The 6 Types Of Boundaries (And How To Enforce Them)

A fence, showing one type of boundary

People-pleasing has always been something that I’ve struggled with. I really care about the people that I surround myself with and I always want them to be happy.

However, it took experiencing severe panic attacks and overwhelm, for me to realize that by doing this I was neglecting my own needs and not only making myself severely unhappy, but very unhealthy as well.

I was not good at setting boundaries. I thought that boundaries were selfish and unkind.

I have since learned that healthy boundaries are very important to successful relationships with other people and with ourselves. Without those boundaries in place, negativity and resentment can grow and thrive.

Below we are going to review the specific types of boundaries, as well as examples of each, and different examples of ways you can communicate those boundaries.

What types of boundaries are there?

There are six main types of boundaries that people have.

1) Physical boundaries

Physical boundaries are the most common and well-known type of boundary. This has to do with everyone’s personal space, physical needs, and comfort with physical touch.

Sometimes people can be scared to let other people know what they are comfortable with, or when someone else is making them uncomfortable.

But these are boundaries that every needs if they want to be happy.

Examples of physical boundaries include:

  • Limits about when people are allowed to touch you
  • Limits about who is allowed to touch you
  • Limits about how people are allowed to touch you
  • Limits about who is allowed in your personal space
  • Limits about who is allowed in your home
  • Guidelines about when you need to sleep, eat, or meet any other physical needs

Examples of someone not respecting physical boundaries

  • Being told you need to keep walking when you need rest
  • Being told you are not allowed to eat or drink when you are hungry or thirsty
  • Having someone touch you when it is unwanted
  • Having someone enter your personal space and make you uncomfortable

Examples of ways to express a physical boundary

“Stop. I don’t want you to touch me.”

“You aren’t allowed to go into my room without my permission”

“I don’t hug people. Can I shake your hand instead?”

“I need to stop so I can eat something.”

“I am tired. I need to go rest.”

2) Emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries are all about respecting your emotions and feelings. They often set limits about how other people can talk to us and treat us.

When we respect the emotional boundaries of others, we validate their emotions and respect how they are feeling and expressing those feelings.

Examples of emotional boundaries

  • Other people listening to how we feel
  • Other people accepting and respecting our emotions
  • Asking permission to vent to someone about something we have gone through
  • Respecting the emotions of others
  • Giving someone a safe space to express themselves

Examples of someone not respecting emotional boundaries

  • Someone trying to tell us how we feel
  • Someone reading our personal emotional information without permission
  • Someone emotionally venting to us in an appropriate setting and without our permission
  • Someone dismissing and invalidating our feelings
  • Someone criticizing how we feel

Examples of ways to express an emotional boundary

” I am not okay with name-calling when we talk about this.”

“Can we discuss what happened in a calm and respectful manner?”

“I am allowed to feel however I feel in this moment. Can you accept that I might feel differently than you?”

“It is not okay to belittle me for the way I am feeling. If you continue to do so I am going to walk away.”

“I don’t think that telling me this information in public is a good place for this conversation. Can we wait until we are in private?”

3) Intellectual boundaries

An intellectual boundary, is a boundary that refers to your own thoughts, mind, ideas, creativity, and curiosity. It is about other people respecting the way that you think.

Does that mean that you have to listen to other people if their point of view is abusive and harmful to you? Absolutely not.

Examples of intellectual boundaries

  • Agreeing to disagree on a topic you don’t see eye to eye on
  • Refusing to argue
  • Changing the subject if a debate is getting heated
  • Refusing to continue a conversation that isn’t going anywhere

Examples of someone not respecting intellectual boundaries

  • Someone calling you names because they don’t agree with your point of view
  • Someone pushing you to explain yourself when you are clearly trying to end the conversation
  • Someone trying to force you to agree with the way they see things

Examples of ways to express intellectual boundaries

“I’m looking forward to discussing this topic at a different time.”

“I understand that we won’t agree on this, but I am not okay with you disrespecting me.”

“We can continue this conversation if you are able to respect my point of view, but if not then I am going to end this conversation here.”

“I understand what you are saying, however my opinion is different and that is okay.”

An infograph on the six types of boundaries

4) Time boundaries

Time is something that we can never get back, so it is very important to protect it and ensure that it is spent wisely. This means that we need to create boundaries around our time in all aspects of our lives. Setting time boundaries helps to prioritize our time and ensure we don’t overcommit or waste our time.

Examples of time boundaries

  • Limiting the time you are able to spend at an event
  • Not saying yes to an event out of obligation, instead of because it is something you actually want to do
  • Not saying yes to someone when you already have other commitments
  • Charging someone for a service you normally charge for, even if someone is asking for it for free

Examples of someone not respecting time boundaries

  • Someone demanding time from you
  • Sometime keeping you busy with a task longer than they said they would
  • Showing up late because we overcommitted
  • Canceling on something because we overcommitted
  • People asking professionals for their time without compensating them

Examples of ways to express time boundaries

“Yes, I can help you with that. My rate per hour is-“

“Do you have time to talk to me today?”

“I have yoga on Tuesdays so I can’t make it.”

“I can come, but I can only stay for an hour.”

“I would like to be included but I have prior commitments. Is there a different time that works instead?”

5) Sexual boundaries

Healthy sexual boundaries are the ways we let other people know what our limits are when it comes to sexual activity and our sexuality.

Examples of sexual boundaries

  • Discussing contraception
  • Asking for consent
  • Saying no, or revoking our consent
  • Respecting the privacy of the other party
  • Saying no to things we don’t want to do
  • Discussing desires and preferences

Examples of someone disrespecting sexual boundaries

  • Pressure to participate in sexual activities
  • Lying about sexual history
  • Lying or using deception when it comes to contraceptive use
  • Unwanted touch or sexual activity
  • Pressuring, convincing, or manipulating someone into sexual activity
  • Unwanted sexual comments
  • Sending unwanted sexual images
  • Not asking for consent

Examples of ways to express sexual boundaries:

“Are you okay?”

“I would like to try [insert activity here]. Is that something you are okay with trying?”

“Do you feel comfortable with this?”

“Do you want to have sex?”

“Stop. I don’t like this.”

“I don’t feel like having sex tonight.”

“Tell me what you like.”

6) Material Boundaries

Material boundaries are boundaries around personal items and possessions such as money, homes, cars, electronics, jewelry etc.

They are the limits you set on how you expect your material items to be treated by other people.

Examples of material boundaries

  • Letting someone borrow your car for the weekend
  • Lending someone money as long as they pay you back by a certain date
  • Saying no to lending someone a possession

Examples of someone disrespecting material boundaries

  • Not returning a possession at the agreed-upon time
  • Destroying someone’s material object
  • Taking someone’s possession without asking permission first
  • Using someone else’s possession for something outside of what was agreed upon

Examples of ways to express setting material boundaries

“Yes, I can lend you $50 as long as you pay me back in a week”

“No, I don’t feel comfortable with you borrowing my car.”

“I am not going to lend you any of my possessions any longer. The last time I lent you my Ipad you dropped it and cracked the screen.”

The more comfortable we become with setting boundaries, the more other people will start to respect them.

When we set boundaries we protect ourselves and help to get the respect that we deserve as well as to improve our relationships and reduce conflict.

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