Think of your boundaries as a piece of property.  How do you know in life where one person’s property begins and ends?  Sometimes, it is absolutely clear with physical representations like fences, gardens, walls, signs, etc.  Sometimes, property boundaries are less clear as they do not have physical signs. These borders are easily crossed because we and others are unaware of their beginnings and endings.  Sometimes, people push the boundaries on our properties on purpose in an effort to gain what they personally need, and we have to redefine limits or change communication about how our property needs to be respected.  


Imagine you invited friends to stay in your home.  You are close with this couple, so you invite them for a specified period of time and encourage them to enjoy the home as their own. Unbeknownst to you, your friends have recently adopted a puppy and they bring the pet to your home.  You don’t have any pets, and when you return, you find dog droppings in your yard and a few stained rugs.  Your friend texts you to apologize for leaving the mess in the yard as they had to leave unexpectedly, and they offer to pay for the cleaning of the rugs that their pet soiled.  While you appreciate the apology and monetary offers, there are some conflicts in your mind about the whole situation.  Maybe, you would expect your friend to ask permission to bring the dog before they arrived.    You may not be comfortable with pets in your home as you have allergies.  You feel conflicted as these are good friends, and they were embarrassed about leaving the messes and apologized, but you feel certain lines have been crossed.


How do you communicate your boundaries to this friend?


Boundary problems and violations happen all the time.  Each one of us has different thresholds for what is acceptable and what is not.  These boundaries are influenced by our personalities, values, faith, family, morals, circumstances, etc.  No matter whether or not you have strong fences on your property or what you feel are fortified boundaries, chances are good that they have been crossed.  How you deal with these situations shape you and how you value yourself and your needs over time.


The following four examples represent some common boundary problems (Boundaries, page 61):



1)    The Compliant- Feels guilty and/or controlled by others; can’t set boundaries

2)    The Controller- Aggressively or manipulatively violates boundaries of others



3)    The Nonresponsive- Sets boundaries against responsibility to love

4)    The Avoidant- Sets boundaries against receiving care of others


Certain situations, different environments, and varied people we encounter may bring out mixed aspects of the boundary problems above and or blends of them.  For example, controlling nonresponsive people are often self-involved and seek out others who can care for them.  They may be drawn to those with unclear boundaries who will own more than their share of the relationship and won’t complain about what is happening.


Compliant avoidants look for someone who they can “fix.”  This allows them to answer “YES” and keeps the focus off of what they need so they can avoid their own personal needs.  Compliant avoidant and controlling nonresponsive people often find each other.


The following is a partial list of areas in which boundary problems often arise:

1)    Feelings

2)    Attitudes and Beliefs

3)    Behaviors

4)    Choices

5)    Values

6)    Limits

7)    Talents

8)    Thoughts

9)    Desires

10) Love 


Some people may be very clear at setting physical limits for their bodies, but may struggle with embracing healthy desires.  Others may be so driven by their beliefs regarding generosity that they neglect their own financial health.  Some may be so motivated by their desire to be loved that they fail to notice the signals that their partner feels overlooked and unsupported. Others exercise what they deem “normal” behaviors like drinking alcohol excessively that negatively influence the trust others feel with them.  It’s not a mystery why human interaction often creates the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and all the emotions in between!


Developing clearer boundaries allows more freedom by fencing in things we need and protecting us from things that can hurt us.  It is not simply a question of better understanding how to say “No,” it is also a practice of learning when to say “Yes.”   If you have many boundary areas that you feel have been violated, you may need additional support through a friend, pastor, support group, coach, or counselor.   


Good boundary communication in relationships is preceded with evaluating personal and other responsibility in the situation.  In other words, I acknowledge what I bring to the situation, I have identified my problem with what is taking place, and I respectfully and calmly address this issue with the other person.  Don’t be discouraged if your initial boundary communication is not received as you had hoped.  Learn from it, praise yourself for valuing yourself enough to speak up about it, and recognize that the clearer you are with your boundaries, the easier it will be in the future for you and others to respond to them more easily. 




Identify the Boundary Problem


  1. Examine the common boundary patterns:  compliant, controller, nonresponsive, avoidant, compliant avoidant, controlling nonresponsive, etc.   


With which of these patterns do you most identify?


  1. Think about ONE area in your life where you are feeling mistreated, discomfort or resentment and struggle to provide a needed YES or NO.  


Write a few sentences about this situation.   


Gains and Losses of Your Current Pattern


  1. Consider what you gain and lose by continuing this response.  We tend to repeat patterns because they feed a particular need in us.


What do I gain by continuing this pattern? ______________________________


What do I lose by continuing this pattern? ______________________________


Visualize a New and Healthy Boundary


  1. Think about and visualize how you can act and feel more successful by developing a healthier response and boundary in this area.  Pray about your situation and seek wisdom.  See yourself in your mind’s eye acting the way you visualize.  How are you handling the situation differently?  What changes in communication or action are you making?


Take Action!


  1. What is one step you can take this week to create more healthy boundaries in your identified area?






I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.

~Stephen Covey


Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.

~Brene Brown


Do not justify, apologize for, or rationalize the healthy boundary you are setting.  Do not argue. Just set the boundary calmly, firmly, clearly, and respectfully.

~Crystal Andrus




Bockarova, M.  (August 1, 2018).  4 ways to set and keep your personal boundaries…and how to get yourself out when all efforts fail.  Psychology Today.  Retrieved August 2018 from


Cloud, H., & Townsend, J.  (1992, 2017).  Boundaries.Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan.


Cloud, H.  (July 20, 2018).  Here’s how you say no to drama in your life.  Retrieved August 2018 from


Dodgson, L.  (May 10, 2018).  Some people struggle to create boundaries—here’s why it’s important to learn to say ‘no’.  Business Insider.  Retrieved August 2018 from


Tartakovsky, M. (2018).  10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries.  PsychCentral.  Retrieved August 2018 from


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