What's the big deal with boundaries?
Boundaries are an essential part of healthy relationships. At Sojourner, whether we are working with clients or teaching prevention education, we know it's important to get clear on what that actually means! There are many types of boundaries and different factors can impact what they will be. Breaking them down into categories can help provide clarity and encourage conversations.
Physical boundaries involve limits around personal space and touch. Healthy physical boundaries recognize the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. Appropriate physical boundaries are both individual and cultural. For example, shaking hands vs. fist bump vs. hugging upon first meeting someone.
Material boundaries refer to limits around one's money, time, and possessions. Your boundaries will determine what and how much you share/accept, as well as who you share with. Examples include:
Loaning a partner money
Giving someone a ride in your car
Sharing clothes with a roommate
Accepting a certain salary
Sexual boundaries are the limits for what you are comfortable doing (or not doing) sexually. Sexual boundaries allow for safe and pleasurable connections. Healthy sexual boundaries always involve affirmative consent.
Healthy emotional boundaries include discerning when and with who to be emotionally vulnerable. Emotional boundaries help provide clarity around what your feelings are and what the other person's feelings are. Healthy emotional boundaries also help you to withstand another person's attempt to unfairly blame you for how they feel or to minimize your experience.
Personal boundaries include limits around your values, opinions, spirituality, needs, and history. Healthy personal boundaries involve holding on to a sense of oneself while being able to have productive conversations about a difference in opinion. Your personal boundaries also involve your stories, your history, what makes you, YOU!
And finally, digital boundaries are what you are comfortable and not comfortable with in the digital space. Examples include:
Sharing passwords (or not!)
Sharing personal details about your life online
Having your camera on or off during zoom meetings
What (and when) you text someone
While some boundaries are rigid and steady no matter what, many boundaries are fluid and adapt with each relationship. Here are a few factors which might influence what your boundaries are:
Type of relationship: There are many different types of relationships. Parent to child, friend to friend, romantic, teacher and student, the list goes on. Different boundaries are appropriate for different people. It is important that any relationship you are in, regardless of family connection or age or gender, is comfortable for you. It’s normal for boundaries to shift and adapt as we age as well.
Mood: Your mood can influence your boundaries greatly. If you are in a good mood, you may feel more comfortable around people and more sociable. If you are in a more neutral or negative mood, you may want some space or distance. That's normal! If you are in a relationship and often feel unhappy or “off” around the other person, then it might be time to evaluate whether you want them in your life.
Environment: The actual space or place you are in can impact what’s ok and not! How you interact with people in your home, workplace, school, on public transportation, in digital spaces or at a restaurant, for example, will likely be different. When you are in an environment that is safe and comfortable, your boundaries may be more relaxed versus if you are in an unsafe or uncomfortable environment.
Trust and Time: It can take some time to develop close relationships with individuals, and that involves trust. When you trust someone who you are in a relationship with, your boundaries will be more open and you will feel more comfortable to have a deeper relationship with that person. It is okay to take your time building up to having open boundaries with people!
Previous History: Your previous experiences may influence your boundaries. If you have had harmful relationships or interactions in the past, that may result in your boundaries being more strict when you initially begin to interact with new people.
No matter what, your boundaries are yours. Boundaries are there to keep you physically and emotionally safe. They can always be renegotiated as needed!
Interested in helping your young person learn more about boundaries? Consider inviting us to teach in their classroom, youth group or extracurricular program! Virtual programming is currently available. Contact Laura@sojournerproject.org to learn more.