Setting boundaries is an essential part of maintaining healthy relationships and ensuring our needs are met. As a therapist, I often encounter individuals who struggle with this aspect of their personal and emotional lives. This struggle can lead to feelings of being taken advantage of, disrespected, or even abused. However, it’s crucial to understand that setting boundaries is not about controlling others but about defining our personal space, identity, responsibility, and control. It’s about setting conditions for access to you, to protect yourself and your needs.

Identifying the Unmet Need

The first step in setting boundaries is identifying the unmet need. This could be physical, emotional, or relational. For instance, you might feel that your personal space is being violated, or you may be emotionally drained because your feelings are not being respected. Identifying these unmet needs is the first step towards setting effective boundaries.

Planning the Boundary

Once you’ve identified the unmet need, the next step is to plan the boundary. This involves determining what must be in place for the need to be met. For example, if you’re feeling emotionally drained because you’re always the one lending an ear to your friends, a possible boundary could be dedicating specific times for these conversations or limiting them to certain days of the week.

Setting the Boundary

The third step is to set the boundary. This involves clearly describing the need and what you will do when it is not met. It’s important to communicate your boundaries in a respectful manner and ensure that they are understood. Remember, setting boundaries is about honoring your dignity and ensuring that your needs are met. It’s not about making the other person change their behavior, because ultimately, we cannot make another person do anything.

Negotiating the Boundary

After setting the boundary, it’s time to negotiate. This involves asking the other person how they feel about the boundary and if they can respect it. It’s crucial to listen effectively and see the other person’s point of view while still respecting your own. This step can be challenging, but it’s an essential part of the process.


If necessary, the next step is to compromise. This might involve adjusting the boundary criteria so that the other person can respect it. However, it’s important to ensure that the compromise doesn’t lead to your needs being unmet. Remember, the goal of setting boundaries is to ensure that your needs are met, not to please others at your own expense.

Maintaining the Boundary

Once the boundary has been set and agreed upon, it’s important to maintain it. This involves following through on the rules established by the boundary. It’s also important to practice self-respect by standing your ground and setting reasonable consequences for violating your boundaries.

Evaluating the Boundary

The final step in the process is to evaluate the boundary. This involves noticing how effective the boundary is in ensuring your needs are met. If the boundary is not effective, it may need to be adjusted or re-negotiated.

Setting boundaries is a lifelong habit that requires diligent practice. It’s a form of self-care and self-respect that leads to healthier relationships and a more fulfilling life. Remember, it’s not only about setting boundaries but also about respecting the boundaries of others.

If you’d like to learn more about navigating relationships and setting boundaries, feel free to reach out to schedule a phone consultation with one of our therapists at Light Space Mental Health Counseling.

Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.