two students talking in a coffee shop
August 2, 2017
2 mins read

How to set boundaries for healthier relationships

Positive relationships can give us purpose, support, and a sense of belonging. Throughout our lives, we are in relationships with our families and caregivers, our peers and friends, and our coworkers and romantic partners.

An important part of healthy relationships is being able to be honest with yourself and with others. And that’s where setting clear boundaries comes in.

Setting boundaries is about knowing what feels okay and what doesn’t feel okay for you. Then, you need to communicate that to others. There are different types of boundaries, including mental (how ready you are to hear someone else’s beliefs or opinions), emotional, and physical boundaries. It’s also normal for your boundaries to change over time.

Setting boundaries might sound simple, but we know that it can feel uncomfortable or awkward to do. Still, it’s super important and can actually feel really good in the long run.

Students chatting

For example, if you’re planning a trip with friends and have a specific budget in mind, it’s important to share that with your friends. Or let’s say you’ll be living with roommates or friends for the first time. It’s important to be clear about what you need when sharing space and what does and doesn’t work for you.

Are you okay with splitting groceries with your roomies?

What about sharing chores?

Playing loud music late at night?

If you have specific preferences, make sure you communicate those preferences - and don’t assume other people can read your mind (we are all guilty of making assumptions). If you don’t set and share boundaries, people won’t know when you feel uncomfortable.

Despite the best of intentions, sometimes boundaries are still crossed. So what can you do?

Speak up

If you’ve never talked about your boundaries (and most of us haven’t), the other person can have no way of knowing when they have crossed a boundary that’s important to you. Avoid hurt feelings and misunderstandings by speaking up when someone crosses a boundary. By doing so you can work towards healthy communication and avoid misunderstandings.

students in group discussion in a coffee shop


This is another important part of building healthy relationships. Listen when other people share what’s okay for them and what’s not. Better yet, be proactive and ask them! If you cross a boundary and someone lets you know, listen with an open mind. They clearly trust you enough to tell you that something’s not okay for them. You may not share their values or beliefs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t respect them and hear them out.

Relationships should enrich our lives. They require us to grow as people and take responsibility for what we want. Communicating what we need can be empowering. It may be a little hard at first, but it’s well worth it in the long run.

students chatting over coffee