We have all seen the signs that reads, “No Trespassing—Violators Will Be Prosecuted,” which sends a clear message that if you violate that boundary and cross the line, there will be a consequence. This type of boundary is easy to understand because you can see the sign and the border it protects. Personal boundaries, on the other hand, can be harder to define because the lines are invisible, can change, and are unique to each individual.

Personal boundaries, just like the “No Trespassing” sign, define where you end and others begin and are determined by the amount of physical and emotional space you allow between yourself and others. Personal boundaries help you decide what types of communication, behavior, and interaction are acceptable.

Types of Personal Boundaries

1. Physical

Physical boundaries provide a barrier between you and an intruding force, like a Band-Aid protects a wound from bacteria.

Physical boundaries include your body, sense of personal space, and sexual orientation. These boundaries are expressed through clothing, shelter, noise tolerance, verbal instruction, and body language.

An example of physical boundary violation is a close talker. Your immediate and automatic reaction is to step back in order to reset your personal space. By doing this, you send a non-verbal message that when this person stands so close, you feel an invasion of your personal space. If the person continues to move closer, you might verbally protect your boundary by telling him/her to stop crowding you.

Other examples of physical boundary invasions are:
•    Inappropriate touching, such as unwanted sexual advances.
•    Looking through others’ email, phone, and journal.

2. Emotional

These boundaries protect your sense of self-esteem and ability to separate your feelings from others’. When you have weak emotional boundaries, it’s like getting caught in the midst of a hurricane with no protection. You expose yourself to being greatly affected by others’ words, thoughts, and actions and end up feeling bruised, wounded, and battered.

These include beliefs, behaviors, choices, sense of responsibility, and your ability to be intimate with others.

An example of an emotional boundary violation in a romantic relationship would be your partner pressuring you to reveal what you talk about with your therapist or trusted friend(s). Your partner can ask, but do you respond by saying “that’s between my therapist/friend and I” (healthy boundary) or do you divulge the details although you would rather not (unhealthy boundary)?

Other examples of emotional boundary invasions are:
•    Not knowing how to separate your feelings from your partner’s and allowing his/her mood to dictate your level of happiness or sadness (a.k.a. codependency).
•    Sacrificing your plans, dreams, and goals in order to please others.
•    Not taking responsibility for yourself and blaming others for your problems.

Being in a relationship does not have to mean losing your sense of individuality. It seems obvious that no one would want his/her boundaries violated and would want to maintain their autonomy.

So why is boundary violation a common issue? Why do we NOT enforce or uphold our boundaries?

1.    FEAR of rejection and, ultimately, abandonment.
2.    FEAR of confrontation.
3.    GUILT.
4.    Lack of solid knowledge, as many of us were not taught how to effectively draw healthy boundaries.

Awareness is the first step in establishing and enforcing your boundaries.

Assess the current state of your boundaries, using the list below:


•    Have high self-esteem and self-respect.
•    Share personal information gradually, in a mutually sharing and trusting relationship.
•    Protect physical and emotional space from intrusion.
•    Have an equal partnership where responsibility and power are shared.
•    Be assertive. Confidently and truthfully say “yes” or “no” and be okay when others say “no” to you.
•    Separate your needs, thoughts, feelings, and desires from others. Recognize that your boundaries and needs are different from others.
•    Empower yourself to make healthy choices and take responsibility for yourself.

UNHEALTHY BOUNDARIES are characterized by:

•    Sharing too much too soon or, at the other end of the spectrum, closing yourself off and not expressing your need and wants.
•    Feeling responsible for others’ happiness.
•    Inability to say “no” for fear of rejection or abandonment.
•    Weak sense of your own identity. You base how you feel about yourself on how others treat you.
•    Disempowerment. You allow others to make decisions for you; consequently, you feel powerless and do not take responsibility for your own life.

Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries

(Modified from the book, Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin, by Anne Katherine)

•    When you identify the need to set a boundary, do it clearly, calmly, firmly, respectfully, and in as few words as possible. Do not justify, get angry, or apologize for the boundary you are setting.
•    You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you are setting. You are only responsible for clearly and respectfully communicating your boundary. If it upset the other person, be confident knowing it is not your problem. Some people, especially those accustomed to controlling, abusing, or manipulating you, might test you. Plan on it, expect it, but remain firm. Remember, your behavior must match the boundaries you are setting. You cannot successfully establish a clear boundary if you send mixed messages by apologizing.
•    At first, you will probably feel selfish, guilty, or embarrassed when you set a boundary. Do it anyway and tell yourself you have a right to protect yourself. Setting boundaries takes practice and determination. Don’t let anxiety or low self-esteem prevent you from taking care of yourself.
•    When you feel anger or resentment or find yourself whining or complaining, you probably need to set a boundary. Listen to yourself, determine what you need to do or say, then communicate assertively.
•    Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time. It is a process. Set them in your own time frame, not when someone else tells you.
•    Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries. Eliminate toxic people from your life—those who want to manipulate, abuse, and control you.

Establishing healthy boundaries and enforcing them builds self-worth and confidence—all very sexy qualities.

I hope you take the time this week to put into practice some of the above ideas. Please share any insight, and even struggles, so we can support each other right here.

And, as always, take care of you.

