Establishing Boundaries in Healthy Relationships

Written By: Heather
Heather Kempton Coquitlam Couples Counsellor


Are you having difficulties establishing healthy boundaries or limits within your relationships? If so, it is important to take a look at your self esteem, as people with low self-esteem often have a variety of irrational thoughts, emotions and actions which lead them to lose themselves in relationships with others. When struggling with a sense of low self esteem you may find you have a weakened “internal locus of control” in which you find yourself becoming dependent on a strong “external locus of control” therefore, resulting in being controlled by how others think, feel about and act towards you. You may find yourself dependent on others’ approval and recognition in which therefore you become fearful of rejection and conflict with others. When you struggle with low self-esteem you may often have an irrational need to have “perfect” relationships and as a result are in competition for control to make your relationships be the way you think they should be. This has a significant impact on the health of your relationships which can lead to feelings of resentment and hurt. You or the person you are in the relationship with (i.e. partner, mother, friend, sister etc) may find a sense of resentment towards one another because of the belief that you have nothing left to give in order to keep the relationship alive.


In a healthy intimate relationship you will feel calm, centered and focused. The intimacy needs to be supportive, safe, respectful, nonpunitive and peaceful. You will feel wanted, taken care of, unconditionally accepted and loved just for existing and being alive. Most essentially you will feel a part of something (sense of belonging/connection) and not alone in the relationship. You will feel free to be who you are rather than become focused on being who you think you need to be for the other person. The relationship will prioritize each other’s feelings and process of the relationship before material things and money. A healthy intimate relationship will encourage your personal growth, while supporting your individuality so that you or your partner do not become emotionally, physically or intellectually over dependent on one another.

Important Questions to ask yourself:

How well are your physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual boundaries established and maintained in your relationships?

How successful are you in protecting and maintaining your boundaries when your relationship partners are highly intrusive and persistent?

Do you use unhealthy, compulsive or addictive behaviours as a barrier or unhealthy boundary to protect yourself from intimacy with your relationship partners?

How well do you stay detached when your relationship partners are manipulating you to lower your boundaries in the relationships?

Does your inability to maintain healthy intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries with your relationship partners frighten you?

When you consider trying to maintain healthy boundaries in your relationships without the use of body weight, food or some other compulsive behaviours to protect and medicate you in the process, are you scared?

Would you prefer to stay stuck in using your unhealthy distancing techniques than to work on learning how to establish healthy boundaries in your relationships?

Establishing healthy boundaries within your relationships will help you to develop and improve the sense of intimacy in your relationships.