Set Relationship Boundaries
August 2022

“Set Relationship Boundaries,” For the Strength of Youth, Aug. 2022.

Life Help

Set Relationship Boundaries

Even the best friendships need well-defined boundaries.

young woman with oversized pencil

Illustrations by Jarom Vogel

Boundaries are everywhere, and for good reason! Think about it: Sports often have lines to identify a field or court. If you act in a play, you know where to enter or exit the stage. In school, there are set boundaries of what you can and cannot use as a resource during a test. Imagine what would happen if we didn’t have clear boundaries. It would create a lot of problems!

In the same way, relationships are healthiest with boundaries that help us define what we are comfortable with as we interact with others. Setting boundaries lets others know how we expect to be treated and helps us better obey the Savior’s teaching to “love thy neighbour” (Matthew 22:39).

Boundaries and Self-Respect

When we set boundaries, we show respect for ourselves and our well-being. During His mortal ministry, Jesus Christ taught and set an example of how to care for ourselves through setting boundaries. Sometimes He separated Himself from others to meditate and pray: “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23). This time by Himself helped Him better serve others.

young men on a see-saw

Setting Boundaries and Building Trust

When people understand and respect each other’s boundaries, they can trust one another. In relationships, trust is a little like a bank account where “deposits” add trust and “withdrawals” take it away. Here are some things to keep in mind as you build an account of trust with someone:

  • You own the account. You get to decide what behaviors are “deposits” (such as respect and honesty) or “withdrawals” (such as dishonesty, secrecy, or covering up mistakes).

  • Trust when you’re ready. Do not feel pressured to trust someone. Trust takes time to build and nurture.

  • Clearly define boundaries. Let others know what behaviors build or take away your trust.

  • The closeness of your relationships is up to you. You decide how close to be with someone based on your level of trust in them.1 Relationships can grow when you can see that others are willing to build, or rebuild, trust with you.

  • Listen to the Holy Ghost’s promptings. The Spirit can guide you on how to best approach every situation when you seek revelation and act on the impressions you receive in your mind and heart.

  • Be direct and firm. You may worry that you might hurt someone’s feelings, but it’s important to be direct and firm with your boundaries. Don’t say yes to something that makes you uncomfortable. You could offer an alternative that is healthier and more balanced for you, but sometimes no is the appropriate answer.

Respect for Others’ Boundaries

young woman and young man waving

Just as others need to respect your boundaries, you need to respect others’ boundaries. Be respectful when someone says no. Be aware of the time and effort you ask of others. And do not press someone for an explanation for their boundary. You do not need to know all the reasons for their boundaries; you simply need to be respectful.

When Boundaries Are Not Respected

arrow breaking glass

Sadly, some people may choose to ignore boundaries and abuse those around them. Abuse is the most severe violation of boundaries. If you are a victim of abuse, your safety is the most important consideration. No one is expected to endure abusive behavior. You can tell an adult you trust, who can help direct you to resources for help and help you develop a safety plan to keep you safe from further abuse. There are situations where you may just need to leave.2 Pray for courage to do what is needed to keep yourself safe.

Moving Forward with Boundaries

plant being watered

Setting boundaries may not solve all relationship problems. But it can help you strengthen your sense of self-worth, confidence, and emotional health and help you interact respectfully and safely with others. Try setting healthy boundaries today to see what a difference it will make for you.