Love Love Love


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  1. Hi Terry,
    Not sure if you’re still responding on this article. I’m married 12 years and have always gone with the flow. Now, know boundary setting is an absolute. There is yelling bad words etc. much resentment and anger in both sides. I have a situation I want to communicate it won’t be tolerated. Do I end the boundary with a consequence? I know to follow through.
    I have done my part by gathering info and schedules to attend family wedding and he refuses to address it with me in conversation giving or not giving his consent.. leaving me, our boys and the whole family on the hanger

    1. Hi Lindsay,
      Thank you for sharing! This is a difficult situation and setting boundaries is difficult in any marriage, but especially changing the rules/boundaries after 12 years. I’m glad you’re been sticking with your boundaries and continuing to back them up! That will remain important. What kind of consequence are you thinking of? I think communicating what your boundaries are and explaining what actions you’ll need to take if your boundaries are violated is important. I would give this a shot, rather than considering them a “punishment” it’s more an inevitable next step if your boundaries are violated. But also remember to have patience and lead with love with any boundaries you set. ❤️

  2. Hello,

    I am familiar with the concept of healthy boundaries in a relationship, however I don’t think I do a good job of protecting myself. I have been dating a man for 9 months and it seems whenever we argue (which is increasing lately), he is refusing to leave me alone. He follows me around my house and if I close a door, he will physically push it open. Over and over until he gets it open (he’s bigger than me). I have resorted to locking myself in the bathroom to take a shower, but he will unlock the door and come in. He will not let me sleep, being in my face wanting to “talk”, at all hours of the night…following me around. I have had to physically leave my house in the past to get away from him. He has held my wrists before when I attempt to walk away. He will say not nice things about me and then expect me to hug him right after as he “swings back”. I told him it doesn’t work that way, and he will continue to follow me not respecting my space or desire for privacy. It has gotten to the point now where I scream at him to “Go home” or “leave me alone” and push him out of my bedroom when he tries to get in. I don’t like this version of myself, but I don’t know what to do. The worst part is I have 2 daughters aged 11 and 13 who see all of this. I try to tell him to respect my boundaries….but he doesn’t get it. He has some personal struggles right now (employment, child access battles with his ex, alcohol), and I have been trying to patient with him and support him. Just last night I asked him to leave and he came back into my house about 3am and into my bedroom to talk. I was so angry. I do love him. When we’re good, we’re so good. I’m at a loss. Any insight from you would be very helpful.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story here with us. I am witnessing your struggle with so much compassion. My honest opinion is that this relationship is already abusive and will only get more so as emotional, verbal and physical violence usually escalates. It is a cycle and it will continue most likely because that is all he knows (which is not an excuse just my educated guess) but you know better. Your daughters are not safe and are experiencing secondary trauma from witnessing your relationship and it will influence what they unconsciously think identify as “love. And if it continues, it will likely set them up for similar struggles in the future. I think in your heart you know you need to end it but let me be clear that if you are going to- do not do it until you have a SAFE exit strategy. He sounds unstable and prone to violence so it is hard to say what he might do if you end the relationship. Any relationship that inspires fear in your heart is not a good one, which I know you already know. I am holding space for you to find the strength to choose you and your kids and move on with your life in a safe and strategic way. I am sending you all so much strength and protection.

  3. Hello,
    I’m wondering how common it is for people who have been in abusive relationships where their boundaries were continually crossed, to going the opposite direction and establishing rigid boundaries to protect themselves. I feel like this is where I am at. I was married to a narcissist for 10 years, and now when someone tries to cross my boundaries after I clearly communicate them, I’m quick to eliminate them from my life. When I was married, I felt voiceless and powerless, and now I feel reactive when someone crosses my boundaries. I’ve had one friend tell me I’m too sensitive and not willing to be understanding or forgiving. I struggle with finding a balance. Just curious if other people had this experience.

  4. I know I need to set boundaries, but I need help putting them into words. I have been searching for sample sentences so that I can review them repeatedly so that they are easily remembered when I interact with my father. I swear he is predisposed to find me lacking. He’s not abusive in terms of saying things outright like, telling me i’m stupid, inept or unworthy. It’s more subtle than that. For example he said, “You’re just being Janet”, which was in no means a compliment. He was frustrated with me at the time. The implication is that there is something wrong with the way I think or do things. I need non-snarky replies that protect me from his relentless criticism. All I have found on the internet so far are articles explaining what boundaries are and encouragement for setting them. I have found a few sample sentences, but not nearly enough to counteract his behavior. I’m hoping you can point me to a place where I can find a multitude of examples I can pick and choose from. Does such a thing even exist? I need to be equipped instead of reactive. I’d appreciate any help you can provide.

    1. Janet,
      Thanks for your question! If he says, “You’re just being Janet” you can reply by saying, “When you say that I will agree because it’s true, I am just being me- if you mean it as a put-down or an insult, I am not now and will not in the future take it as such. I’d also like to make a simple request that you talk straight. If you have something to say please be direct- if you are frustrated instead of the passive aggressive Janet comment, please own what you are saying as that is the only way we can problem solve effectively.” This may not be the exact right thing for YOU to say but my point in sharing it is that instead of taking the bait of that comment and playing it out as you might normally do- by pointing out what you think is happening and making a simple request you are doing something to change the boundary and communication dance that is not working for you. There are a few experts out there whose work I think might help you in this area Harville Hendrix, Dr. Harriett Lerner & Marshall Rosenberg. Also, my Boundary Bootcamp virtual course for women stats in September 2018. Wishing you the best of luck!

  5. Whil I agree that healthy boundaries are important to a healthy life, I disagree that it’s as simple as “people will treat you how you allow them to treat you.”
    Life is far more complex than we admit or even realize. Of course you want your SO, family, and friends, anyone who means something to you… you want them to like you and it hurts when they don’t because it shows.

    This is a point that articles like this fail to mention. We have no problem setting boundaries with strangers because they are strangers. We have no emotional investment in them. It’s easier to tell a stranger to back up out of your space than it is to tell your husband to back up out of your space because you actually want him in your space or want to be in his.

    People also enforce their boundaries in different ways. For instance, I find it rude when people interrupt me while I am talking and haven’t finished my thought. I’ve interrupted others as well. When I find myself doing this… I apologize and say, “I’m so sorry, I interrupted you, please continue.” When it’s being done to me I speak very loudly “do not interrupt me, please let me finish!” When I feel a boundary is being crossed I become very anger and I verbalize. Anger is the natural response to crossed boundaries.

    What I have learned about people with poor boundaries is that it’s usually those people who are causing anger in another that have poor emotional boundaries because the lack the self and social awareness to know how their actions will affect others.

    If you hate it when someone interrupts you while you’re talking, wouldn’t you think that others also hate it when they are interrupted while they are talking as well? Self responsibility is more than standing up for yourself… it’s also in being aware of yourself and others because to a very large degree, we are NOT all that different.

