Relationships: Boundaries & Self-Esteem

Relationships-Good Boundaries

Relationships & Boundaries

Developing Better Relationships & Building Esteem

Research has shown us that boundaries are central to the way you feel about yourself in the world. They operate a little like your own personal force field which you use to let people in or keep them out; both emotionally and physically. Creating healthy boundaries helps you to have better relationships, less stress and greater self-confidence.

Do you have effective boundaries in relationships?

• Are you able to say no?
• Can you ask for what you need?
• Are you a compulsive “people pleaser”?
• Do you get upset when others around you are upset?
• Do people often seem to take advantage of you/your “good nature”?

Boundaries are where our needs and feelings stop and where someone else’s begins. Without boundaries you would let someone treat you how they wanted or do whatever they wanted with your possessions. Where your boundaries are weak you might feel that you have no rights to  – for example – say no or do what you want.

If you have been in an abusive relationship or been brought up in a dysfunctional family you may have little experience of what healthy boundaries are. Setting boundaries is one of the most important aspects of looking after yourself, tackling low self-esteem and allowing the “real you” to emerge.
Boundaries which are too rigid literally shut people out. You are very self-sufficient and don’t let anyone get too close to you.
Boundaries which are too loose can be seen where you may put hands inappropriately on strangers or let others touch you inappropriately. You might be sexually promiscuous or be confused between love and sex or get too close too fast. This is where your personal force field is faulty and allows people to come and go as they please and is often linked to a chaotic life full of drama.

Tips for Effective Boundary Setting in Relationships, Marriage and with Partners

  1. Understand that setting a boundary for the first time often results in a feeling of being uncomfortable (you may feel selfish, or guilty or embarrassed) as those around you, initially at least, bump into it and test you out.
  2. Set boundaries respectfully, simply and clearly using few words.
  3. Remain calm
  4. Do not apologise or justify to others the setting of a boundary.You only set the boundary and are not responsible for someone else’s feelings. If others get upset with your boundaries that really is to do with them and not something you need to feel responsible for. Remember that you can’t control how someone else feels. Good friends will accept your boundary needs.
  5. Boundary setting takes time, practice and determination.
  6. Expect to be tested on your boundaries and have a firm plan of action – which may involve help or in extremes the police.
  7. Develop a system of people who will support you and respect you & your boundaries and at the same time move away and reduce contact from those that do not.

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.


Boundary Issues: Using Boundary Intelligence to Get the Intimacy You Want and the Independence You Need in Life, Love and Work;  Adams, (2005), Wiley.

More resources can be found on Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy Couples page:Couples Counselling Resources

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