Literal boundaries, like fences, walls, and lines on the road, surround us. Others are unseen, like the acknowledgment that a couple is a couple. People give couples “room” to be a couple even though there is no line or visual demarcation declaring them to be a couple. An internal boundary is “the line I draw” that will not allow me to steal, shoplift, or randomly hit people who annoy me.
Boundaries acknowledge necessary separateness. They assist with space and definition. They provide clarity, – all necessary components of individual growth, development, and the provision of wellness for the whole.
Boundaries keep us apart, and together, by keeping us healthily apart.
A very simple illustration: every time a vehicle is on the road a driver must obey (honor, acknowledge) many rules, and respect many boundaries or, of course, accidents occur, build up occurs, people are injured, and things are damaged. The same is true with people and within families, churches, businesses, and communities.
Even trees — and I know the analogy is not perfect! — if planted too close together, cannot grow to full height. If they are too far apart, their unified capacity to provide shade is limited. People who are too close, and people who are too far apart, cannot express their full potential.
People are unique (distinct, separate) and when that uniqueness is honored and respected, relationships flourish, people’s skills and talents come alive. Everyone’s enriched. When personal boundaries are ignored or violated, people suffer. Ways that people ignore the boundaries of others are through disrespect, through having false or unrealistic expectations of each other, and through assuming upon each other, or taking each other for granted.
Respecting an emotional, psychological, or physical boundary is the recognition of the simple truth that people (even married couples) remain unique individuals. Healthy relationships do not rob a person of his or her uniqueness, no matter how much love or “closeness” there is. Every person has his or her own body, his or her thoughts, his or her feelings, his or her dreams, desires, and separateness. When these distinctions are honored and respected, then the choice to be in a relationship and the choice to love is that much more profound.
Boundaries empower people to love with freedom. Unhealthy boundaries make (force, coerce) people to “love” from force, intimidation, domination, and manipulation.
Good boundaries help people to love each other, respect each other, to be closer to each other in ways that are helpful to everyone.