    NO ONE likes being ignored.
    No one likes being disrespected.
    No one likes being hurt.
    No on the likes that.

    From my experience, it’s not that people will treat you how you let them, but that people will treat you how they want to treat you. If a person wants to treat you like shit… they will treat you like shit.

    As I mentioned earlier, it’s much easier to walk away from a stranger who treats you like shit than it is to walk away from someone you actually care about who treats you like shit.

    And it’s even more difficult when you are an individual who is genuinely caring and cares about people as a whole. You end up isolating yourself from the world and that can get lonely.

    So there is a lot that goes into this.
    And it’s also not the fault of each individual.
    We live in a world where mostly everyone is exploited on a daily basis for the use and benefit of others.

  6. I am going through, coming out of and attempting to maintain a relationship with my abuser. I have set boundaries like no touching or physical contact, and no compromises like you can show me your texts or I will break it. But I am unsure of what else. Can you give any examples of boundaries/what some good ones would be, or any suggestions for coming out of a physically, verbally and emotionally abusive relationship? Or a book or website where i can learn more examples of personal boundaries? I have the 2 but have been controlled for so ong of seems like I cant even think on my own. I am 30 and newly learning about boundaries. This seems like s good place to start.

  7. Hi Terri,
    I know this is an old post, I hope you can reply. This is such a good article. I’m in an emotionally abusive situation. I tried to take your advice last night by saying very calmly and quickly “If you swear at me or mock me again when you’re angry, I’m breaking up with you.” I MEANT it at the time. The next words out of his mouth were “you should sell your effing fictional relationship drama to Paramount.” He BROKE the boundary immediately.

    So now I’m supposed to up and leave…was I just not REALLY ready to follow through? I’m scared and broke, I feel like he thinks I’m a joke, and I guess I am if I don’t walk out. I can’t leave my dogs behind. This is a nightmare. Any advice?


    1. Fran,
      I am sorry to hear of your situation. As you see -threatening what you are unwilling to follow through with is counter productive. Honestly I hope you find a way to leave because if you stay, it will only get worse. The only way for it to be corrected is for you to correct it. Choose you, plan carefully even if you have to bide your time to save a little money. Know in your heart that you will escape and in time follow through. No one desires that shit, mama xo

  8. Terri,
    I wanted to thank you for writing this article. I am a 54 yo man that never had a boundary. I have walked on and been walked on my whole life. About 3 years ago I finally looked at my life and started making changes. Change was very difficult to implement without boundries. I first had to make decisions in my life that I knew others wouldnt like. I learned it was Ok. Setting boundries in my life has become key to finally getting to know myself, enjoying relationships with others without putting unrealistic expectations on them, and finally enjoying peace, serenity, and healthy love. For anyone reading this it has been the most fullfilling journey in my life. Thank you Terri for your help and answers to what I was looking for. I enjoyed your insight. Wade.

  9. Hi Terri – love, love the information you share! I have a question regarding a man that I broke up with recently, after 12 years. Over the years, I have allowed him to violate my physical boundaries (although sometimes I was not aware he was doing it!), because he was not getting his sexual needs met. Also, he shared intimate details of our relationship with other women and men we know. Now, he is very sorry, is all of the sudden (last two months) supposedly living from a place of integrity through a new MasterMind program, meditation, and reading his affirmations 3 times daily. Because he is acting like a different person, it’s rather confusing to me, and though I’d like to take him for his word, for the better part of 12 years, he was not honest, and has had an addictive personality, and did not have much of a moral compass to live by. Perhaps his new reality is the next addiction… would love some feedback. Much appreciated – blessings!

    1. Dear Ann,
      Iam curious to know which master mind he is in (I will keep it confidential but in this small biz I may know the work to know if it is real or magical thinking crap).

      I think time will reveal if his has simply changed (can be temporary) or transformed (for good).
      If he is an addict and not in a 12 step program or in therapy I would be concerned as most addicts can’t do it alone for the long haul (I know from whence I speak, trust me)

      He broke your trust in more than one way so my real question to you is what are his good qualities? Why are you considering taking him back? Were you fulfilled and happy with him before? I would consider going very slowly and really check in with yourself as to why you are thinking about it. You have 12 years of evidence of who he is and 2 months of words. Don’t fall back into it because it is comfortable unless he can sustain this new behavior (like not breaking your trust and always respecting your boundaries).

      Good Luck!

  10. Thanks for your wonderful article on boundaries. I grew up with mostly unhealthy boundaries, and one healthy boundary that I can think of. Now I am a mother, and my daughter and I live with my mother, and will do so for the next few years. I am determined to provide my daughter with an example of healthy boundaries so am reading about it, learning as much as I can. My boundaries are still being crossed continuously and incessantly by family members. I am dealing with that well and starting to say ‘no’ much more. This is met with a lot of disapproval. A major boundary of mine that is being crossed all the time is, my mother constantly instructing me on how to raise my daughter, even on the most basic of things. And I mean, all day every day, as though I can’t possibly think for myself. She is elderly and I have raised this with her several times and I just don’t think her habits will change. I also try to see it as her boundary issues, but when it happens, each time, I feel so defeated and angry about it. And it is tiring constantly making statements against these boundary transgressions. If you have any advice on how to deal with constant boundary transgressions on a daily basis, from someone who can’t change, it would be much appreciated! Thank you very much, Alison

    1. Hi Allison, Thanks for your comment and question. One piece of advice I would give to you would be to try and release the hope that your mother (or anyone else for that matter) will change. You can tell her your boundaries till you’re blue in the face, that doesn’t mean she’ll actually “hear” what you’re saying. If you can work to forgive your mother (remember forgiveness is for YOU) then you may feel less anger and defeat each time she crosses a boundary. The key is for you to feel empowered and at peace, you can’t do this from a place of frustration. For that reason, I would suggest daily meditation and to check out my good pal, Lara’s website, http://www.thelaratouch.com/. Lara provides some amazing energy routines that can help you with confidence and ease and will remind you that those feelings come from within not from other people doing what you wish they would do.
      It sounds like you are doing the best you can do and that you’ve been through a lot. Remind yourself to keep taking care of you. I’m sending you lots of love and strength. You can do this!

