The Importance of Personal Boundaries in Relationships

Personal boundaries are vital to healthy and close relationships. As we set limits and rules to how others can treat us or act around us, we protect our own well-being while strengthening our relationships with those who want to be close to us.

“Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships.”1

Individuals with ‘Rigid Boundaries’ are often distant, avoid close relationships, and are very protective of their personal information. ‘Porous Boundaries’ are when individuals overshare information, accept disrespect, and have a hard time saying “no” to others. Those with ‘Healthy Boundaries’ value their own opinions and do not comprise their values, but are still close and open with others.1 Everyone usually has a mix of these boundaries depending on the setting or the people they are with (coworkers, friends, significant other, family).

Each of these boundaries may have a time and place in our lives, however aiming for ‘Heathy Boundaries’ can protect ourselves against mistreatment while still creating close, warm relationships with others. It is important to stand up for ourselves and communicate our boundaries in relationships with friends, coworkers, family members, and intimate partners.

Personal boundaries can help us feel comfortable, happy, safe, respected, and protected against being disrespected or mistreated. Research suggests that setting personal boundaries in our relationships can help lower stress levels and promote closeness.2 A common misconception is that personal boundaries are an effort to push others away from us, or punish those close to us for doing something “wrong”, but in reality boundaries are an effort to make our relationships closer and stronger. When we create boundaries it is a way to show that we want to continue a relationship with someone, but the set limits need to be respected in order for a relationship to stay close and warm. Personal boundaries help keep our relationships close, not to make them more distanced.  

Setting and keeping personal boundaries is difficult and requires courage to communicate them to others, but as we work on our own boundaries, we can improve our relationships with those around us.