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Learn About Healthy Boundaries: Boundaries Versus Control, Dealing With Boundary Crossers, and More


We’ve discussed boundaries several times before in this blog, and for good reason. They’re extremely important to the balance between our relationships and our sense of self. They help us take care of ourselves, improve comfort and respect in communication, and set expectations that can prevent disappointment and unnecessary conflict. Some boundaries are more difficult to navigate, like those with a narcissistic parent or a codependent partner. But every relationship can benefit from taking the time to examine and discuss boundaries. 

In today’s blog we’ll break down some of the biggest questions we see around boundaries, and give you tips to evaluate and strengthen your own boundaries, ensuring your relationships stay fulfilling and respectful.


Boundaries versus Control

First it’s important to clear up a question we get often. Where do you draw the line between having boundaries and being overly controlling? A boundary is established to protect your well-being, both physical and mental. Just like it sounds, you should think of a boundary as a line you draw around yourself. 

If you don’t want to be around alcohol use because of a past trauma, that may be a boundary. It’s fair to let your friends know—you don’t want to come to the party if everyone will be drinking. As long as this is communicated in a respectful and self-focused way, it’s a boundary. But if you were to demand that no one drink so you could come to the party, that would be controlling. Using passive aggressive language or guilting your friends for their choice to drink would also be controlling, though that kind of behavior can be more subtle and harder to pinpoint. 

Boundaries are established to protect your well-being and respect your personal space and values. In contrast, control is about imposing your will on others, often leading to power struggles and resentment. Understanding this difference is crucial in navigating relationships, especially with those who might struggle to recognize or respect your boundaries.


How to Set and Maintain Boundaries

The process of setting a boundary begins with a deep understanding of your own needs. Reflecting on what aspects of your interactions feel comfortable versus what drains or discomforts you can provide insight into where boundaries need to be established. Once you’ve identified these areas, clear and direct communication is key. It’s important to express your boundaries in a way that is assertive without being aggressive, ensuring that your message is heard and respected.

For example, suppose you have a friend who frequently calls late at night to discuss their problems, interfering with your sleep schedule. A healthy way to communicate a boundary might be, “I’ve noticed our late-night conversations are affecting my sleep, and I really need to be well-rested for my day. Can we schedule our chats for earlier in the evening, or I can text you a time when I’m available the next day? I value our talks, but I also need to prioritize my health.” This approach acknowledges the value of the relationship and the conversations while clearly stating your needs and suggesting a compromise.

Enforcing the boundary is equally important. If the behavior continues despite the conversation, you might need to remind them of the boundary or set your phone to “do not disturb” overnight. This reinforces the importance of your needs. Setting and maintaining boundaries is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that may require adjustments as relationships evolve and situations change. The key is to remain consistent, respectful, and open to dialogue, ensuring that both parties feel heard and respected.


setting boundaries


What’s an Unhealthy Boundary?

Unhealthy boundaries, either too rigid or too porous, can lead to strained relationships and personal distress. If you’re receiving negative feedback on your boundaries or they don’t seem effective, you may want to take more time to examine the root of the struggle. Understanding the reasons behind your boundary issues, such as a desire for control, fear of rejection, or low self-esteem, can help you address and adjust them towards healthier interactions. This kind of reflection can be difficult, and requires a great degree of honesty. Remember—boundaries aren’t about pushing people away. A healthy boundary should help set the stage for a healthy relationship, to the degree that’s possible.


A Brief Guide To Challenging Boundaries

It should go without saying that boundaries will be easier with some individuals and more difficult with others. Here are a few types of people you may find challenging, and a short word of advice for each.

How to Set Boundaries with a Narcissist

Dealing with a narcissist requires a firm and clear approach to boundaries. Narcissists often disregard others’ needs and feelings, making it essential to communicate your limits assertively. This involves stating your needs clearly, refusing to engage in manipulative conversations, and being prepared to enforce consequences if your boundaries are crossed.

Setting Boundaries with Needy Friends

Needy friends can drain your emotional and time resources. Setting boundaries with them involves expressing your needs and limitations openly. It’s about finding a balance between supporting them and prioritizing your own well-being. This might include specifying times when you are available to talk or help and times when you need to focus on your own needs.

Setting Boundaries with Flaky Friends

Flaky friends, those who are unreliable and often cancel plans, require a different approach. Communicate your feelings about their behavior and the impact it has on you. Setting boundaries might involve lower expectations for their reliability and planning for alternative arrangements. It’s about protecting your time and emotional energy.

Setting Boundaries with Parents

Setting boundaries with parents, especially as an adult, is about transitioning from a child-parent dynamic to one of mutual respect and autonomy. This involves expressing your needs and limits clearly, such as your privacy, decision-making autonomy, and independence. It requires a delicate balance of assertiveness and respect for the relationship.

Dealing with Boundary Crossers

Not everyone will respect your boundaries, and you might encounter individuals who intentionally or accidentally cross them. It’s important to restate your needs firmly and calmly. Having clear and reasonable consequences for boundary violations can help reinforce your boundaries. Remember, enforcing boundaries is about respecting yourself and your well-being.


A Line In The Sand

Learning about and implementing healthy boundaries can profoundly impact all areas of your life, from personal relationships to professional ones. Over time as you grow and change, your boundaries may need tweaking—or a complete overhaul. Pay attention to where you feel drained or agitated by interactions, and return to evaluating your boundaries when these emotions come up. With occasional adjustment of your boundaries you can build more fulfilling, respectful, and balanced relationships. Remember, setting boundaries is not just about saying no; it’s about saying yes to respect, autonomy, and healthier interactions.




Robb Kornoelje is the owner of The Truism Center, a relationship enthusiast, and the creator of the “30-Day Relationship Challenge.” This 30-day, fully online email course offers gentle guidance to identify behaviors causing trouble, find ease with emotions, and enhance self-awareness. With a focus on stress-free communication, the challenge encourages a stronger connection with others, nurturing compassion, and fostering forgiveness. Join Robb on this journey to improve the fabric of your relationships—one day at a time.