Setting Boundaries in Relationships Saves Your Mental Health

July 22, 2019 Hannah O'Grady

Although many people struggle to set boundaries in relationships, doing so can drastically improve your mental health in the long run. For years, I would passively agree to anything that anyone asked of me. If I wanted to say no, my anxiety and depression would infiltrate into my thoughts, telling me that I had to go above and beyond to make people approve of me. I was seeking approval and admiration in the least healthy ways, and this began to take a toll on my mental health. Eventually, I felt empty. Setting boundaries in relationships has a lot to do with self-care, in my opinion. If you are feeling burnt out from a lack of pre-set limits, you are swiftly losing your emotional energy and potentially your sense of self.

What Gets in the Way of Setting Boundaries in Relationships?

Fear of Offending Those We Love

As stated, setting boundaries in relationships can be challenging for a variety of reasons. Some people, such as myself, fear that we will offend those in our lives if we set limits. As someone who is in training to become a therapist, I am frequently emotionally drained by the end of the day. If a friend texts me after work, complaining about her boy issues, I feel like I have to listen and be there for support (even if it consumes hours of my night). However, I have found that I cannot always provide the best support when my friends view me as an everlasting fountain of empathy. I get tired, and when I am tired, I cannot adequately help those who are seeking guidance. 

Fear of Conflict 

I have a hard time hearing the word no, and it is even harder for me to stick up for myself and say no to those in my life. In the past, I had an irrational fear that if I set boundaries, an intense conflict would arise. As someone who avoids conflict at all costs, this did not work in my favor. However, I have found that most of my family and friends are understanding when I tell them that I need more time and space to myself.

Feeling Like You Do Not Deserve to Set Boundaries 

When it comes to setting boundaries, people may believe they don't deserve to say no and practice their autonomy. For years, I felt worthless because of my depression and felt like I wasn't worthy of setting limits and spending time to focus on myself. I hoped that if I focused all of my energy on those around me, perhaps my mood would be lifted. In the end, this was not beneficial for my mental health recovery in the slightest.

Things to Keep in Mind When Setting Boundaries in Relationships

Boundaries in Relationships Are Flexible 

Boundaries can continuously shift. For example, I am more emotionally available to my friends after an easy week of work, in comparison to after a week chock full of working with suicidal clients. Therefore, my boundaries are not written in permanent ink, but rather, can shift over time.  

Be Clear and Specific 

As stated, most people in my life have been supportive when it comes to my boundaries. However, I have come across a few romantic partners who have reacted aggressively to my requests, believing that they know my limits more so than I do. When I stumble across these situations, I have found that clearly explaining my rationale helps them see where I am coming from. If they still don't understand my boundaries, I often have to rethink our relationship ("Set Boundaries In Abusive Relationships to Protect Yourself"). 

APA Reference
O'Grady, H. (2019, July 22). Setting Boundaries in Relationships Saves Your Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Hannah O'Grady

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