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Boundaries in Friendships: What They Are And How To Establish Them

Boundaries in Friendships: What They Are And How To Establish Them

Life seems so much brighter when you have your friends at your side. With them, you can share laughs, celebrate victories, mourn losses, talk through hardships, and so much more. In fact, a 2018 study published in Genus found that people who keep quality friends close tend to enjoy a higher quality of life. This study was largely based on data collected from a large-scale 2012 survey from the Italian National Statistical Institute.

All that said, you and your friends are still individuals with your own unique likes, dislikes, wants, and needs. Sometimes, you may feel that you need to tell your friends everything, that doing so proves that you trust each other. In some cases, spilling a secret to a trustworthy friend makes sense to you. It eases a burden off your chest and makes you feel less alone. 

However, there is nothing wrong with wanting to keep some personal things personal. This is where boundaries come into play.

Setting boundaries does not mean that you are keeping your friends out; instead, boundaries allow you to reserve parts of you for yourself. Think: your own space, your own feelings, your own thoughts. 

Of course, creating boundaries in a friendship is not always easy and may take some practice. Below, we’ll discuss boundaries in friendships and some tips you can use. 

What are Boundaries in Friendships?

There is not one “right” way to set boundaries in a friendship. Boundaries will likely vary from one person to the next, based on personal values. The key is to ensure you communicate these values to your friends. Well-established boundaries not only keep you safer; they also allow your friends plenty of room to grow and be as people.

In any friendship, all parties have the right to:

  • Privacy
  • Personal space
  • Physical space
  • Making your own decisions 
  • Feeling safe and comfortable 

Boundaries are as Unique as Friendships

Boundaries are all about helping you meet your personal needs.  While there are some very common boundaries (for example, not touching people freely without their permission), boundaries are as unique as friendships. For example, maybe you and your friend enjoy swapping outfits once in a while. You think nothing of it when she comes over, takes a peek at your closet, and pulls out a flashy dress to try on for herself. You behave similarly when you visit her, and you both just compliment one another or offer fashion tips. This is your normal. 

However, maybe you have another friend who is much more private. She prefers to keep her belongings away from prying eyes and curious hands. If anyone touches her things, she feels uncomfortable. This is normal as well. 

That’s why it’s so important to communicate openly about boundaries. What may be a fun bonding experience for one person is a serious boundary violation for another, and that’s okay. What’s important is that friends are honest with each other and respect when somebody says no. 

Boundary Violations

While we touched upon boundary violations above, it is important to note that these violations go beyond just touching someone’s things when they ask you not to. In fact, sometimes the line between a minor pet peeve and a serious boundary overreach can be thin. Here are some common boundary violations to look out for:

  • Making decisions for you. Friends should support your decisions and can offer advice, but your decisions are ultimately up to you. You should never feel pressured to do something just because a friend tells you that you should.
  • Showing up unannounced. Again, friends should respect your privacy and time. 

For example, no matter how close, friends should not assume your home is open to them at any time unless otherwise stated.  

  • Trying to make others think like you. Great friends can respect your differences. While they may share opinions, they should not try to force you into their beliefs. 
  • Guilt-tripping. Friends should make you feel comfortable and valid in your beliefs, even if they do not agree personally. If you ever feel as though a friend is guilting you to behave in a certain way or to make a decision with which you disagree, do speak up.
  • Sharing information told in confidentiality. You trust your friends to hold tight to the personal bits of information you share with them. If they share that information with others without your permission, they are violating that trust and in turn your boundaries.
  • Making assumptions. Everybody likes to be heard and understood. Therefore, you should never feel guilty for correcting a friend who makes an assumption about you that is not true or for assuming that you are comfortable with something that makes you uneasy.
  • Bringing up topics that others have stated they are not ready to discuss yet. It’s okay to keep things to yourself and share if or when you are ready. You have a right to privacy and a good friend will respect that. 

Tips for Setting Boundaries in Friendships

Setting boundaries can be tough. It can be uncomfortable to do with friends, but it’s essential for healthy friendships. Here are some tips to help along the way:

  • Start the conversation early. Don’t wait until your boundaries are violated to say something. A good friend will always be willing to hear what you have to say and will take your concerns seriously.
  • Take turns. The healthiest friendships require action from everyone. After you have shared your boundaries, make sure your friends has a chance to share theirs as well

  • Come up with a “safe word”. Talk about how you can let each other know if boundaries are broken and how you’ll problem solve if the situation arises. Coming up with a “safe word” or way to let the other know when they have violated a boundary will help make it easier to speak up. 
  • Let your friend know what they do that you love. Setting boundaries can be a serious talk. Instead of just talking about the actions you do not want, also share some things that make you feel loved and appreciated. Discuss what you can do to support each other and be a positive light for one another. 

Friendship boundaries are essential for everyone. Remember, you are not betraying your friends by keeping some things to yourself. You are simply making an effort to separate who you are personally from you are socially, and this is a completely healthy thing to do. 

For more help establishing healthier relationships, reach out to us at the Center for Modern Therapy today.