How to Set Healthy Boundaries

How To Set Healthy Boundaries for Better Relationships

Understanding and establishing a healthy boundary is essential in fostering positive relationships with others. But what are boundaries in the first place, and how does one learn how to set healthy boundaries?

At Therapy Group of NYC, we guide those who want to take the necessary steps to improve their mental well-being. Whether it’s dealing with negative feelings or navigating healthy relationship boundaries, our compassionate therapists in New York City are ready to help you overcome life challenges.

Our guide below will discuss setting boundaries in a relationship, the types of personal boundaries that can be set, and some real-life examples to help you learn what’s best for your mental health.

two individuals sitting at opposite ends of a park bench in a peaceful setting, engaged in a calm and thoughtful conversation.

Understanding Boundaries

Boundaries refer to any limits placed on personal space. It involves expressing your needs and setting expectations on what type of behavior is and isn’t acceptable to you. Defining these personal limits is essential to ensure healthy boundary-setting in romantic relationships, friendships, and professional or familial relationships.

When setting relationship boundaries, you’re essentially communicating your needs and values to ensure others respect them. Ultimately, this can help prevent feelings of burnout, resentment, or frustration in any type of relationship while also helping promote self-care.

Boundaries affect your everyday life, helping establish honesty and transparency with others. When these personal limits are communicated and respected, they can help you feel valued, secure, and safe.

Ready for an appointment?

Types of Boundaries

You’ll want to learn about the different types to understand how to set healthy boundaries.

Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries refer to physical space and the comfort level surrounding touch, privacy, and personal space. Setting a physical boundary can involve defining physical needs and limits and ensuring you feel safe and respected in any interaction.

For example, you can state whether you prefer a hug, a handshake, or neither. These are limits or expectations set that ultimately affect your physical well-being.

Mental and Emotional Boundaries

Mental and emotional boundaries can be set to protect your thoughts, feelings, ideas, beliefs, and values. This can include recognizing and expressing your emotional needs as well as respecting the needs of others.

For example, you might not feel comfortable sharing your feelings or thoughts with a friend immediately. Perhaps you’re not comfortable sharing negative emotions and difficult situations or discussing your struggles with depression until you’ve known someone for a long time.

Your thoughts, feelings, and values are unique to you, and it’s paramount to safeguard them from any external influences that could compromise your inner peace and mental stability. When it comes to the boundaries to set in a relationship, it’s all about fostering respect and promoting a healthy understanding in relationships. Assertiveness about boundaries and maintaining a strong sense of self can enable you to cultivate self-respect and nurture your empathy.

Behavioral Boundaries

Behavioral boundaries refer to what you will and will not tolerate regarding behavior from yourself and others. When learning how to set healthy boundaries, you’re establishing a framework that guides specific interactions and communication with others. This framework shapes the dynamic of the relationship and how you treat one another.

For example, this may involve setting restrictions on other people’s access to your time. You might also set a limit on how long you are available for a social event or whether you allow others to talk over you in a group discussion.

Now that you’re familiar with the types, you’ll need to learn about what a healthy boundary looks like and how to set boundaries in a relationship.

Ready for an appointment?

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries

What are boundaries in a relationship? What does it look like to have good boundaries? Knowing the difference between healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries is the key to understanding what it takes to promote healthier relationships. Here are some examples of necessary boundaries in practice:

  • Healthy boundaries: Someone with healthy boundaries can set boundaries based on self-respect and clear communication. The person will feel a strong sense of self-worth and can assert their needs and preferences without feeling guilty or overly accommodating to others. Someone with healthy boundaries can verbalize their needs, trust others, feel comfortable saying “no” to others, and be flexible and transparent about their expectations. There should be a balance between giving and receiving in any relationship.
  • Unhealthy boundaries: A person with unhealthy boundaries may be rigid, closed-off, and distant. Or they lean in the other direction, relying on codependency and allowing others to walk all over them. These boundary violations can lead to feelings of resentment, low self-worth, high anxiety, and being taken advantage of in relationships. Those with unhealthy boundaries might fear being rejected or abandoned and may accept less than they deserve, while those who fear emotional intimacy may have rigid boundaries that don’t allow for closeness.

