Too often boundaries are considered constraints, which in a sense they are but in counselor-speak, they also provide the necessary framework for effective communication, essentially creating a set of ground rules for everyone to follow.
Individuals often tend to fall into one of two categories when it comes to defining boundaries: givers and takers – neither of which have healthy boundaries in a dysfunctional relationship. Givers, also known as victims, worriers, or yielders are basically approval-seekers. They don’t want to “rock the boat” so they allow Takers to manipulate, meddle or deceive to get what they want.
The goal of boundary setting, however, is to integrate giving and taking so that both participants in a relationship – whether it’s parental, romantic or platonic – feel good about the outcome and understand why they are giving AND what they are getting.
For example, if you tell your friend that you are only available to see a movie on Saturday and they make arrangements to see a movie on Sunday and you agree without protest, knowing that you had other commitments for Sunday, you will likely spend the entire movie stewing over what you should be doing and silently getting angry with your friend for making plans on Sunday. If this happens enough, it will eventually cause problems in the relationship because you haven’t explained your boundaries to your friend.
However, if you held firm to your boundary and explained why you couldn’t see a movie on Sunday, (and possibly suggested an alternative,) the anger would have no foundation and problems in the friendship could be avoided.
Everyone needs boundaries, some more than others, but in the end, knowing what is or isn’t acceptable, expected, or appropriate is one of the foundations of civilized society.
Don’t go overboard, but make sure to communicate what is or isn’t okay with you – and be willing to compromise. You just may find you experience less conflict with those around you.