Setting and maintaining boundaries – especially with people you love, can be really tricky. I know there are people right now who are trying to figure out how to set and establish boundaries with the people they’re close to. Whether that means saying, “sorry, I can’t attend because of COVID-19” or cutting ties with a family member, truth is blurred family boundaries have repercussions, but establishing limits is worth the work.

If you’re managing boundaries with a family of origin or you’re establishing them with your chosen family, maintaining healthy boundaries is actually a way of taking care of your closest relationships. I’ve recently had to do this with people I’ve been close to, and I can say here are some things that have helped me and that can help you.

Get really clear with yourself: Ask yourself: What do I need? If you weren’t raised with a lot of models for what healthy boundaries look like, this can be tricky. So get really honest with yourself about the things that you need and want. It could be more independence from your parents or a more positive relationship with a sibling. Prioritizing your own needs and wants is an important step to inform the boundaries you create.

Begin the conversation in a clear, simple way: If something is bothering you, speak up in some way. Write a note; ask for some time to talk; open the door to communication. Once you’re talking it is so much easier to establish clear, consensual boundaries.  

Define what you need: In order to ask for what you need, you need to understand your own needs. This is where emotional intelligence is key. Space could be physical (your own part of the home), personal (less delving questions), emotional (less intimacy) or any number of things. In order to have your needs fulfilled, explain what your needs are.

Find common ground when it comes to drawing a line: When resolving conflict and setting boundaries with family, find common ground for increased understanding. If for example, a partner wants more autonomy, discussing those needs will likely serve both better than just withdrawing from the relationship.

Find mutually beneficial limits: Setting boundaries in family life takes time, as family life can easily feel like a labyrinth. Without healthy, mutually-beneficial limits, it could easily become a frustrating maze or entrapment, but with careful communication, compromise and practice, those same limits can create a beautiful safe space where everyone’s needs are met. 

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