  11. Hi Terri,
    I have been reading your blog and think your advice is sensible. This is why I am now asking your opinion.

    My BF and I are 50+ and have been dating long distance for 2.5 years. He recently started talking about me moving to live with him in his home, and that will require my giving up my job and selling my home, etc. We are financially independent of each other, so that’s not an issue.

    The issue is boundaries with his ex-wife (divorced 14 years ago) and his three adult kids in their 20’s – a close knit community where they are all in each other’s daily lives. Because his marriage ended with her cheating (long term, with their kids’ tennis coach etc), he has always said that he dislikes her, rarely engages in conversation with her, and only communicates because they still jointly own a property which must, by legal agreement, be sold this year. Then he says he will be “rid” of the necessity of communicating with her. In the meantime, he has been over there on several occasions to “cut the hedges” and “paint the walls” which in my book he could easily afford to have a workman do.

    I was surprised and disappointed this week when one of the adult kids’ girlfriends emailed me and described a “lovely family dinner” that they all shared at a restaurant for the son’s birthday. This included my BF and the Ex. He has not told me about this – and has just said he went for dinner with his son! He does not yet realize that I know the Ex was there – how should I approach the subject. Some boundaries clearly are needed before we co-habit and I would like to make it clear that he needs to be transparent about contact with her.

    This also happened with an Ex girlfriend of his last year – and when I set boundaries, ie. if he sees them, I should be there too, he readily agreed. In fact, he told the needy ex-gf to stop calling – that he was no longer interested in her friendship.

    This guy strikes me as simple/compartmentalizing but I am struggling with whether we just have different moral settings. Am I right to ask for boundaries which send a clear message to other women that I am his partner?

    1. HI Glenda,

      Thank you for connecting with me. Boundaries in relationships, especially when children are involved can be difficult to navigate. First and foremost, I would say put moving on the back burner while you figure out how to move forward. Secondly, hate or even dislike, can have a lot of negative effects on not only a person, but on all their relationships. So, the fact that your boyfriend is even able to sit down at a dinner table with his ex, is a good thing. As we both know hating someone takes up space in your mind and heart, leaving less room for love. I am only getting my information from you and it sounds like your dating a good man. Most likely he didn’t tell you his ex was at dinner because he didn’t want to hurt you, not that keeping this information from you was the right thing to do. As the mother of his children, she will always have a place in his heart and most likely be in his life. So, this is something you will have to work towards accepting.
      It is very important, however, especially in romantic relationships that a woman feels emotionally safe and held in high regard. Clearly, this situation does not make you feel safe and for that reason it is in both of your best interests to have a deep conversation about how you feel and what you need. You both deserve to be heard. It sounds like he has honored your feelings before with another ex, so hopefully the same will go for this situation. It’ll be important for you to get clear on what your needs are ( think in terms of safety, security, love) so you can easily express them to him. You have a right to feel any way you want to feel. Make sure you own those feeling when you speak with him using phrases like “It makes me feel x, when y happens’ so as not to blame him for your upset.
      A 2.5 year long distance relationship can take a lot of work, and he did ask you to move and come live with him, don’t forget that. Also it seems as though you are upset because he wasn’t 100% transparent with you and a trusting relationship requires two people who can tell the truth. It’s important to get clear with yourself and him that his lack of transparency in regards to his ex makes you uncomfortable. It seems as though you would rather have the truth than not having them have a relationship at all. I understand your hurt, but before you question his moral settings, I suggest making an ‘appointment’ with him, so that he is prepared and not caught off guard, and sharing your concerns.

  12. Hi Terri, first time reading your helpful ideas. My boyfriend of over 3 years is going to college in a few months and we need to have a talk about setting boundaries but I am not good at that one bit. I tend to be afraid of his reactions or answers and I know I shouldn’t. We also need to re connect emotionally and be happy together again. I don’t know how to do that either! Help!

    1. Hi Camille!

      I am so excited that you reached out. I want to provide you with a couple more blogs to read that I think may really help you out in communicating to, and reconnecting with, your boyfriend. https://terricole.com/speak-up/ and https://terricole.com/become-a-master-of-love/

      Also I share a great exercise to help couples reconnect in this interview http://www.goodlifeproject.com/terri-cole/?t=radio
      Let me know what I can do to help and guide you in any other ways.
      xo Terri

  13. Thank you for this information on Setting Boundaries. I am 38yrs old. I was never taught this growing up in life. I was molested as a child raped beat growing up as an alcoholic drug user. I am delivered from all those and more. I do forgive all as well as make amends for harm I have done. My daughter is 13 I realized a few weeks ago she is allowing to much to happen in her life. She is not setting boundaries. I told her a few weeks ago out of anger that she need to learn how to set boundaries. With her male friends. Again last night I tried to talk to her and tell her about setting limits and boundaries. Well she rejects everything I say. She gets upset with me and is nonunderstanding of anything I try to teach her. She Makes straight A’s and is very talented. I did not care as a child I was not taught. What can I do to reach her. She is a good child. I just do not want her to settle for these male friends who mean her no good. I feel like I should not say anything to her its always confrontation when I do. If I don’t say anything I feel like I am less than a mom. What am I doing wrong? How can I teach her with out her being angry? I did share this site with her and my 12yr old son.

