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Boundaries: Don’t Cross this Line

Are the people in your life take advantage of your generosity? It may be time to set and enforce boundaries.

You love helping others. You love giving your time, energy and even money if it means someone else can benefit because of your generosity. Your actions are great, except when your generosity starts causing problems for you. Unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of your generosity; even if they are not aware they are doing so. They cross your personal boundaries frequently and this leads you to feel used, unappreciated and just plain tired, emotionally and physically. Having your boundaries violated repeatedly can be exhausting.

Boundaries are like invisible fences we establish, guidelines, that tell others what is appropriate behavior and what is not. It is up to you to protect your own boundaries. The best way you can protect them is to know which boundaries are being crossed. Once you know this, you can take steps to creating healthy boundaries in all areas of your life.

Boundaries and Your Partner

Boundaries in this area can be easily crossed because you have fallen in love with your partner, you want to spend the rest of your life with this person, and you want to make them happy, yet making them happy at your expense is not healthy. The best way to make your partner happy is to make sure you are happy first. When you allow your partner to cross relationship boundaries, you will not find happiness.

Boundaries that are crossed in a relationship can include those related to your body, communication, and expectations. When you do not want to have sex or be touched intimately, it is not okay for you to give in or allow your partner to make inappropriate moves on you. Learning how to talk to one another is very important. It is not okay for you or your partner to call each other names, curse at one another, or put each other down in any way verbally. Furthermore, it is not okay to be a doormat or let your partner walk all over you. You may be a people pleaser but letting your partner take advantage of you is not pleasing to either of you.

Boundaries and Your Stuff

Are you constantly letting people borrow your material things only to find them damaged when returned, if they are returned at all? You are among many people who allow boundaries to be crossed. Yes, they are just material items and you paid for them with your money with the intentions of using the items yourself. It is not okay for people to borrow items and never return them, or return them in an offensive condition. This is disrespectful to your items and to you.

Whether you are letting them borrow your car, clothes, equipment or other items, it is up to you to establish guidelines and rules about how long they can be borrowed, what condition they need to be in when returned, and if damaged, rules about how the borrower will repay you. It is okay to say no to a person wanting to borrow from you. In fact, it is healthy to say no to the people who take advantage of you when borrowing items.

Boundaries and Your Profession

It is easy to point out the people at a job who allow others to cross boundaries. They are usually the ones working later than anyone else for no more pay. They are the ones who don’t get a lunch break while the boss takes a two-hour break. They are the ones using their own cars to run errands for their company. Their desks are full of papers and projects while their co-workers, the ones who have established healthy boundaries, have desks that are neat and clean. They are the ones who look exhausted and need caffeine throughout the day because they have taken work home with them to get caught up.

You must learn to put yourself first at work. It is important to establish boundaries early in a job. Learn to say no to jobs that you do not have time to complete. A good leader will not want you or expect you to wear yourself out taking on extra projects. A good leader will make sure your work load is appropriate and comparative to your co-workers. A good leader will see to it that you are not being abused in any way on the job.

Boundaries and Your Emotions

Emotional boundaries deal with the psychological aspects of your relationships. If you find you are emotionally overwhelmed, anxious in social situations and confused about your feelings, your emotional boundaries may need to be redefined.

It is not okay for someone to try to make you feel guilty about your feelings. It is not okay for someone to dismiss or reject your feelings. Do not allow them to make fun of how you feel or what you are going through. Their negative behaviors can lead you to act in negative ways.

When you have strong emotional boundaries, you don’t feel the need to exhibit negative behaviors, like telling the world about your problems, especially on social media. You are not trying to gain attention because you are confident in your emotions and how to cope with them.

Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries are easier to set than you think. The first step in learning to set healthy boundaries is to get good help. You need somebody on your side who can give you an objective opinion and who can teach you how to start making wise decisions when it comes to your mental and physical health. Finding a good counselor can help you with this.

You can also explore mindfulness and become aware of your body’s signals. Paying attention to your own physical and mental needs will help you get the confidence you need to maintain healthy boundaries.

Avoid the people and places that make you feel drained, unappreciated, used, and less valuable. This may mean you need to change your job or say goodbye to negative friends. You need to give yourself the power to put yourself first so that you can be there for others, in a healthier state. Take care of yourself, choose to not feel guilty when you say no to a request, and be honest with people as to why you are now setting limits.

Try explaining to your friends, family, and boss that you are setting boundaries in an effort to take care of yourself. If they refuse to respect your boundaries or make you feel guilty for wanting to improve yourself, it may be time to step away from your relationship with them.

You have to take control of your life and improve it to the best of your abilities. Setting boundaries may just be the first step, but it will reveal the relationships you enjoy most and the relationships you enjoy least. Whether you move forward or move away from these relationships is up to you.


Chris Massman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Agoura Hills, CA. She graduated Phillips Graduate Institute with a Master of Arts in Psychology in 2014 and received her Chemical Dependency Specialty in 2014. Today, she practices Congnitive-behavioral therapy to help individuals, couples, and families identify and overcome a variety of unique challenges.