Let's talk about setting healthy boundaries

Let's talk about setting healthy boundaries

Let's talk about boundaries

Jonah Hill's ex-girlfriend Sarah Brady sparked a widespread dialogue about boundaries this week when she revealed their text messages highlighting specific “boundaries” he had for their relationship. To make a very long, clouded story short: Jonah expressed that he needed Sarah, a professional surfer, to change certain behaviors — including posting photos surfing in bathing suits, surfing with or being friends with men, or spending time with women from her “recent wild past.” He stated that if she continued to do any of these things, he would leave the relationship. In his words: “These are my boundaries for romantic partnership.”

So, what is a boundary?

According to Therapist Aid, Boundaries are “limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say ‘no’ to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships.” Boundaries are self-made barriers on what you are comfortable with/ comfortable doing. Boundaries are not rules or regulations for another person. As a rule of thumb, boundaries should make both people feel comfortable, safe, and heard.

What would a healthy boundary look like in this case?
In this specific case with Jonah and Sarah, Jonah was weaponizing “therapy speak” AKA using the word “boundary” to police Sarah’s behavior. A correct way for Jonah to set boundaries with Sarah could be saying something like “I can’t handle how jealous I feel when I look at the comments on your Instagram posts, so I am going to take a break from social media while I work on my feelings of jealousy.” Notice how in this case, the boundary would be Jonah getting off Instagram, not Sarah halting her own posts. 

What do examples of boundaries look like?

Renowned author and podcaster Glennon Doyle explains a lack of boundaries as “saying yes when you actually want to say no.” How many times have you let your friends talk you into a night of going out when you knew you wanted to order a Domino's pizza and binge Love Island in bed? (Answer: a lot of times). An idea for setting a boundary in this situation would be to preface your intentions for the weekend in the groupchat. Something a little like, “I know there are a lot of fun things going on the next couple of days, but I’m exhausted and want to take care of myself. I hope you all have lots of fun but please respect my choice to stay in and take some recharge time this weekend. ❤️” Note: See how this boundary is fully focused on the person setting it, not restricting the group they are addressing? 

Who to set boundaries with

You can set boundaries with anyone you have a relationship with, like friends, family, coworkers, or partners, but these boundaries are ultimately an agreement with YOURSELF. After the transition to work-from-home life in 2020, many people chose to start setting work boundaries. When you’re working from home, the lines between work and personal time start to get blurred (can catch me doing laundry in between meetings). Deciding something like I will not be answering emails after 6 pm or I am not taking a phone call during the weekend unless it’s an emergency are great examples of these boundaries. You’re not telling your boss “you can’t email me after 6 pm” (goodluck with that lol) but alternatively that you will not be checking your phone then.

How do I practice setting boundaries in my relationships?

So, let’s put these newfound boundaries into practice. I’m going to share a few boundaries I have in my personal life and why I find them helpful. Hopefully this will help you set some boundaries of your own :) 

With friends:

My friend group has created the mutual boundary (after many deleted Instagram photos) that we won’t post photos of each other on social media without permission. This ensures that everyone is comfortable with what is going on the Internet. And that previous going out example? Yep, that's a real one for me. I have mastered the art of expressing a boundary when I decide to stay home or not join a group activity and I do not want to be guilted into it. 

With my partner: 

Even before my boyfriend and I started dating, we had lots of conversations about boundaries and expectations. I set the precedent at the beginning of my relationship that I like to live in the moment and not be attached to my phone, constantly reporting to another person. In both my past and current relationships it was a short-long-distance situation (a couple hours drive away). With my ex, I did not set this boundary and it ended up being a huge point of contention. I felt like I could never live in the moment or enjoy time with my friends without needing to update him on my every move. He wanted round-the-clock communication to feel comfortable in the relationship, but that was not something I wanted to (or could) give.

With my current boyfriend, I communicated this boundary before we started dating. I love talking and updating each other at the end of the day, but when I’m working, or out at dinner with friends, or just taking a walk and listening to my new favorite podcast, I want to be present in that moment. So, plz don’t expect an immediate reply from me, I’m not mad at you, I'm just living. Maybe it’s not very Gen-Z of me, but I don’t want to have a relationship that lives in my phone. Since this boundary was set from the beginning, we have a mutual understanding and clear expectation of communication when we’re apart. And luckily, he feels the same! 

With family:

Boundaries with family can be trickier but have the potential to transform these relationships in the best way. My therapist helped me understand how to set and practice healthy boundaries with my parents. This was particularly important when I lived at home for three months. Boundaries gave me the ability to set time aside for myself, as well as spend time with my family. On holidays, I decided that I will not talk about religion or politics at the dinner table. While I am always itching to bring up these very topics, my decision to not engage definitely minimizes any possible fighting LOL. 

With work: 

Plain and simple, unless it’s a special circumstance, I don’t check my computer Friday evening- Sunday evening. Work/life balance is key. I am lucky to work for a company that values it! 

What boundaries are NOT 

Trying to change who a person fundamentally is is not setting a boundary. If you feel like you need your partner/friend/etc to transform into a new person in order to be comfortable in your relationship, you are probably just with the wrong person.

Things that are not a boundary: telling someone they can’t bring up a specific topic, asking someone to change the way they dress/eat/talk/live, or really anything. Boundaries are something you set to change your own behaviors, not someone else’s. 

Betches published a satirical article about boundaries for women to set if you want a good laugh. Disclaimer: this is exactly what boundaries are not

Podcasts to listen to if you want to set boundaries and you need help to start

We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle

Unlocking Us with Brene Brown

On Purpose with Jay Shetty


And to Jonah Hill, a little piece of advice: if you don’t want a girlfriend who posts photos in bathing suits, don’t date a professional surfer.

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