    1. Hi Ruby. On a very real level it sounds like your daughter is behaving as most teenage girls do, rejecting what their parents say and getting frustrated when they are told what they ‘should’ do. It does seem like she has a good head on her shoulders and is a smart girl. The hardest part as a parent is letting go and allowing space for our children to make mistakes and learn life lessons, while still protecting them as much as we can. The best thing I can suggest is rather than trying to teach your daughter in order to help her prevent the mistakes you feel you have made, allow her a safe space in which she knows she can come to you. Show her that you trust her and honor her, and that no matter what you’ll be there for her. The more you honor her, the more respected she will feel and the less tolerance she will have for disrespectful boys in her life. Also remember to lead by example, this situation is not just about her but about you as well. In every moment you can to take care of you, and keep setting healthy boundaries in your own life. All my best, Terri

  14. I have a boyfriend that knows my rules , like communication. For example , if he asks me to go somewhere with him and something else comes up, he doesn’t tell me. Then I’m stuck thinking “okay is something wrong, he isn’t here yet”! After he finally comes after maybe an hour or so , we always have a disagreemant.The icing on top of the cake; is that when I ask him what I don’t like(which is not communicating with me) he tells me what it is then he tells me why he doesn’t do it , he always says” I don’t know why I don’t do it” , ” I know what to do I just forget” . So its like I suffer because of it . I feel like its not that big of a deal to break up with him , but I don’t want to be upset when he doesn’t do it . I want to set a boundary that he clearly understands. He is a good guy , but communication is his ONLY problem . Can you tell me what I should do , and what specific boundaries I need to place ?

    1. keticia,
      I can’t tell you exactly what to do but I will agree that, as a couple you are playing out a dysfunctional communication pattern. That means it is part you and part him that keeps it going. You have to change your part of the dance, in order for it to change. Many times when a couple has conflict about the same issue (like time) something else is being played out. Try not to fight about it and simply do not make plans to meet him out if you know he will leave you sitting there. Draw a boundary that protects you and your time and request that he meet you at your place so at least you are home and can do other things while waiting.Good Luck!

  15. Terri,
    I have been dating a woman that I love very much. We met on fb, through a mutual friend 4 years ago when she was living in WA. She now lives in AZ and the only aspect of our entire relationship that seems to never be settled is that our boundaries are very different.

    To preface, I grew up in Tucson Arizona. The population now is about half a million, but when I was growing up it was about 250k. Tucson had/has a very small town feel to me. It always seemed like everyone knew me or my family wherever we went in town. I grew up in a very public family. I graduated from the same large (apx 2.,000 students) high school as my mom and my two other siblings. My dad was the head football coach at the same high school for over 35 years. My father also happens to hold the state record for most wins by a high school football coach. I was also lucky enough to get a college football scholarship to Arizona State University. Because of all of these factors, our life was very public. Our name, and my name, was in the paper all the time and between my parents and myself and my brother and sister we just grew up in the fish bowl.

    Now my girlfriend grew up in the exact opposite environment. She went to a private school with a graduating class of 5! Her family was very religious but the church they went to was very small (around 100 members in the congregation). Her father was an engineer and her mom stayed at home with the kids. She had one older brother who died about 12yrs ago, and she has one younger sister. She is very shy and does not like attention or being in the spotlight at all. She was married previously to a man who belittled her constantly, who treated her like she was/is stupid, second guessed everything she did, and at the end of their marriage was cheating on her with prostitutes. we actually started talking a week after she kicked him out of the house. We agreed to not “date” until after she had worked through the issues of the divorce. We waited about a year after the divorce was final before our relationship became physical. However, we were already emotionally in love before the divorce was final

    On to our issues, Because I have lived in Arizona my entire life I have many male and female friends. There are many friends I have who just know me by name, are casual acquaintances, or know me through my mom or dad. So when I go out in public there is often a good chance of seeing someone I know. Moreover, I am constantly being sent “friend requests” on facebook. In addition, several of my ex girlfriends have made contact with me through facebook as well. Now, I am not like most people, in that, I am friends with a lot of my ex girlfriends because those relationships started out as friendships, and we remained friends after we decided that a romantic relationship just wasn’t right. My ex however does not understand this. She has concluded that the only reason I remain friends with any of my ex’s is because there is some unresolved issue between us. More so, she does not understand why I accept friend requests from so many people who I may not know personally, but they went to the same high school as me. Or they are friends of my siblings or my parents.

    The bottom line is she doesn’t trust me with all of the ex’s or with a “friendship” on facebook with any girl she might think is attractive. In her defense, about 2 years ago, she was checking my facebook account (yes I realize that is a huge mistake to have shared my password with her) and this particular time she found a message from me to another female where I was complimenting a picture she had just posted of herself dressed up and looking very nice. Now, I did this in a private message because I knew that if she saw my comment in public post, she would be upset.

    Since then she says she cannot trust me. She is very jealous and is constantly worried that I am flirting with other women. She thinks every time I get a new female friend on fb, that I am sending them flirtatious messages. which I am not. She claims that that one incident has ruined her trust for me.

    I have never cheated in any relationship: emotionally or physically. However I cannot help but think that she will never trust me again…

    WHAT CAN I DO? Any advice or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Ted,
      Your girlfriend no trusting you has more to do with her fear mind and her own self esteem than any of what you listed above. You can’t change her and I think you need to draw a boundary. If you are not a cheater why let her treat you like you are? Jealousy is about the other person’s insecurity. It would be great for you to figure out why you feel it’s OK for her to be distrustful of you and if it is familiar to you from your own upbringing etc Although you have not cheated, I wonder how you would feel if she were commenting on some guy’s fb page that he looks good. Maybe you meant nothing by it but only you know the truth.( I am honestly inquiring not implying anything-just wonder if you would be cool with that or not) It seems that you have the capacity to be friends with former romantic partners which I think is healthy but will remain a stressor unless you two agree and have trust. I think therapy for both of you could really help the relationship grown and get healthy around this issue. Good luck! xo

  16. Terri,
    You gave me wonderful advice on January 24, 2014. I expressed anger about a woman and ferns. Instead of anger I have been using my, I feel statements to my boyfriend. I felt hurt, jealous, unloved. It had happened before with an old girlfriend so was not the first time. He feels I am being irrational with unfounded jealousy. Since January I have been working on not being jealous and trusting what he is saying. It has gone better for me and our relationship. However, another new woman (old work friend) from the past came in the picture. They went golfing. but then planned on going golfing evey few weeks now. I thought that was a bit much. I could see once every few months but every other week! I feel the mistrust, creep in, guilty for feeling so, insane as he tells me it has no foundation.
    I thought I really need to set a boundry for myself. I told him I want to meet his woman friends from now on. Ms Fern Boss (yes, hurt is part of the name calling) is one I really want to meet. I feel by establishing this boundry, it will help me see and understand the truth.
    My boyfriend has agreed to this boundry.
    I want this relationship to work.
    I want to establish healthy boundries.
    I am feel good about communicating better and express my feelings when I am feeling them.not just blowing up in “anger”.
    I would love your comments.

