Boundaries in Families Posted by: Dr. Matt

What are they, and why are they so important?

Boundaries are often talked about, and frequently misunderstood.  Boundaries in families are like the checkpoints along the border of a country.  The boundary allows some things in, but not everything, and some things out, but not unregulated. 

In relationships, boundaries are the visible (skin, clothes, doors, walls, etc) and invisible (customs, procedures, rules, requirements, expressions) SEPARATORS between two people, one person and a group of people, or groups of people.

Boundaries BOTH help protect me from you and us from others, and facilitate our connection.  That’s crucial; protect & facilitate. 

Boundaries function to:

1.       Separate (me from you, and us from them/all) – allows one to grow, differentiate, and separate from another group, namely the family of birth. 

2.       Protect (like a water bottle protecting it’s contents from the outside; or a home versus a tent, versus nothing)

3.       Promote Development & thus Personhood (like the glass barrier of a wine bottle – it’s an important component in the development of the wine.  The bottle protects the chemistry of the wine from the outside elements, and boundaries allow the development of people and relationships)

4.       Regulate Authentic Connection (A person chooses when to share, and what.  They are able to self-regulate emotional expression, but not avoid it)

The Boundary Goal – Semi-permeable: some stuff in, some stuff out.  Not, everything allowed in, and everything allowed out, nor, nothing allowed in, and nothing allowed out.  Semi-permeable.   

Where do your boundaries need to soften or strengthen?