Can Boundaries Improve Your Relationships?

Do you ever feel depleted by relationships that are draining? This can be a signal to notice whether you are maintaining healthy boundaries.

When you hear the word boundaries, what comes up for you?

Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits about how you want to spend your energy and how you will allow others to treat you. They can be either explicitly stated or simply understood by the parties involved.

Healthy, appropriate boundaries create more safety and enjoyment for everyone in the relationship. Expectations are clear and the needs of both parties are more likely to be understood and met.

For example, Sandra had friend who was eager to “cheer her up” but her way of doing so felt intrusive. She called too much and seemed to want a lot of reassurance and attention from Sandra who was fatigued at the end of chemo. She acted hurt or offended if Sandra couldn’t connect with her as often as she wanted.

Boundaries can be tricky during the cancer experience. On the one hand, you may need assistance more than ever. For some, learning how to ask for help and be the recipient of assistance feels very vulnerable even with kind hearted people who could potentially be uplifting in your moment of need.

Sometimes, though, you may end up relying on people with whom you have a complicated relationship. You may even question whether the “assistance” is worth the interaction.

Part of taking care of yourself emotionally and physically is having healthy boundaries. You may not realize this, but there is no relationship or dynamic that you cannot stop and re-evaluate.

Another common challenge is Rebecca’s experience of family and friends wanting her to “get on with life” and “embrace the new normal” when she still needs time and space to heal, eboth physically or emotionally. You may not yet be ready for lots of social activities or to resume family or community responsibilities that aren’t urgent.

When thinking of which boundaries (and relationships) to maintain, I like the questions posed by yoga teacher Donna Farhi:

When attempting to determine what is a healthy boundary for yourself, feel in your body and ask these questions:


When I consider doing xyz, does this cause energetic discomfort or uncomfortable feelings to arise in my body?


When I consider not doing or allowing xyz, what feelings arise in my body?


Am I unable to assert my boundaries because my primary concern is about protecting, not hurting, or offending the other person?


When I honor how I feel in an unqualified way and imagine the outcome that would allow me to respect my boundaries, how do I feel in my body?


This week, experiment with noticing your own boundaries in relationships.

Where might an adjustment need to be made so that you feel freer energetically?

Stay tuned for next week’s post about strategies for speaking up!