    Thank you for your service.
    Feeling confused.

    1. Bettan,
      I hope you are proud of the good work you are doing! Communicating better with your boyfriend is one part of the solution. The next part is for you to really understand why you feel such distrust. Where have you felt this way before? Who is your childhood was untrustworthy? Answering these questions will help you gain clarity about why jealousy and fear are such a struggle in love relationships for you. Once you understand the original injury, you will stop having a transference experience with your boyfriend. It sounds like he is respecting your requests and also wants your relationship to last. I am sending you good love vibes. Keep up the good work! xo

  17. I love your newsletters etc… have big issues with setting boundaries …
    but on the other hand I never opened my husband’s post/letters, e-mails, never checked his cell Phone, facebook (couldn’t didn’t have the password but why would I need that for?)
    had I not respected his privacy (which I felt like normal) I would not have been in a toxic destructive relationship for years causing me loss of job, self worth, friends … due to big anxiety, depressions why he was never emotionally available ? Finally after years of planning to commit suicide (or asking for euthanasia) I dared to tresspass a boundary discovering his cheating/lying on me for 17 years !! (which explains a lot of my personal health issues and problems). It seems like I should have done the opposite you are advicing (respecting your partners’s privacy and not checking mails etc…) If I would have done the opposite, I would have been spared of a lot of trouble and now I feel that, when perhaps entering a new relationship in the future, I will have to check on personal stuff in order to protect myself for the hell I have been in for 17 years… sorry but I do understand your blog fully, unfortunately my ex-partner took advantage of all the good trust I put in him …

    1. Hi Christine, I am so sorry for the deep sense of pain and betrayal that you have experienced. Though a healthy relationship is more than just respecting your partner’s privacy. In a healthy relationship there is also a sense of innate trust, security and support. It sounds like this was very rarely the case with your ex. You deserve to feel free and joyful and loved in your relationships. Being with a partner who does not make you feel these things is reason enough to terminate a relationship. I am happy you found the courage and strength to leave, believe it or not many people stay in relationships even after a major betrayal. Going forward trust yourself and your feelings. If something feels off, rather than trying to protect yourself by checking your partners personal accounts, you could try communicating with them. Building a relationship based on distrust is setting it up to fail. When you are in a healthy relationship there is a safe space to do so and mutual respect of each others feelings.
      I am wishing you the best in your healing and future relationships going forward. Remember to trust yourself and to always take care of you.

  18. Terri,
    I need serious help. I have just recently finalized my second divorce. Last September I met the most amazing woman in my life. She is 14 years younger than me and we hit it off so well. She is a recovering drug addict with years behind her. Its a very long story that would make a good lifetime movie one day. Just recently she has been making comments that I have been not respecting her boundaries. I’m not sure what I did or what I should do. please help.

    1. Jon in setting and respecting boundaries, communication is key. If you are feeling unclear as to what boundaries you may have crossed, ask her to explain. When she explains, ask questions to show her that you really care for her and want to understand fully, as you respect her and want to respect her boundaries. This can be a time for both of you to gain more insight into the other and deepen your connection. Don’t give up. You are on the right path!

  19. Terri,
    I wanted to ask a question.
    Would you agree that it is just as important to be clear in communicating boundaries as it is in enforcing them? How can someone know how to conduct themselves within your personal boundaries if someone doesn’t clearly define them- Or when someone has not been clear with boundaries and has in reality, opened up personal doors to someone just to turn around one day and in the very point/act of finally letting a person know they have stepped across a line, they are cutting that person off.
    I feel that someone who does this has not even given another, the opportunity to respect their boundaries, and ultimately in essence really has not given a person the chance to be their friend….More importantly, I think it is a show of a lack of boundaries on their part even though the person “disguises” their seeming “assertiveness” as someone who establishes boundaries…..if you do not communicate but enforce consequences in the very act of establishing boundaries, this is an extreme REACTION of defensiveness rather than healthy boundary communicaton and enforcment

    1. Kat the only way to actually have boundaries is to speak about your expectation. When both parties are clear about what they wish for and what they do not want or like, than no one is surprised. What you are describing is a person who has the idea of their boundaries in their mind but with an expectation that you have a crystal ball. It seems you feel wronged and set up and I don’t blame you. All you can do is communicate clearly where your own boundaries are and express with clarity your frustration with the other person’s lack of clarity until it’s too late style of ‘boundary drawing.’ Good luck and thanks for the share.

  20. After taking your advice to setting healthy boundaries, I am now DIVORCING my son of 37 years.
    Although as an infant his biological family beat him so badly that he will always have TBI traits.
    We never allowed him to use this as a reason of I can’t. However I have never allowed him to stand on his own. Two years ago he enrolled himself in college/on line and received his BA. He then entered the masters program this year. With my assistance I got him an apt.and furnishings. He received $6000.
    Went through all of it in 3months. Took friends to New York. Hotel for over a week food out. Now his “girlfriend” from china is here and again asking for money. No More! Spending $400. in cab rides to take her shopping.
    Now begging me for more money as it is important in their relationship. Anyway I’ve dried my tears, put on my big girl panties and I am now releasing him to fly on his own. He’ll thank me and I’ll have money left in my 401 k.

    1. Dear Judith,
      Good for you for drawing a strong boundary with your son around finances. I’m curious as to why you use the word divorcing? I hope you mean you are discontinuing enabling his irresponsible behavior with your money. Once he is on his own he will figure it out or he won’t. Your job in this area is done. I believe you’re correct in saying that drawing this boundary will be beneficial for both of you. Stay strong and remember to take care of you.

