Setting personal boundaries ~ family

One of the biggest mistakes I have when it comes to setting boundaries is thinking (or hoping) that the person I am attempting to set limits with will understand me (and why I have the values I have) they do not need to understand me, I need to understand myself.


In the book ‘Be yourself everyone else is already taken’ by Mike Robbins Part One Titled ‘Why it can be hard to be authentic’, he gives examples- the first example is Family: ” most families- even ‘healthy’ ones have a lot of unsolved issues, conflicts, and unexpressed emotions that have an impact on each person within the family individually and the family unit collectively. This causes us to create certain dynamics in our families in which each of us plays a specific role based on years of unconscious thoughts, feelings and behavior. These roles often create a lot of pain and frustration for us and others in our families, and they’re not conductive to us being who we really are.”

Once we begin to go within, really get to know who we are and what we value, we may find those values are different from our family. I will never forget when the subject of religion first came up in conversation at a family dinner. My husband ‘admitted’ that we do not practice organized religion (it was expected that our family would choose that particular spiritual path)  he was actually called a traitor for leaving his religious denomination~ it it was no joke.

Families can literally be torn apart when people decide to be authentic and their values differ (change of religion or spiritual preference, coming out/ sexual orientation, interracial marriage ~just to name a few) It takes courage to be authentic within your own family, especially if you decide to take a different path from what is expected of you.

I was raised in a household where there was a lot of arguing and we did not fight fair. Family members would justify abusive behavior.

My husband and I have made a commitment to have a more healthy functional family dynamic. Personal attacks (name calling, character assassination) is a form of verbal abuse. My husband and I have decided we will no longer accept personal attacks- we have set a limit. After we had children, we decided we would honor our promise to them and not allow this (from anyone including family members)  regardless of the excuse. This is just one example (we have many) of a personal boundary we have set for our family ~ it is a ‘family rule’.

Limits are making clear what you will and will not accept in your life.

Setting limits with family members can be very challenging if you have had boundary issues in your family in the past. Some family members can take it personally (or even consider it an insult) when you stand up for yourself and are clear about what you will and will not accept. They are used to you accepting certain behaviors from them, now you have changed- it is can be very uncomfortable, even threatening to them.

“How many people sit back, don’t stand up in regard to someone else’s inapplicable behaviour, and grant feedback. They hope that someone else in this person’s life will do the job! This is not responsible human interaction. You are not being responsible to them, and you are not being responsible to yourself. Feedback does not mean changing them or getting them to see your point of view. It may be a statement of your truth and then you leaving if the behaviour doesn’t change. Feedback does mean no longer staying in the presence of the abuse and feeding it – such as arguing with it, or tolerating it.” ~Malanie Tonia Evans

How do you create a boundary?

1. Decide what you will accept and what you will not. If you find someone is crossing your boundaries, describe the behavior you find unacceptable.

2. Describe what action steps you will take if your boundary is violated.

3. Enforce your boundaries if necessary.

Don’t get pulled into the drama!

Every time I try to get outTHEY PULL ME BACK IN!” – Michael Corleone The Godfather 3

Explain your position in as few words as possible. You do not need to justify why you feel the way you do (you have a right to have your own preferences of what you will accept and what you will not) If the person does not respect you however, they may try to invalidate you. If they do this, it is a clear sign that they do not respect your feelings or your boundaries. Don’t take the bait! They may want to argue and try to get you to second guess your values, they may be accusatory- claiming you are trying to control, threaten, blame, or manipulate them. Stick to the consequences you have set regarding their unacceptable behavior,  regardless of the other parties reaction to you setting your limits.

Invalidation may be the single most damaging form of psychological abuse

Setting boundaries is not an attempt to try and control someone (although they may try to accuse you of this) It is simply a consequence to another person’s behavior toward you that you find unacceptable. Setting boundaries defines what is acceptable to you and and what is not. Setting boundaries is vital to your well being and self esteem.

Setting boundaries is not a threat (although it could be perceived as that because some find change very uncomfortable and like the relationship just how it is) It is communicating clearly what the consequences will be if the person behaves in a way that is unacceptable to you. It is a consequence of the other persons behavior- they choose to continue to treat you unacceptably, and therefore they choose the consequence.

Setting a boundary is not manipulation. When you set a boundary you let go of the outcome, if the person chooses to leave the relationship (because you have stated you cannot have contact if they continue the behavior that is unacceptable), this is their choice.

