A Jewish Matchmaker’s Guide to Healthy Boundaries
One of the most important factors to a healthy self-esteem and a healthy relationship with others is the formation of healthy boundaries. It took me years to understand the concept of ‘personal boundaries’ and after experiencing one-too-many dysfunctional relationships where I lost myself in order to accommodate my partner, it has become an important part of who I am.
First of all, what are personal boundaries and why are they necessary? Boundaries are one of the ways that we define our needs, desires, and rights while respecting our feelings, opinions, and beliefs. There are emotional and physical boundaries- limits that you demand any person with whom you interact to respect. Physical boundaries can include limits to touching- for example, the physical boundaries that you have for your romantic partner are not the same as those you have with a co-worker. Physical boundaries include your body but they also include your personal possessions and information. If someone asks for your Facebook password, and you say no, they should respect that decision. If someone wants to hug you, and you don’t feel comfortable with that; this is a boundary they need to respect.
Healthy emotional boundaries mean that you take responsibility for your feelings and needs and let other people take responsibility for theirs. Do you want affection in a relationship but are dating a partner who is not affectionate with you? Can you tell your partner what you need and if he/she cannot provide it, move on? Or do you stifle what you need out of fear of losing the person, being alone, or not being worthy of affection?
Healthy boundaries stem from the place of knowing and loving yourself, and valuing yourself enough to accept that if someone else does not respect your boundaries or cannot meet your needs, you move on. Don’t get hung up on whether your boundary hurts the feelings of someone else; this is not your responsibility. Remember, everyone is responsible for their own feelings and emotional state.
Healthy boundaries are boundaries that are not too loose and are not too tight. Loose boundaries include someone who is sexually promiscuous or lets him/herself be a doormat to others. Boundaries that are too tight can shut the person off from others both emotionally and physically, projecting such a cold vibe that he/she appears to lack emotion or the ability to depend on someone else for anything.
Neither of these is optimal and both indicate a lack of self-awareness and confidence.
It is also important that you respect the boundaries of others. Do not coerce or cajole someone else to compromise their boundaries; respect the boundaries of others just as yours should be respected, and if boundaries clash, it is probably a good indication that the relationship will not be a healthy one for either of you.
If you are new to setting boundaries, it may feel scary or you may feel guilty. But cultivating a healthy self-esteem through acceptance of what you need in a relationship- what does and doesn’t feel good to you-and demanding that those with whom you interact adhere to those boundaries, will empower you and attract a more compatible partner.