I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating personal boundaries and relationships of all kinds: family, romantic, work, etc.
One thing that has stood out for me as a key item is the importance of erecting and maintaining personal boundaries. When I think of boundaries, I think of a house with a picket fence or wire fence around the yard – with a gate. Boundaries keep things that belong inside, inside; and what belongs outside, outside. I also think of our bodies; our skin is a boundary. Skin keeps things covered and prevents unwanted and harmful things from getting inside our bodies.
So, boundaries act as barriers. Things can go in and out of boundaries, but on a regulated basis. If something breaches a good boundary, there will be some type of consequence. If we refer to my examples, the fence with the gate is the main access portal into the yard of that home. Then, after you access the yard, you will still need to get through the door to gain proper access inside the home. If someone decides to jump over the fence, or tear it down in some way, then break the door down (or break in through a window), these are unwanted and undesired methods of accessing the yard and home. The owner can call the police, or they may have a dog in the yard that can help the intruder understand that proper access is necessary when crossing the boundaries. Breaching good boundaries will have consequences. Also, for the skin: if someone gets cut, the blood comes out, but platelets (which includes white blood cells and clotting agents) immediately start to work to “plug” the cut. In this way, the breach is repaired to prevent further damage to the body.
As we review these examples, let’s look at our boundaries. It’s necessary to place boundaries around ourselves, our hearts, our personal lives, and our finances. We cannot be all things to all people. There is a limit to what we should allow in our presence, or what we should accept from others. Respect, kindness, fairness, consideration, etc., are attributes that we should offer, expect, and receive from others. When they are not received, we must first evaluate the situation, and then with wisdom and tact we must address the breach if it continues. If the breach continues, we must find ways to minimize or eliminate the source. This is how we maintain our boundaries. If we allow others to cross our boundaries in “illegal” ways continually, then they will be ignored and trampled. This is no different than someone’s home being robbed repeatedly; the thieves know that the owner is not being vigilant and will repeatedly attack their property without fear of barriers being erected to stop them.
So, if your heart is trampled repeatedly by someone who says they love you, and you accept it over and over, you must find the courage to stop the breach and close the wound. If there are issues where your rights are being dismantled before your eyes and you allow it, the person or institution will assume that you are guilty of what you are being accused of, or that you feel powerless to change the situation and will not fight back. You are the only one who can reverse that tide. If someone is misusing your funds, or stealing from you, set up measures to stop it – or reverse it.
There are so many ways that we allow boundary breaches and then we pretend to like the outcomes that occur as a result. Sometimes we may feel helpless, as victims of abusers often feel. But here’s the thing: an abuser can only misuse someone who allows them to do so. Although it may be difficult to leave an abuser (of any kind) or stop their unwanted behavior, we must be bold, wise and strong and walk away. If it’s a situation where you cannot leave immediately (e.g. a hostile work situation without another means of income), create an escape plan and act on it as soon as possible.
Just know this: strong boundaries are important and necessary for healthy, long-term relationships of every type. Without good boundaries we will be bleeding into the streets, and our belongings (literally & figuratively) will be misused and abused by those who have no right to access them.
If you’ve discovered that your boundaries are broken and they seem to be destroyed beyond repair, get help from a professional. Everyone deserves to be respected, and hearts deserve to be protected from those who disregard boundaries.