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How Boundaries Actually Enhance Intimacy in Relationships

By: Alyssa Cohen

Often when we talk about setting boundaries in relationships, we refer to creating metaphorical walls or lines that are not to be crossed or tampered with in order to protect ourselves. This idea may appear to create distance in a relationship, perhaps in one that requires nurturance and closeness. In reality the opposite can be true and, in most cases, is true.


Boundaries not only serve to protect ourselves in relationships, they also create healthy structure,  promote predictability and safety, and are a form of self-care. A boundary can be as simple as setting guidelines with your child around phone usage at the dinner table or more complex such as telling a parent or family member that discussing certain topics are NOT OKAY due to emotional discomfort or the unhelpful consequences that result from these conversations. In either case, we set a boundary with the people we care about to increase the safety, intimacy, and long term sustainability of such relationships. Setting boundaries can be appropriate in any relationship – a child, parent, sibling, partner, friend, coworker, the list goes on. If it’s a relationship you care about, it can certainly benefit from healthy boundary setting.


It is important to note that setting boundaries can be really challenging, particularly if this is something new we are trying. It may feel awkward, it may create some short term confusion/anger/resentment, and it may take several tries before it feels authentic. Be patient with yourself and this relationship. If you care enough about this person AND yourself, allow the time and space to work out the kinks in setting boundaries.


See below for some helpful tips when setting interpersonal boundaries:


AND remember we set boundaries out of love and not punishment! Practice compassion for yourself and this relationship 🙂