Why Do You Need Boundaries In Relationships?

May 31, 2018 Jonathan Berg

Setting boundaries in relationships protect your mental health. Learn why boundaries in relationships are crucial for you and your loved ones at HealthyPlace.

You need to set boundaries in relationships--all relationships--and when mental illness is added to the mix, personal boundaries become even more necessary. The boundaries in relationships that include a person with mental illness are both for the person dealing with the illness and those dealing with him/her. But what do those look like and how can we enforce boundaries in relationships that are so complex?

Why You Need Boundaries in Relationships

Boundaries in relationships for someone struggling with mental illness are important because dealing with other people can, on occasion, be more than we can handle. After all, some days it can be a challenge just to get out of bed, let alone have to navigate all of the interpersonal aspects of our relationships. At times like those, it is common for us to just isolate, causing our loved ones to worry. If healthy boundaries are set ahead of time, there will be protocols in place for situations like these.

Just as importantly, our loved ones also need to have boundaries with us. Codependency can be a common side effect of mental illness and those in our lives sometimes need a break (Codependency in Families with Mental Illness and Addiction). When I am in a depression, I can be extremely negative and extremely needy. That can be overwhelming for those in my life, so I count on them to also set boundaries with me.

What Do Boundaries in Relationships Look Like?

Boundaries can be very different depending on the type of relationship. It is harder to achieve physical distance from a roommate or emotional distance from a partner. Family responsibilities sometimes have to come first, while friendship can more easily cope with an absence. 

However, all of these have one thing in common: open communication. Boundaries that are set unilaterally with no communication are confusing and can result in even worse situations than we are trying to escape. For instance, one of the boundaries I have with my sister is that I can tell her I don't feel like talking if I am in a depression. I cannot, however, just ignore her calls. My father knows that it is triggering for me to discuss politics with him if I am not in a great emotional space. If he and I had not communicated about that boundary, he would not know how I felt and simply suffer through a blow-up (or shut-down) from me for seemingly no reason.

The most common boundaries I have with people are physical space, time to myself, and off-limits topics. Physical space is pretty self-explanatory; sometimes I just need to be alone with nobody physically present. I may still be up for communicating via other methods during those times, but don't want anyone to actually be around. Time to myself is different. I view this as emotional time off, time without feeling forced to communicate. On occasion, someone else has been present during these periods, but we might sit in silence. Off-limits topics are things that I find triggering at times and can't discuss with people in a healthy manner when I am emotionally compromised. (We might be able to talk about them freely at other times, though.)

Enforcing Boundaries in Relationships Is Key

Boundaries have to be enforced, or they become meaningless. With communication about why they are necessary, I have found that those in my life most often understand my need for them, and don't give push-back. However, there have been instances where it has been necessary to enforce the boundary even at the risk of making one of my loved ones upset. I have also had to justify those actions after the fact.

I recently took a trip to Singapore with one of my best friends. He and I have largely traveled well together but only because I have enforced boundaries in my relationship with him.

Boundaries in relationships are not fun. Many times I wish they weren't necessary for my life. But they are needed. Only be setting them, communicating about them, and enforcing them can I continue to have the relationships I value so highly in my life.

APA Reference
Berg, J. (2018, May 31). Why Do You Need Boundaries In Relationships?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Jonathan Berg

Jonathan Berg is a former non-profit executive who decided to chuck it all and become a travel blogger. He is passionate about good food, amazing experiences, and helping those who struggle with mental illness as he does. Find Jonathan on TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and his blog.

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