Let others know your time limitations, then enforce them. Example: “I can only talk for five minutes.”
- Consideration for other’s time when they are waiting for or depending on you
- Keep curfews
- Stay within time limitations for talk or presentation
Time Boundary Violations:
- Expect employees to work overtime without extra pay (also a financial violation)
- Being assigned a ten-minute talk and speaking for thirty minutes
- Being consistently late for time commitments
- Overstay expected time at party or visit
- Determine when it’s time to quit working and rest
- Choose to focus on gratitude, blessings & something more positive rather than the negative.
- Believe you are a good person even if you made mistakes
- Finding balance between work and play, being serious and silly, responsibility and indulgence, self-care and service to others
- Balance between passion and logic. Example: “My desire is to eat the whole cake, but I should only have one piece”
- Following your conscience and/or internal warning signs
Internal Boundary Violations:
- Putting effort and consideration into everyone else but yourself
- Poor nutrition, over work, lack of sleep & exercise, etc.
- Use others or allow others to use you
- Blame others for your errors & weaknesses
- Auditory Boundary – Ask to have the volume turned down at a restaurant because music is interfering with you enjoying the meal
- Auditory Boundary Violation – A third party to listens in on a phone conversation from an unsuspecting person.
- Auditory Boundary: Keeping music within a range that it’s not offensive to others
- Auditory Boundary: Establishing white noise in a medical, counseling or law office so others cannot eavesdrop on sensitive conversations
- Visual – Complaining to city authorities about inappropriate material on public billboards
- Taste – Ask the waiter to replace a meal you’ve paid for, that doesn’t taste good or is burned
- Smell – Request a person to not wear perfume when they are around you or refuse to get too close to them if they do.
- Smell Boundary Violation – Flagellating in public.
- Touch – Let others know when physical touch is pleasant or painful
- Touch – Refuse to be touched it touch is unwanted
- Taste – Stop eating when full, don’t continue on because it tastes good
Substance Use Boundaries:
Adult Children and Parent Boundaries:
Rokell Lerner & Associates areas where boundaries need to be assessed:
- Individual conceptions
- Need for closeness and distance
- Sexual behavior
- Touch/expression of affection
- Discipline of children
- Meaning of touch to each person
- How family members need to touch and be touched
- Conventions about nudity
- Rules about privacy
- Bathing/sleeping arrangements
Practice good boundaries:
Give yourself the right to say NO, Please step back, I can’t do that today, but I can on Tuesday, I’m not able to do that, please ask someone else, and so on. Practice being kind but firm in letting others know your boundaries.
Avoid saying, “You made me do that.” “You made me feel bad.” Part of boundaries is to own what is yours and not to blame anyone or anything else for your choices.
Example: “I didn’t go to college because you prevented me from graduating from High School. vs. “I didn’t go to college because I decided not to.
Blame is an indicator of poor boundaries. Blame is an attempt to hold another person responsible for your experience, feelings or behaviors and looking for a scapegoat. Blame says, “You are responsible for me. What you do determines whether I succeed or fail.” Blame is a dead-end road because there is NO self-accountability. At the end of the blame is STUCK, because blaming another person is not going to fix you! Blame is abusive.
Abusers avoid taking personal responsibility by blaming a victim. Example: “The reason I had an affair is because you are not good enough in bed.” “You made me hit you because you don’t obey me.” “You made me feel sad.” “You kept me from getting my degree.”
Victims take the blame they do not deserve: “It must be my fault that man was so rude to me.”
~Some of this information comes from “Boundaries, A workbook for understanding and setting boundaries, by Robert B Roden, Ph.D. Some come from a number of different recovery meetings, books, articles, speeches, etc. Unfortunately, much of the origin is unknown except for memory. If you think this information belongs to you, please prove that to me and I will happily give you the credit.