Spending time with the people we care about most can be incredibly rewarding and can improve our emotional and physiological well-being. The support we receive from our closest friends and family can be something that we cherish throughout our lives. When we are treated with respect, and our voices are heard by our loved ones, our relationships flourish. But when we start feeling uncomfortable in relationships, it can be hard to set boundaries.

It can be difficult to gather the courage to tell the people you care about that you just need some space, but know that it’s perfectly okay to express your needs. Setting healthy boundaries is a sign that your relationship with someone is healthy. Strong relationships involve communicating your needs to the other person. This gives space for both people to understand how the other is feeling and can lead to a happier relationship where both people have a clearer perspective on how the other wants to be treated.

Recognizing When It’s Time to Set Boundaries

Firstly, it’s important to know when it’s time to set boundaries in a relationship. Things to notice may be gaslighting (manipulating someone into questioning what they believe or think), a lack of privacy, dishonesty, and discomfort/inability towards self-care. If you’ve felt uncomfortable or strange after a recent interaction with that person, think about what exactly made you feel this way as opposed to avoiding what you’re experiencing. When we’re not actively thinking about these problems, we may not realize they’re happening at all. It’s important with any relationship, no matter how close, to take time to evaluate how you feel with that person and how they treat you. Oftentimes, well-intentioned people either avoid tough conversations or react to feeling hurt by getting agitated or defensive.

Effective Communication

If you’re able to pinpoint specifics and recognize what you’re feeling, it can be easier to put it into words with others. Doing some self-reflection can make your feelings more clear and more identifiable. If it helps, write or type out a list of things you’d like to say so that you can feel more prepared. Emotional conversations with those we care about can be daunting sometimes, but having some notes can allow us to feel grounded and centered which reduces fear and triggering.

You can also try talking to another trusted friend or family member. You can practice saying what you want to say to someone else who you feel emotionally safer with. It can help to have a practice round through conversation or role-play before actually talking to the person who hurt you. If you want feedback on what you’re hoping to say, the perspective of another friend or family member can be insightful. Of course, you don’t have to reach out to someone else if you don’t feel comfortable. You are always free to stay within your safe zone.

What Do Your Boundaries Look Like?

Try coming up with some specific, concrete ways for how you want to put those boundaries into practice. This may look like setting aside some time apart every now and then, creating a safe space where you will be heard without judgment, showing gratitude, and being honest. If you have a couple of examples ready, it can be easier for the other person to process and conceptualize what you are asking of them. This also helps to know exactly what you want from them and what you feel comfortable with. When talking to that person, be honest about what you are feeling. Use your authentic voice without minimizing or sugarcoating any negative emotions you have been feeling. Expressing yourself in an embodied way will facilitate them to understand what you’re going through. It will let them know that you are being genuine and that your feelings are real.

Facing a confrontation with a person you are close to can be scary, but hopefully, these suggestions can make it a little easier. Keep these in mind, make your own changes to them if you want, and remember that it’s okay to stay within your comfort zone while prioritizing your well-being. Remember that at the end of the day, relationships are all about making sure both people are heard, valued, and respected, and facing temporary discomfort can be worth it to make sure that you’re happy in the long run.

Photo by Kristina Litvjak.