Setting boundaries is not blaming: You are not blaming the other person for how you feel, you are simply telling the other person what will happen if they continue to treat you in a way that you find unacceptable.

How a person responds to your emotional honesty will depend on:

1. How much they respect you

2. How much they care about your feelings

3. How insecure and defensive they are

4. How much they are trying to control you

All of this is information that will help you make decisions which are in your best interest. From Invalidation Page

What setting boundaries means:

  • Setting boundaries means you are taking responsibility and standing by your personal code of ethics and values.
  • Setting boundaries reflect your right to say NO to things that are not right for you.
  • Setting boundaries means you are learning the importance of self-care, self respect, and self love.
  • Setting boundaries emerge when we learn to go within, listen to our authentic selves, value our own decisions and trust ourselves.
  • Setting boundaries emerge from knowing what you believe, dislike, or like is important and relevant.
  • Setting boundaries emerge from  deep introspection and the realization of what you deserve and do not deserve.

About setting boundaries:

  • You cannot control other people’s reactions to you when you set your boundaries and limits- they may be hurt, angry, dissatisfied, or disappointed with you.
  • You will be tested when you attempt to set boundaries.
  • You may feel unsure, afraid or uncomfortable when you initially set your boundaries
  • Be brief with your explanation when setting a boundary, and if possible do not show anger.
  • Some people may appreciate the fact that you set limits on how you will be treated (this is a sign of someone who  has high self esteem)
  • Listen to your gut- if something does not feel right (you feel anger, frustration, or threatened) this may be a sign that boundaries need to be set.
  • Stand by your boundaries and follow through with the consequences you lined out.

Resource: Personal Boundaries

“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my challenges are preparing me for the next exciting phase of my life.” Cheryl Richardson

As I am writing this Ann Curry of NBC news just announced on a commercial ” In America a hate crime is committed every hour, teach your children to embrace differences, let’s stop the clock” very fitting I think…..

Leave A Reply (17 comments so far)


  1. Angela
    2430 days ago

    Very inspiring! We all know we have to set boundaries as parents, which is difficult enough. Setting them with the adults in our lives is not so easy. I often find myself out of sorts with those around me because I know what I want to deal with and what I don’t– but I just don’t want to hurt other’s feelings by forcing my views on them.

    You are so right, though– it’s a personal choice and is no reflection on who the other person is in their own authenticity! I don’t have to CHANGE someone else’s way of thinking, just find what mine is, stick to it, and play it completely through. If they CHOOSE to subscribe to a way of thinking that fits into my own lifestyle and comfort zone, awesome, if not, then they are just being true to themselves at that time, and may just not be right for my life! It is not for me to judge why, nor for them to judge me. And I have to remember that it’s fear, probably not a personal vendetta that causes their initial reaction. If I step back and give them time to digest it, it will work out however it’s meant to.

    This has definitely given me room for thought about what is priority in my life to take care of ME, and in turn be the mom, friend, employee, etc. that I should be to others!

  2. Positively Present
    2430 days ago

    This is a GREAT post. Though we often think about boundaries, we don’t always think about them when it comes to our families and these boundaries are some of the most important boundaries of all. Have you read the book “Boundaries” by Anne Katharine? It’s a great read and it really helped me to sort out some of my own boundary issues.

  3. Michele
    2430 days ago

    This is an amazing post. I had a lightbulb moment when you talked about the fact that setting boundaries is a sign of knowing what your personal values and ethics. This is something that I’m really getting to know.
    My family has always put down the things I’ve done and always expected me to fail. I believe that I have let that energy transfer to me and allowed it to bring me down. Thank you for this post. It has definitely enlightened me.

  4. Maia Berens
    2430 days ago

    I’m inspired and in awe of you and your wisdom, commitment and love for yourself and your family!

    Maia Berens’s last blog post..What to do if you were taught not to take care of yourself

  5. Angie
    2430 days ago

    Great Angela! I am so glad that the post inspired you:) I do believe that fear and pain is underlying when we get some of these initial reactions. I am so glad you have decided to take care of you!

  6. Angie
    2430 days ago

    Positively Present: I agree that family is the most important boundaries of all! I will check out the book you mentioned! Thank you so much!
    Michele: I am honored that my post inspired a lightbulb moment for you! I do believe that the answer is really knowing ourselves, values, and personal code of ethics- being secure and confident with ourselves. We teach others how to treat us! Thank you so much for stopping by the blog!
    Maia: I am so honored that my post inspired you ~ thank you so much for your encouragement, I am so grateful for you and your guidance and wisdom as well!

