Too near, too far? How personal boundaries and self-esteem mix

In conflict situations, emotional and physical boundaries set the tone for how conflict will be handled, and even when/how conflict will arise. For some, a lack of boundaries creates contact that is more intrusive than intimate; for others, too many boundaries create alienation and distrust between partners.

We often hear from clients that the boundaries (or the lack of)  set up by their partners are causing trouble in the relationship. However, did you know that emotional boundaries are a necessary part of being a healthy human being?

We set boundaries to prevent ourselves from being vulnerable, easily hurt, or easily upset. A healthy amount of separation from the intensity of the moment (and the other person) helps us to make decisions and objectively from our own values, not from other people's pressures.

Dr. Cheryl MacDonald backs this up in “How Self-Love and Boundaries Mix” with an interesting point about those people involved in harmful conflict:

People who feel emotionally vulnerable or those who desperately want to seek approval from others are most susceptible to losing their sense of self because the protection, the “bubble wrap”, their emotional boundary was not noticed, properly set, or communicated. Be cautious about making too many compromises, as the “bubble wrap” can expand to the point of breaking, and may cause people to question their own thoughts, feelings and identity. This questioning leaves a hole in people's self-esteem. Emotional boundaries are flexible; however they can break under stress ...

Boundaries are thus something that each person in a relationship needs, and those boundaries must be properly communicated. Boundaries are defined differently for each person, but it boils down to those things you like and those things you don’t.

When you don’t like something, and you make this clear to your partner and other people, you are setting an emotional boundary. As long as this boundary is set up to keep your self-worth (not push the other person away), this boundary can help you keep up a healthy sense of self. Remember that being in a relationship doesn’t mean becoming one person, but sharing a life. You can still be your own person while also being in a relationship!

You may struggle with emotional boundaries if you were not taught sufficient self-love and independence (essentially, self-love means that you decide how you think about yourself, a form of setting boundaries between your opinions and others’ opinions). Dr. MacDonald points out in her article that:

"If people had a healthy, nurturing childhood, they probably grew up feeling grounded, and learned how to protect their sense of self-love, self-worth and have a sense of feeling internally proud. They learned how to set emotional boundaries, and learned how to say no, because they felt loved as a child. In their childhood experiences, there was no need to scavenge for affection, or try desperately to please, just to gain attention and love."

What about you? Have you been struggling with emotional boundaries in your relationship? Perhaps you experience the autonomous decision-making of your partner as cold, isolating and feel pushed away? It could be that you need to negotiate better your reciprocal emotional boundaries?  You can talk to us about the boundary problems in your relationship by talking to Dr. Nora, our conflict coach at her website.

Dr. Nora

Dr. Nora

Dr. Nora is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Sign up for free, here on her blog, to be connected to her innovative conflict solutions, positive suggestions and life-changing coaching sessions, along with blog updates, news, and more! We can begin by you having a complimentary consultation with Dr. Nora. Visit her coaching site today to talk with Dr. Nora and receive a plan for action to change your life. She's ready to help!

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