  21. Terri, this topic and the bloc/video made me feel as if I should be the poster child for this topic. I just never learned! I grew up in a deceptive and controlling family, married and lived for decades with a deceptive and controlling husband, and to top it all, worked in a very controlled work environment almost all my adult life. Going thru the motions and playing by the rules were all I needed to do to survive. Except I didn’t really acknowledge that I was merely surviving. It all ended about 7 years ago and I entered the world, post-divorce, post-early retirement, like a babe in the woods. And it was not easy at all. First, my siblings tried to influence me to remain married when I shared with them my discoveries about my husband’s homosexuality, and then abandoned me and blamed me for his sexual orientation post-divorce, then even post-divorce my ex tried to intimidate and control me until I finally stood up to him and threatened to involve the authorities. I believe I have applied what you mention here as guidelines for setting boundaries. Yet I must be doing something wrong because in my case it has led to being left alone! Yes, I am much wiser and have grown. Yet I still struggle. Sometimes it feels as if ‘gullible’ is stamped on my forehead. I still seem to attract the same kind of toxic people I was related to and married to. I still seem to fantasize that people I meet will be honest and straight-forward. Yes, as soon as I sense manipulation I do retreat. Yet I wish I knew how to set boundaries better, honor myself better, to let the manipulators be the ones who take their leave. I don’ t know where to begin! I am intelligent, beautiful, financially independent, and get along fine in the world. But my only friends are those from HighSchool and college and they all live all over the country and not nearby. I like my own company, I love my part-time professional work, I enjoy a good relationship with my sons, and yet I find myself afraid of myself! I don’t trust men or at least haven’t met one yet that I felt I could; and I don’t trust women, or at least I haven’t met one that I felt I could. Memories of my brothers’, sisters’ and husband’s deceptions, control, and emotional and verbal abuse are triggered all the time. Ten years ago I was definitely in the fantasy land. Now I simply keep to myself as much as possible. No, I wouldn’t go back. No, I wouldn’t want to exchange ‘fun’ and the appearance of connection with my siblings and a marriage for the joy of the freedom and peace I feel when I am alone. Watching Netflix alone is far superior to spending time with any of those I have left behind. Yet, I feel my lack of skills in setting boundaries and may be the trust that I lost in my siblings and my ex have deprived me from a more fulfilled life. Being referred to by my old friends as ‘impervious’ is OK. Being acknowledge for how far I have come, what I have overcome, my choice to be different from my siblings, my choice to be compassionate towards my ex, etc., it is all grand. But I want more from life. I deserve more from life. And I don’t see how to develop the skills, how to reconcile all this. Does everyone who changes and grows ends up alone? Do we forever attract the same old toxic people? How do I escape the past, the memories, and the obvious energies I seem to have been attracting?

    1. Hi Zara, I want to thank you for your open and honest share. I would love to help you dive into your desire to free yourself from the past and attract healthy relationships. In this link ( https://terricole.com/strategy-session/ ) you can sign up for a free strategy session, so we can do just that. I look forward to hearing from you and connecting. Thank you again for sharing your story

  22. Terri
    My boyfriend I have been living with for 1 year and together for 2 ½ has been working construction work while his own company is in a slow period. We both are really struggling financially. Thank goodness he currently has 3 homes he is working on. One house he is fixing a roof on, there are wonderful ferns growing on the roof. I have been asking him since August take them off and give them to me for my planters . One of the other houses is owned by a woman who works from home and is there all the time. They have tea and he has offered to help write a paper for her about a bad roofing job another company did. Last Wednesday, my boyfriend took down some of those ferns. In one afternoon while I was at work, he said he told the woman (his boss) about the ferns and he was going to make hanging baskets out of them. She thought it was a great idea. He bought two iron baskets, plant food and made a lovely basket which was hanging up for her and mine was not put together and laying on the front lawn. He wanted to go and pick up pansies for the basket. I was so angry. He gave them to her the next day. He said he thought I wanted to do my own thing with the ferns.
    My boyfriend thought I was off base being angry as it was his boss.
    Please tell me your professional thoughts.

    My boyfriend I have been living with for 1 year and together for 2 ½ has been working construction work while his own company is in a slow period. We both are really struggling financially. Thank goodness he currently has 3 homes he is working on. One house he is fixing a roof on, there are wonderful ferns growing on the roof. I have been asking him since August take them off and give them to me for my planters . One of the other houses is owned by a woman who works from home and is there all the time. They have tea and he has offered to help write a paper for her about a bad roofing job another company did. Last Wednesday, my boyfriend took down some of those ferns. In one afternoon while I was at work, he said he told the woman (his boss) about the ferns and he was going to make hanging baskets out of them. She thought it was a great idea. He bought two iron baskets, plant food and made a lovely basket which was hanging up for her and mine was not put together and laying on the front lawn. He wanted to go and pick up pansies for the basket. I was so angry. He gave them to her the next day. He said he thought I wanted to do my own thing with the ferns.
    My boyfriend thought I was off base being angry as it was his boss.
    Please tell me your professional thoughts.

    1. Bettan, it seems that you feel uncomfortable not only with the fern situation but perhaps with their relationship in general, as you mentioned your boyfriend and his boss having tea, and writing a paper together. I’d like to ask you to explore the anger that you said you felt when your boyfriend told you he planted the ferns. Beyond the anger how else did you feel? Take some time to name these emotions. Did you feel hurt? Scared? Jealous? Anger can be an umbrella emotion that covers up some of our more vulnerable feelings. Try and share those vulnerable feelings with your boyfriend. It is harder for people to really ‘hear’ us when we approach them from a place of anger, especially men. Men tend to become defensive and shut down when they feel attacked. Approach him as you would want to be approached. When you have more clarity about what is really upsetting you it will be easier to speak to him straight with honestly and kindness while still honoring yourself. It is more about how it felt to you and less about him intentionally doing something wrong. Good luck, I know you can do it!

