A line in sand refers to a limit beyond which something or someone becomes unacceptable. Think of behaviours, conversations beyond which you are not willing to go. Where do you draw the boundary?
In relationships, boundaries are rules of behaviour that are willing to, and not willing to tolerate. It helps us navigate relationships with others. Boundaries are essential for healthy living. It helps us create a life we want for ourselves. But if they are so important, why are we drawing them on the sand and not setting them in stone? Boundaries can change based on time and context. Healthy boundaries enhance our sense of wellbeing and autonomy.
We create boundaries in several aspects of our lives. Some of these are:
Physical boundaries: set around physical needs and personal space. They can look like:
Taking a lunch break at a specific time at work.
Resting when tired.
Communicating degree of comfort around physical contact (e.g., “I don’t like to be hugged. Can we shake hands instead?”).
Prioritizing a good, restful sleep.
Emotional Boundaries are set around respecting your feelings, beliefs, and energy levels. They can look like:
Communicating how you feel loved and supported to important people in your life.
Communicating your intentions and needs when disclosing personal information.
Refusing to attend to another person if you do not have the required physical or mental energy.
Refusing to engage in disrespectful, harmful, and inappropriate behaviours.
Time Boundaries are set to protect, prioritize and organize your time. The boundaries can look like:
Communicating and confirming time-related expectations for social engagement (e.g., “Please be on time for our meeting”).
Having an optimally scheduled workday with times for rest and play.
Taking regularly scheduled breaks from work.
Sexual Boundaries honour privacy, consent, and preferences for intimacy. They can look like:
Asking, communicating, and respecting enthusiastic consent.
Understanding consent is a dynamic process where a person has a right to change their mind at any time.
Ensuring the use of contraceptives for safe sex.
Saying no to things that you do not like or are comfortable with.
Intellectual Boundaries revolve around nurturing your curiosity, confusion, and ideas about things that matter to you. They can look like:
Clearing your questions or doubts from credible references.
Being excited to learn and discuss things that interest you even if it is a niche.
Engaging in a respectful and empathetic dialogue even when there are disagreements.
Maintaining documents for loaning of possessions that may have legal ramifications (e.g., loaning money, rent agreement, etc.)
Refusing to loan certain objects if you are not comfortable or willing for whatsoever reason.
But of course, it is easier to read about boundaries than it is to set them with our loved ones. Remember that it is normal to feel uncomfortable whilst setting boundaries, it is not an indicator to avoid doing it. You cannot set boundaries for other people. You have to be mindful of your actions and behaviours. It is also not in your control as to how others react to your boundaries but you can still choose to uphold them.
Boundary setting is a continuous process, you will learn to manage the discomfort and be able to advocate for your needs. It is okay if you are not able to assert your boundaries every time - slip-ups happen! Revisit the situation and try again or the next time.