Establishing and maintaining your boundaries

Dr. Karine Côté, C.Psych.

The importance of asserting boundaries to promote healthy and sustainable relationships with others is more and more talked about in the media. Whether it is with your significant other, parent, sibling, friend or co-worker, being able to identify and assert your boundaries can be a significant skill to build. 

Boundaries are defined as limits and rules we set for ourselves within our relationships. They can be psychological, emotional or physical in nature, and require being mindful of your needs and limits within various situations (, 2024). Boundaries can help you meet your interpersonal needs, promote closeness, limit over enmeshment, and increase your sense of self-efficacy. 

Here are a few key ingredients to keep in mind to help you establish and maintain your boundaries with others.

Identify: Your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations represent a guide to your internal needs and limits. Being attuned to them and building your ability to understand their underlying meaning and function can help you identify your needs and limits. 

Assert: Your boundaries will have a much better chance to be respected if they are clearly expressed to others. Speaking in I statements and communicating when you and the other are emotionally regulated will also give you the best chance to be heard.

Clarify: Sometimes, the intention or the meaning behind our boundaries can be misunderstood by others. Taking the space to clarify them as needed will also increase your chance of being heard and respected in your boundaries.

Reinforce: When the other has modified their behaviors or reactions to respect your boundaries, giving them acknowledgment and showing your appreciation can help confirm they are on the right track in meeting your needs – and therefore reinforce these positive changes.

Repeat: In some cases, asserting a boundary once may not be enough for it to be consistently respected by the other. After all, we are all creatures of habit! Repeating the boundary can also help sustain the needed changes in your interpersonal relationships.

Asserting boundaries and engaging in satisfying, respectful and sustainable relationships can present with challenges at times. Clinicians at CFIR-CPRI are here to support should you need help in navigating complex interpersonal dynamics.

Reference (2024). Interpersonal Boundaries.

Dr. Karine Côté, D.Psy., C.Psych. is a psychologist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Dr. Côté provides psychological services to individual adults and couples experiencing a wide range of psychological and relationship difficulties related to mood and anxiety disorders, trauma, eating disorders, sleep disruptions, and interpersonal betrayal. She works from a humanistic approach and integrates therapeutic techniques from gestalt and object relations psychotherapies, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).