It’s important to learn what these look like in real life to feel safer and more comfortable. Boundary setting can boost self-esteem, confidence, and self-compassion. And understanding how to set healthy boundaries is an excellent starting point for happy relationships.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

Now that you have a firm grasp of what boundaries are, you may be ready to take steps toward setting them:

  • Evaluate and reflect on your relationships. Think about your romantic partnerships, your familial relationships, and your friendships. Are you getting enough of what you value (quality time, security, or reassurance)? Start identifying your emotions with each individual and give yourself the space to process these thoughts.
  • Understand that different relationships will have different boundaries. Not every relationship will require the same limits. For example, the behavior you seek from a romantic partner will be entirely different from the behavior you expect from a coworker. As relationships change over time, from when you’re a teen to an adult, be open to the idea of making tweaks to a relationship and remain flexible with your expectations.
  • Practice speaking up. After you’ve learned which parts of your life could benefit from having more or fewer boundaries, you can practice verbalizing your needs and expectations. When doing so, it’s essential to have an open conversation without hostility and address any issues with full transparency.
  • Observe how the relationship changes. Sometimes, boundaries can test a relationship. Other times, it makes relationships stronger and more valuable. Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to observe how the relationship changes and decide to create firmer boundaries or learn to walk away from relationships full of boundary violations.
  • Focus on self-love. Being consistent with your boundaries is key, as it reinforces your beliefs and ensures lines are established. Having strong boundaries allows you to foster self-love and carve out time for yourself as well as engage in activities you enjoy. It’s a great way to teach yourself what you deserve and helps others learn to value your personal preferences.

Overall, learning how to set healthy boundaries leads to improved mental well-being.

If you’re ready to start navigating healthier, more enjoyable relationships, you may want to seek out the help of a professional therapist in New York City, NY. Therapy is a powerful tool that allows you to take control of your mental wellness, allowing you to live a more fulfilling life. Anyone, from teens and adolescents to adults and couples, can significantly benefit from in-person or online therapy.

More importantly, Therapy Group of NYC makes it easier to find the right therapist who can help you jumpstart your mental health journey. Whether you’re learning about boundaries or struggling with anxiety, stress, and other mental health concerns, you can reach out to our compassionate team. We’re ready to guide you no matter what you’re going through. Get started and find a therapist by contacting us today.

FAQS about Setting Healthy Boundaries

1. What are the first steps to take when setting healthy boundaries?

The first steps include understanding your own needs and limits, reflecting on your relationships to identify where boundaries are needed, and communicating your needs clearly and respectfully to others. It’s also important to be prepared for resistance or questions and to stay firm in your commitment to self-care.

2. How do I maintain boundaries without feeling guilty?

Remember that setting boundaries is a form of self-respect and necessary for healthy relationships. Feeling guilty is common at first, especially if you’re not used to advocating for yourself. Remind yourself that boundaries allow for mutual respect and understanding in relationships and that maintaining them is good not only for you but also for those you interact with.

3. Can boundaries change over time, and how should I handle it?

Yes, boundaries can and often do change as relationships evolve and as individuals grow. It’s essential to regularly assess your boundaries and communicate any changes to those affected. Open and honest communication is key to adjusting boundaries to respect everyone’s needs.

4. What should I do if someone repeatedly disrespects my boundaries?

If someone consistently disrespects your boundaries, you may need to take stronger action, such as limiting your contact with that person or seeking support from a therapist or counselor. Protecting your well-being is crucial, even if it means making difficult decisions about certain relationships.

5. How can therapy help with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries?

Therapy can provide a safe space to explore your needs and fears related to boundary setting. A therapist can help you understand your relationship patterns, build communication skills, and strengthen your confidence in maintaining boundaries. They can also offer support and strategies for dealing with resistance or pushback from others.

A Personalized Approach to Therapy

You want to feel better and make lasting change. We aim to make that happen.

Learn More

Find the right therapist in NYC

Life in New York City can be complicated. Finding and connecting with a therapist should not be.


Not in NYC?

We're part of a trusted therapist network, and can help you search outside of NYC.

Explore Related Articles

Is Adderall Addictive? Understanding the Risks and Reality of...
Explore the risks of Adderall use in high-pressure careers and understand addiction signs and recovery options....
Brad Brenner, Ph.D.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
If you're looking to foster better relationships, it's important to learn how to set healthy boundaries....
Brad Brenner, Ph.D.
The Essential Guide to Somatic Therapy: Navigating Mind-Body Healing
Dive into the essentials of somatic therapy and how it harnesses your body's healing potential. Explore...
Brad Brenner, Ph.D.