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How to establish healthy boundaries in our relationships?

October 8th,2013

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Today I would like to reflect on relationship boundaries, what are they? are they serving us or hurting us?


Not too long ago I read a really good book: When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection by Gabor Maté, MD. In this book I found some interesting insights on the damaging effects of not setting healthy boundaries and the serious consequences this can have on our health.

The boundaries we come to set in our relationships are a result of our culture, our personality and our upbringing, but many people are not aware of those boundaries, they just apply them in their lives unconsciously and very often those boundaries (or lack of) can be unhealthy and create discomfort.

Looking at some cultural aspects of boundaries, I often remember my French mom being uncomfortable by what she perceived as a lack of relationship boundaries in the Ecuadorian culture (my dad's culture). She wasn't so bothered by the physical proximity and closeness (so it was not about the physical boundaries) but mostly about what you come to expect and demand from close relatives or friends. She thought that people often felt "entitled" to demand certain things, from their family especially, that in her culture where unthinkable or at least very rarely expected, let alone demanded. For me on the other hand, as I was born and raised in Ecuador, although I came to understand my mom's point of view, I admit that I found those boundaries pretty normal and reassuring, and now that I live in the US, I feel my relationships are lacking a certain depth because there are too many boundaries to respect (cultural boundaries), so I don't feel the same level of comfort and confidence in my relationships here, as I do in my country of origin.

But aside from cultural boundaries, we are unique in what respects to our childhood and personality, so each of us has a different way to relate to others and therefore a different set of boundaries.
In order to determine how healthy our boundaries are, we first need to be aware of them, then we need to have a deep understanding of ourselves and our past, to realize why we have chosen those boundaries. And last but not least, we need to realize if they are serving us or hurting us.

Boundaries are important, but they have to be balanced, too many boundaries can hinder our ability to have and enjoy deep and lasting relationships, but too few boundaries can let us depleted, worn out and bitter. We need to find the right balance that honors our true self.

To me, the right balance is between a healthy level of assertiveness (which has nothing to do with selfishness) and a healthy capacity for caring (which is very different from self sacrifice). In other words, we need to be assertive and also caring, but always respecting our emotional needs.

It is important to understand what our emotional needs are, and how much we are willing to honor our own needs in every relationship we have. According to another great book that I highly recommend on this topic (especially to parents and teachers) is: How To Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting The Five Critical Needs of Children...And Parents Too! Updated Edition by Gerald Newmark, Ph.D. there are 5 critical emotional needs that every human being has, and these are:

  • To feel respected
  • To feel important
  • To feel accepted
  • To feel safe
  • To feel included (sense of belonging)

The way these needs were fulfilled (or not) during our childhood, determines how we unconsciously try to fulfill them as adults. For instance, a child who felt he had to always please his parents in order to feel accepted will most likely try to always please people in order to feel accepted, even doing things they do not want to do and that are not in line with their true self. So it is important to be aware of how those needs were met or not, during our childhood, as that would give us insights on how we are handling our relationships as adults, since we are ultimately all trying to get those same needs fulfilled throughout our lives.

So today, I encourage you to take a look at your relationships and find out what are the boundaries you have set (or haven't) and if they respond to your true needs and your true self.

Have a good week!

Make sure you check this week's announcements as there are many good and free events coming up!



  • Free Mini meditation on Self Confidence Download here

  • 21-Day Meditation for Weight-Loss Challenge. Free, ongoing. Register here

  • Neale Donald Walsch presents: The 3 Secrets to Ending the Struggle and Making Your Life Work. Free Teleseminar on October 10 Register here

  • The Magic of a Heartbreak. 4-video series. Free October 7-13 Register here

  • Emerging Women Life stream 2013 October 10-13 Register here Free

  • Hay House World Summit 2013. Oct. 12-18. Free Register now

  • Free Online Screening of the movie "The Sacred Science" Oct. 7-17. Register to watch

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