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Eliminate BS and Redefine Your Friendships: 3 Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries in Any Relationship

Cultivating a healthy relationship involves honoring your personal needs first. Ashley Turner details how to set boundaries in just about any relationship.

by | May 15, 2019

More than likely, you have a friendship or social relationship that leaves you feeling exhausted, irritable, or overwhelmed (maybe all three) at times. To avoid counterfeit happiness and thrive in your friendships, it may be time to reevaluate your friendship boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries is the key to positive, fulfilling, and uplifting relationships.

Many years ago, I “broke up” with my best friend. In many ways, best friend breakups can be more heart-wrenching than splitting with a romantic partner. I was devastated, sad, and depressed. It took me months to gather the courage to break things off and years to finally cease my resistance to let go. She was a dynamic, charismatic, gorgeous, charming artist. We fell in love at first sight. Best friends. Soul sisters.

But . . . she was a flake, the Excuse Queen, the Busy Bee. Trying to spend quality time together felt like pulling teeth. I was often “all dressed up with nowhere to go,” due to her lame excuses. I put up with this because she was such a delight. First, I felt slighted, then annoyed, then downright angry. I realized I had to decide what was OK for me and what was not. My friendship needed a serious intervention.

I needed new boundaries. I communicated my needs, but she simply wasn’t capable of following through with commitments. Maybe we were outgrowing each other, or maybe I was just beginning to realize I was the glue that kept the friendship together. All things considered, I needed to grow strong, respect my needs, and find friends who could consistently be there. I realized it was OK to crave more from my relationships.

Attract What You Are: A Healthy Ego Brings About (or “Generates”) Healthy Boundaries

To quote the famous words of Ice Cube, you have to “check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.” Seriously. Establishing healthy boundaries is one thing, but gracefully maintaining healthy boundaries is another [thing]. Boundary setting is a direct result of having a “healthy ego”—nothing to prove and nothing to hide. When you have a strong sense of self, you have a wide-open heart. You feel positive, empowered, and confident. Ever heard of the Law of Attraction? You attract what you are! So create boundaries that honor your needs as well as the needs of others.

When we have low self-esteem, we tend to seek love and validation from others. We may spread ourselves thinly or allow someone to take advantage of us. If you consistently feel rundown or like “second best,” it’s probably a sign that it’s time to revamp your boundaries and detox your relationships.

One of my favorite definitions of intimacy in any relationship is from Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Intimacy. “An intimate relationship is one in which neither party silences, sacrifices, or betrays the Self. Instead, each party expresses strength, vulnerability, weakness, and competence in a balanced way.”

“An intimate relationship is one in which neither party silences, sacrifices, or betrays the Self. Instead, each party expresses strength, vulnerability, weakness, and competence in a balanced way.”

Here are three tips to help you set well-defined boundaries that empower both you and the other person:

1. Find Balance

To quote another famed musician, Bette Midler sings in her 1988 hit Glory of Love, you’ve got to give a little and take a little. Relationships are all about balance. Ask yourself: How much am I giving? Am I asking for what I need?

At work:

  • Do you feel taken advantage of?
  • Are you getting the recognition or credit you deserve?
  • Are you the one that’s always staying late?

In relationships: 

  • Are you allowing someone to treat you without respect?
  • Are others honoring your (very valid) needs?

By default, it’s easy to play the blame game. No one likes to feel like she’s in the hot seat. To begin setting boundaries, you first need to communicate in a healthy, positive way. It may sound silly, but consider writing out exactly what you want in bullet points to keep yourself on track.

Cast any hostility aside and approach the conversation from your most empowered space. Envision the conversation going smoothly and peacefully.

Then, approach the other person confidently and humbly. Ask specifically for what you need. Go ahead and expect that your needs are going to be met and that the other person will hear and honor you. Manifest positive outcomes.

Finally, ask them what they need. Relationships are a two-way street. How can you do your part? Think: WIN–WIN. The longevity of a relationship depends on both individuals. Collaborate on developing a way to reconnect.

Listen on Wellness 3.0: Authentic Relating | Sue Heilbronner

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2. Build Self-Confidence with The Mirror Technique

Whoever told you talking to yourself is a bad thing, forget it. Go ahead, talk to yourself. It’s healthy! A good way to build your inner strength is through mirror work. Sit in front of a mirror, preferably first thing in the morning when you’re most human and humble. Look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud to yourself:

  • I love you.
  • I want you. 
  • You are special to me. 
  • You don’t have to be afraid.
  • I am here for you.

It may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but these affirmations are what I like to call the “Good Parent Messages” that build self-love from the inside out. We begin to mother or father ourselves and become the “inner parent” who provides love, support, understanding, and resilience from within. When you plant seeds of love inside, you instinctively stand up for yourself in the outer world, just as a parent would advocate for her child.

3. Friend and Family Break Ups

It’s not an ideal scenario, but sometimes we have to leave relationships because countless efforts show minimal results. It’s OK to nurture and create safety for ourselves. This is especially true if you are dealing with a narcissist or an addict. When you find yourself going the extra mile for someone all of the time, you may need to eliminate or minimize contact with that person.

The best thing you can do for your well-being is ask for help, get support, find a friend or mentor you can confide in, or reach out for professional help. There’s never shame in seeking support. Hold yourself accountable and responsible for creating empowered relationships that enhance your life — whether that be in work, romance, family, or friendships. As soon as you strengthen your core, you will attract those people into your life who want to connect authentically and meet your needs, leaving you energized and fulfilled in your relationships.

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