In therapy I often hear people talking about needing 'boundaries' in their relationship, but when I ask what boundaries they need or a plan to create a maintain those boundaries, I am met with a blank stare. If you fall into this category and need some help with boundaries, here are some steps for you to take to create and maintain good boundaries.
First off, you need to define what you want to boundary, i.e. your relationship, yourself, your family, etc. Once you know what you want to protect, ask yourself these three questions: how do I feel, what do I need, and what do I want? These questions will help you to assess why you are creating the boundary, and the parameters of what you are trying to boundary. For example, if I want to boundary my relationship I might be creating the boundary to keep other people from influencing how my partner and I view one another. I might feel concerned about the input of others since they often only hear one side of the story and can negatively affect the relationship, I might need safety in my relationship that intimate details are not discussed with friends and family, and I might want my partner and I to be strong enough to discuss issues without outside intervention.
Once you have answered these question and have a good idea of the boundary you are trying to set, you need to figure out what your options are. Will your partner or family be helping you maintain this boundary, or is it something you will be doing on your own? In the previous example, I could say that I would want my partner to join in with me to maintain this boundary. Because the boundary is based on relying on each other and not outside influence, our goal would be to come to one another when we feel the need to mull things over, or to seek guidance from a neutral party (such as a therapist).
The last step is to decide how you will maintain the boundary so that it lasts. Ask yourself what is your capacity to manage and maintain the boundary you have set? If it seems like it may be difficult for you or your partner/family, come up with a plan to protect it. When we look at our example situation, we might say that it will be difficult to maintain the boundary because we have always talked to our friends and family about our relationship. A good way to protect the boundary is to have a different outlet such as journaling or a therapist where we can explore our thoughts and feelings, and then return to our partner when we are ready to talk.