Boundaries: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors



Hi, I’m Jennifer Bishop, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Boca Raton, Florida. I specialize in working with children ages 3 to 12 and their parents. I also specialize in working with adults who have gone through a major life event and are seeking healing from this so they can live the life they were meant to live.


A common concern I often see is that of boundaries in relationships. A successful relationship is composed of individuals who have a clearly defined sense of their identities. Without our own understanding of self, of who we are and of what makes us unique, it is difficult to engage in the process of an ongoing relationship in a way that functions smoothly and enhances us. We need a sense of self in order to clearly communicate our needs and desires to one another. When we have a strong concept of our own identity, we can appreciate those qualities in another.


One value of a healthy sense of self is the way we understand and work with boundaries. Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationship that allow us to protect ourselves. Boundaries come from having a good sense of our own self-worth. They make it possible for us to separate our own thoughts and feelings from those of others and to take pride in our uniqueness. Intact boundaries are flexible and they allow us to get close to others when it is appropriate and to maintain our distance when we might be harmed by getting too close. Good boundaries protect us from abuse and pave the way to achieving true intimacy. Ultimately, boundaries help us to take care of ourselves.


Unhealthy boundaries often result from dysfunctional family histories. The needs of parents or other adults in a family are sometimes so overwhelming that the task of raising children is demoted to a secondary role and dysfunction is the likely result. For example, if a parent screams at their children or becomes physically abusive with them as a way of dealing in a self-centered way with their own anger, this is putting their needs first and the needs of the children for safety, security, respect and comfort -second. What the children learn in this situation is that boundaries don’t matter. As they grow up, they lack the support they need to form a healthy sense of their own identities. In some situations, they may learn that if they want to get their way with others, they need to intrude on the boundaries of other people, just the way their parent did, leading to dysfunctional relationships later in life. They may wall themselves off in relationships as a way of protecting themselves, and, as a consequence, may find it difficult to form close interpersonal bonds with others in adulthood.


What are some signs of unhealthy boundaries?

Here is a list:

  • Falling in love with anyone who reaches out
  • Being sexual for your partner, not yourself
  • Going against personal values or rights to please others
  • Not noticing when someone else displays inappropriate boundaries
  • Not noticing when someone invades your boundaries
  • Not noticing when others react negatively to your behaviors
  • Accepting food, gifts, touch, sex that you don’t want
  • Touching a person without asking
  • Taking as much as you can get for the sake of getting
  • Giving as much as you can give for the sake of giving
  • Allowing someone to take as much as they can from you
  • Letting others direct your life
  • Letting others describe your reality
  • Letting others define you
  • Believing others can anticipate your needs
  • Expecting others to fill your needs automatically
  • Falling apart so someone will take care of you
  • Rigid, inflexible boundaries


Some of the ways that unhealthy boundaries interfere with relationships include; lack of self identity, settling for second best, over-responsibility and guilt, not knowing the difference between love and rescue or lacking the understanding between fantasy and reality.  When you move into accepting yourself, your relationships will actually have a chance to grow and flourish. This journey of self-discovery can be challenging – but highly rewarding.  It means coming to know ourselves and increasing our awareness of what we stand for. It also means self-acceptance and knowing that we are OK as we are and worthy of the good things in life. Working with a trained therapist can provide the structure and support needed to take on this task.


Are you ready to dive into self-discovery and establish healthy boundaries in your life? Call me today for your free phone consultation at 561-408-1098 with offices in Boca Raton, FL and virtually.


“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” – Robert Frost


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