Personal Boundaries: Why, When and How to Protect Yourself

Recently, Husband #2 and I changed the locks at our home. It was time. Actually, it was long overdue. Like, years overdue. After the upgrade, the deadbolt and the door handle are both the same color. And the door latches without having to pull it extra-hard. And the deadbolt doesn’t stick. Overall, it was worth the effort. But this isn’t a blog about home improvement projects. And I’m not just talking about my house here. This post is about personal boundaries.

Like physical boundaries (locks, fences, walls, mountains, rivers, etc), personal boundaries create space around you and provide protection from external threats. Solid boundaries can help satisfy our needs for safety, security and even freedom.

Is it time to assess your personal boundaries?

Like my overdue locks, it can take time to admit there’s a problem. You might have been living with a situation for so long, it’s been easy to simply deal with the aggravation that comes from a lack of barrier. Perhaps you might not even realize the extra effort you’re expending to tolerate the issue.

I know it’s an inconvenience to take time out of the busy day to think about things that are boring, unhappy, and require effort. But, it’s important.

Think about your home… your social profiles… your personal relationships… Do you feel safe in these spaces? Or do you feel scared and vulnerable?

Have you granted access to someone who poses a threat to your physical, financial or emotional safety? If so, it might be appropriate to draw a new line.

personal boundariesThe Process:

1.  Like changing my locks (and anything we do in life), this all begins with a decision. Are you ready to make a change? If so, proceed to Step 2.

2.  Next it’s time to consider your options with respect to your needs. For me, this meant taking a trip to the hardware store and comparing lots and lots of doorknobs. Depending on your unique situation you could put a lock on your bedroom door, stop answering your phone after a certain time, change your privacy settings, obtain a Protection From Abuse Order, sever ties, set limits on topics of discussion, say “no” more often, or refinance a loan… If you hold space for a brainstorming session, you’ll likely find there are many potential actions you can take.

3.  After you’ve chosen your boundary, it’s time to implement it. Warning: this might be stressful (you should’ve heard my husband cursing at our door frame!). The fact is that change is hard for everyone. It will be awkward for you to do something different and even more uncomfortable to clearly communicate your decision. It’s also hard for anyone else involved to adjust to the new rules of the game. You can expect some pushback.

3a.  Remember that setting boundaries isn’t just about who and what stays out, but also who or what comes in. I had to decide who should have a spare key to my house, and you also have to decide who is granted special clearance for your boundaries. For instance, you might have decided to dial down the drama in your life by not engaging on certain topics with certain people. But you still need a lifeline when your own personal shit hits the fan. Who do you trust enough to turn to?

4.  Finally, you can begin to relax. After you’ve locked the monsters outside, you’re free to dance and sing (or cry and scream) in your reinforced personal space.

But Don’t Stop There

It’s a good idea to reassess your boundaries as you move along. Circumstances change, so you might need to shift things around in a couple months… or years… or, maybe never. The most important factor is that you remain in touch with yourself. Pay attention to your feelings and needs so you know when to protect and when to expand.


Need some help with your boundaries, or other issues related to your breakup or divorce? Let’s talk.

Mystery Cat

The experience of creating this post was greatly enhanced by Mystery Cat.


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