  7. Molly
    2422 days ago

    Great post Angie. As we speak I too am working with some personal boundaries. And it is difficult! I do not like to fill my calendar up with plans. I find it stressful. I operate better out of spontanaeity. But most everyone I know likes to plan, and it feels really weird to tell people no, in fact, I can’t make plans. I happen to know that when the time is right things will work out and you’ll see the people you need to see. But in the meantime, it is learning to be okay with disappointing others in order to be true to oneself. Boy is it difficult (and necessary) to extract ourselves from those patterns and live authentically.

    Fabulous post!!!

    Molly’s last blog post..Interview with Lisa Jones, Boulder’s bestselling author of Broken-A Love Story (and a book give-away)

  8. Angie
    2421 days ago

    Thank you Molly! I really appreciate your openness! It is difficult, it is a moment by moment decision ~ and the reactions are not always what we would like. But the rewards are amazing:)

  9. Rebecca
    2394 days ago

    Thanks for your post! I’d only ever read “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend and this was a great read for me. I’m a Christian but my extended family is not and now I can direct them to your site so they don’t feel pressured to read the Christian viewpoint of Boundaries (that in fact it’s not my religion turning me against them but rather me learning to say “no” to what is bad for me and “yes” to what is good for me).

    Appreciate your authenticity in your writing. Would love to hear of examples of how it’s worked out and is working for you!

  10. Angie
    2394 days ago

    Hi Rebecca! thank you so much for stopping by!
    Setting boundaries has worked wonders for me! To many examples to list here, lets just say there is a lot less drama in my life! If you keep reading the blog you may find some personal examples in the future:)

  11. Amy
    2354 days ago

    Wow, thank you for this. I am having my very first baby in November and I’m trying to set boundaries with my family so that my husband and I can start out right with our little girl. We want to have two weeks on our own before inviting out of town guests and you would think we’re asking my family (who lives out of state) to wait to meet her until college! All kinds of manipulation and accusations are flowing as a result. But I am determined to learn to do this. It is important that my daughter grow up watching her mom demand (and get) respect because I want her to know how she deserves to be treated. This is difficult as I am the youngest in my family, but thanks to your post I am continuing my journey. I’m not there yet, but I am confident I will get there and be a better mom to boot!

  12. Angie
    2353 days ago

    Hello Amy, thank you so much for stopping by! I am so glad you enjoyed the post! I am not sure we are ever ‘there’ it is an ongoing process, and sometimes it can be difficult. As a mom, one of the most important lessons I have learned is to trust myself. There will always be someone out there who does not agree with your parenting, the important thing is to follow your own path:)

  13. Gen
    1574 days ago

    Thank you so much for the great information–it really helped to read about boundaries in such a straight forward manner and outlined in a such a way that you realize you have to just go step-by-step, in making decisions and in dealing with family members (especially after you make a choice/decision that they don’t approve of). For those of us dealing with family dynamics that have generations-old guilt and shame laced in, it is so helpful to be reminded that you just have to stick to who you are! The moment you start questioning your choices, like “am I the crazy one here?” then you just know it is the old dynamics popping back up. In families with poor boundaries, guilt can be the weak relative’s only tool to try and get you to do what they want. And amen to the idea that that person just does not have respect for you and your needs; amazing how people with poor boundaries will do anything to be “enmeshed” because this is the only way they feel valid as a human being. Power to all of us striving to be healthy!! Is there a fast forward button for those of us who didn’t get this concept until our 30′s and 40′s! haha.

  14. Angie
    1574 days ago

    Thank you so much for commenting Gen. I am glad you found the article useful. Yes…. I wish I knew what I know now in my 20′s! Good luck to you:)

  15. judy lent
    1200 days ago

    I have just been told by my oldest son that boundaries are one of our family’s problems. I am 64 years old and I am reading books and being proactive in becoming better and better everyday. Quote from Kahil Gibran on children. ” Do not give them your thoughts, listen to theirs” paraphrasing.

    Wisdom has reached my inner ears. Thanks

  16. Angie
    1200 days ago

    Hi Judy, and welcome! I am so glad that you found value from the post. It is a process. All the best to you and your family:)

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