Setting boundaries in adult relationships: 7 signs you lack boundaries.

When you hear the word “boundaries” do you get an uneasy feeling in your stomach? Or maybe you start to get fidgety and uncomfortable. In my work, I have found that conversations about boundaries are often avoided. It is often a brushed over topic with my clients. They know they struggle with setting boundaries in adult relationships but will avoid the conversation like the plague.  

Setting boundaries in adult relationships is showing them the right way of treating you and addressing your needs.

“Well, I don’t know how to set boundaries, but oh my gosh I have to tell you what happened with my friend this week instead.” 

“Yeah, I suck at setting boundaries, but it’s whatever, it’s okay.”

“I can’t set boundaries because I don’t like conflict.”

“I always say yes because I don’t want people to be mad at me.”

Why the avoidance of setting boundaries in adult relationships?

Setting boundaries can seem overwhelming because it disrupts the homeostasis within relationships. It can also be hard to commit to setting boundaries because you may lose some relationships in the process. Setting boundaries also requires a lot of energy. It takes constant work and often healthy confrontation to maintain those boundaries until they become accepted within the relationship.

Why might you lose some relationships?

You might lose some relationships, because if you have not set boundaries within relationships in the past, then you have likely attracted boundary pushers. 

Boundary pushers are drawn towards you because they have no boundaries they must adhere to. They can take advantage of you and get all of their needs met knowing that you will not push back. 

Boundary pushers do not like when boundaries are enforced. If you start to set boundaries and don’t allow them to talk advantage of you anymore, they will respond one of two ways. 

They will either leave the relationship and seek out someone else who lacks boundaries, or they will recognize the importance of the boundaries and work with you towards a healthier relationship. 

7 signs you lack boundaries in your relationship.

  1. You have a hard time saying “no.” A strong indicator that you lack boundaries is if you have a hard time saying no. You may be worried that people will get mad at you, you will lose friendships, or you don’t feel confident in yourself to uphold the boundary of “no” if there is some push back.
  2. You feel taken advantage of. As I mentioned earlier, you will likely attract boundary pushers if you lack boundaries. Boundary pushers do take advantage of you. They get what they want out of the relationship because they know you won’t say no. 
  3. You feel burnt out. If you are always saying “yes” then eventually you will become exhausted and burnt out. You will likely have little downtime to relax and regain your energy, because you are constantly doing things for other people. 
  4. You feel resentful. When you lack boundaries, you may come to resent others for not respecting something that isn’t there. You may resent them for getting their needs met when you constantly go without your needs met. 
  5. You ignore your own needs. Boundaries are how you express your needs. If you don’t have boundaries in place, then it will be hard to express what your needs are. Also, as I mentioned earlier, you are constantly taking care of other people’s needs, so you likely don’t have that time to address your own.
  6. You are a people pleaser. This piggybacks off the first point. You constantly do things for other people to avoid conflict and avoid any potential of them getting upset with you. You don’t ever say “no.”
  7. You feel a need to prove yourself. Sometimes you lack boundaries because you lack confidence in yourself. You may try to prove your worth through doing things for other people. Receiving positive feedback from them makes you feel better about yourself, which creates a perpetual cycle. 

Setting boundaries in adult relationships.

A boundary is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as “a line that marks the limits of an area. Boundaries are the limits and rules that you set for yourself in relationships.”  

A common misconception is that boundaries are telling people what to do. Boundaries are showing them the door instead of letting them crawl through the window. Boundaries are not about controlling other people, but instead controlling how you respond to them. 

Setting boundaries in adult relationships clearly communicates your needs. Boundaries create safety within relationships.

Next week I will talk about the different types of boundaries, and how you can establish boundaries within your relationships.