  23. Dear Terri,

    You mention the fact that reading your partners emails is not respecting boundaries. I have had this issue with my partner, who will be moving in with me soon, returning to the country from a long stay abroad. We had shared each others’ passwords (something we both agreed on). There were still ‘leftover’ chat/email contacts from his side that he had never told me about, and I found two of these (recent) emails from former chat partners who (might) live nearby. I have honestly never opened any emails with any of the people I know (e.g. his ex wife or sons). I found out that he wasn’t being honest with these unknown chat contacts (or better, himself) and not drawing a clear line as to whether he wanted to see them again or not, in one case actually actually suggesting maybe they could meet in the future, in the other not drawing a line when that contact suggested he could maybe not resist should he be nearby. When i asked him about it, acknowledging that I shouldn’t have read those emails but I did (my fault), I found out that not only did I have emotional boundary issues, but also my partner who wasn’t able to tell these people that he was now in a relationship with no desire to see them. Are we both having problems with emotional boundaries that are colliding in this case?

    Thank you for your reply


    1. Dear Jorn,
      Thank you for sharing your story here with us. Yes you are both struggling with drawing and respecting appropriate boundaries. What is impressive is that you can discuss it together. It sounds like your partner may have a bit of The Disease to Please or is feeling some commitment fear or both. Check out my blog on Curing the Disease to Please and make a pact that neither of you will violate the others privacy by reading emails not addressed to you. Agree on transparency then set up a weekly time to check in over a cup of tea about how it is going. In these meetings you can create space to grow together and a safe space to be honest. Also check out Harville Hendrix’s work for healthy couples. (http://www.harvillehendrix.com/)
      Best of luck to you both. xo

  24. Dear Terri,
    I am new to this site, and so far I LOVE IT. You are giving people hope and confidence that is so needed. I remember having to set a boundary with my mother when my son was just a baby (he is 18 now) It was the hardest thing I ever did, BUT the benefits of that freed me from having to always “bend over” every time my mother wanted something. The freedom and self-empowerment was incredible and has lasted the last 17 years. This is SO important. Thank you for reminding me to set more of them. Oh BTW I am a empath which I just learned recently so those emotional issues that others have feel like they are mine, but as I stay centered and get to know myself better and what I want for a change the strength of their issues doesn’t effect me as much.
    Thank you for your time,

  25. I think it can be difficult to live with someone who has too distant boundaries – they will not share anything with you. My ex and I were married for 37 years and I essentially gave up trying to be an insider in his world. He did not share anything. The most honest conversation he had with me was 1 week after he filed for divorce. I found myself “spying on him” in the last year we were together because I could feel something had changed.. It had, he was seeking another relationship which he found/moved in with her the 4 weeks after the divorce was final. I think we can be open and honest, share ourselves, yet not give out our email password and have someone in our face. I hope to have a real relationship with a normal male sometime…..

    1. eve-
      i totally agree. thank you for sharing your story here with us. what you are describing are not healthy boundaries but rigid boundaries and a person who withheld himself from you for decades. this is painful and cruel when used as a way to punish someone and unfulfilling at the very least. it is impossible to authentically love someone if you do not authentically know them. i have no doubt that you can create a healthy relationship with good boundaries and healthy sharing. i am sending you a ton of LOVE energy right this very moment and am holding space for your healing. i am so happy you are here. <3

  26. For the longest time, my relationship has been plagued with unhealthy boundaries and I only realized this lately. It manifested itself with my self-harm and depression issues. I’m on the road to recovery and have been seeing a professional. I am an avid reader of your weekly newsletters and I try to take away as much as I can from your tune-up tips. For this one though, I believe I’ve started to set the healthy boundaries even before I read your article. However, how do I distance myself from codependency? I am now able to catch it when it happens but it doesn’t feel good when it comes up.. no matter how many times I reassure myself I should not be. What more can I do? Does it just take time? Is it because I am still healing?

    Thanks for all that you do.

    1. Abigail-
      Wow GO YOU!!!! So exciting that you are doing this deep work to take control of your happiness and your life. Yes it takes time and you are in transition. But the more you stop yourself from taking an action you KNOW is unhealthy (fixing for another person etc) the easier it becomes and the feelings of discomfort fade away. It becomes your new normal and you will feel better and have much more energy to pour into your own life. I am cheering you on like a wild maniac!! ♥

  27. Dear Terri, I do have a problem setting bounderies because I feel people have a tendency to take advantage of me. I have a habit of trying to make everyone happy and trying to fix everyone’s problems. I’m sure Aunt Linda has told you that mom lives with me and so I try to keep things low key as possible so she doesn’t worry so much. And since I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers it is not an easy job keeping things calm. Not to mention I get no help with the care of my mom. I have my own family that keeps me at my wits end with all their disagreements. And most of the time Tracey is at the bottom of the issue. But I have learned how to deal with Tracey, it’s the others that make it hard to deal. I have always been there for Tracey and I will never turn my back on her. But how do I keep the family together so I don’t have to spend the reat of my life not having them as a family unit. Where do I draw the bounderies? Where do I start? Love Sharon

    1. sharon-
      always a pleasure to hear from you. boundaries can be tough but for you I think self love and self care are where you need to start. you are so conditioned to fix everything for everyone else that you do not take the kind of care you need to of YOU! Try to start listening without offering ANY suggestions to anyone-try to stop talking about family members who are not present. If someone wants to badmouth tracey to you simply reply, “I think you should take that up with tracey” and leave it there. everyday ask yourself what you need what you enjoy and what would make YOU happy and then try to do a little more of what makes you happy and a little less co-dependent organizing of the entire family! hope that helps. sending you good vibes as always sharon <3

      1. Terri, I am honestly going to try to do something everyday that I like to do. I love to scrapbook and I have a room with all my stuff, so at one point in the day I am going to sit down and work on it. I also like to work in my flower beds so I want to thank you for the advice and I am really going to try to do what you said and see how it goes. Thanks again, I will let you know how things go! Take care, Sharon

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