How to set limits for a healthy relationship

Setting limits is essential for a healthy relationship. It is also an act of respect for the other and for the relationship itself.

It is not easy to set limits. Among other things, it often happens that we are not even fully aware of what limits are or where to set them. However, they are fundamental for a healthy relationship, whatever its nature.

The limits for a healthy relationship

Many people, for example, confuse setting boundaries with expressing their opinions or wishes without considering the other person or their situation.

Others, on the other hand, use their own problems to “force” others to adapt. In any event, this is not to set limits for a healthy relationship.

Rather, setting boundaries means letting the other person know that there are personal needs, wants, and preferences that are different from theirs and yet the relationship can be fulfilling if we respect each other in our particularity.

In this sense, it is not an imposition. Rather, it is about making our reality known to others and others to us, so that we can respect ourselves. Therefore, setting limits is something that is really beneficial for everyone:

  • By establishing personal barriers, we will avoid falling into blackmail and manipulation
  • Since we show ourselves as we are in our needs and our identity, the relationship and mutual knowledge is truer and more real
  • Consequently, the relationship will gain in quality, duration and satisfaction.
  • Thus, we will avoid stress and frustration in relationships (family, partner, friends, work, etc.)
  • In addition, we will strengthen our self-esteem

Saying “no” is difficult

Setting limits is not easy. Indeed, many factors influence our ability to assert ourselves or not.

For example, many people are unable to say “no” in certain types of relationships for fear of being rejected by the other person. Likewise, another person feels real stress over the possibility of conflict, so they are reluctant to express their feelings and should avoid it at all costs.

In many cases, the fact that we cannot or do not know how to set limits is something we have learned from childhood. The behavior was shaped by education for complacency. So even in adulthood, it is difficult for us to say “no” or set personal boundaries.

Indeed, by not making the other happy, some people may even feel guilty, preferring to ignore their own feelings and needs.

How to set limits?

1. Find the right time


There are good times and bad times to set limits. For example, it is not advisable to bring up our needs and limitations in the middle of an argument.

Rather, we should find a time when both parties are relaxed and able to express themselves without outbursts, weighing their words, in a spirit of cooperation and understanding, avoiding saying things that might hurt the other.

We need to remember that setting limits should benefit both parties. The ideal is therefore to find a time when we are not tired and when our mood does not fluctuate, that is to say, we are not angry or upset.

2. Set boundaries based on love and respect

We have to forget the idea that setting limits mean being selfish. Rather, it is an action born out of the need and desire to keep this relationship as healthy as possible.

So when we set our personal boundaries, we need to keep in mind that what we’re doing helps the relationship stay balanced and healthy. It is an act of love and respect for oneself, the other person and the relationship itself. Therefore, we need to get rid of the guilt feelings associated with assertiveness.

3. Stand out

Often times we are unable to say ‘no’ or set limits because there is an emotional connection. In reality, we are afraid of hurting the other person, we have special respect for them, we are afraid that they will not understand us, etc.

To do this, the best is to show “detachment”. That is, we need to distance our feelings for that person from our actual needs. Only then can we establish healthy and necessary boundaries.

4. Demonstrate honesty

We must be honest and sincere in setting the limits. This is obvious. But we also need to be consistent.

For example, if we want our own boundaries to be respected, we must also respect the boundaries of others. Of course, if we attack, we will be attacked, and if we don’t respect, we will not be respected.

In any case, we should always keep in mind that all of this advice should be taken with respect and the desire for a healthy and lasting relationship. We should never start from grudges or moments of anger.

It is a magical moment in which we lay the foundations for a relationship that we want to continue, so we must always do so while also respecting each other’s limits. Everyone will gain in sanity and the relationship in honesty and in truth.