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Setting boundaries in relationships is a vital step in living a healthy life. The people you surround yourself with can have a big impact on your emotional state and mental stability. With Gen X women having parents, children, friends and colleagues to think about, setting boundaries in different areas can be tricky.

But setting healthy boundaries with the people in your life is easier when those people are healthy. Healthy people usually have their own boundaries and are unlikely to cross yours. They are more likely to understand and respect what you put in place.

What Are Boundaries​?

So what are healthy boundaries and why should you set them? Boundaries are like the rules of engagement for your life. They represent the values you have and make clear the behaviors you will and won’t accept in your life. Generally speaking, boundaries are about regulating the way others treat you, and what parts of your life they are allowed into.

When Should You Set Boundaries?

It’s best to establish boundaries early in relationships, or as soon as possible, as you or the relationship changes to give the other person time to adjust. Without these boundaries unhealthy and manipulative people will test you to see how much you will tolerate. If you don’t put up boundaries they won’t change their behavior. They will push you to see what they can get away with.  They don’t tend to evolve or become better on their own.

How to Set Boundaries?

Setting boundaries with family and friends isn’t easy, especially because these are already established relationships.  But you must put parameters around what behavior is acceptable to you and what is not.  This is something that is unique to each person.  It is imperative that you are vocal when someone has crossed a boundary.  Politely let them know how they’ve hurt you and why.  This also opens up the door to what could be a healthy conversation that can lead to a better understanding of each other.

Who Should You Set Boundaries With?

Setting boundaries with family won’t be the same as setting boundaries with friends. And boundaries for partners will be different than those for co-workers. But each group, and the individuals within them, need a set of guidelines to interact with you respectfully and appropriately. Keep in mind what is and is not acceptable for each person, even if you don’t expect them to cross you. You want to be prepared just in case it happens.

What Boundaries Should Be Set?


Family members need to know what part of your life is their business, and what isn’t. And that what you choose to include them in is your choice.  Just because they’re family doesn’t give them a pass.  You don’t necessarily need or want their advice or opinions on everything. And you won’t tolerate guilt, shaming, criticism or abuse.


Friends should know your boundaries, values and ethical code. And though you may not end the friendship because of their behavior toward others, they should know what you will and won’t accept. You may start to require people have or not have a certain mentality or way of living to be in your life. Even if they treat you well, their bad habits or risky behaviors could put your safety and peace of mind in jeopardy.


Partners are usually the closest and most intimate relationships Gen Xers have. So boundaries in these situations can be the most important, but are often the most lenient. It is important your partner know your deal breakers, along with what can harm the relationship in other ways. Don’t establish boundaries you don’t plan to defend. Otherwise your partner will walk all over you and not take you at your word.


Colleagues and other work relationships have guidelines set by the employer that direct expectations and acceptable interactions. But set firm boundaries on your own to make sure manipulative people don’t try to take advantage of you. It is important to note that certain behaviors in the workplace may require intervention from Human Resources if certain lines are crossed.

How to Defend Challenged Boundaries?

Be read for someone to question the boundaries you’re attempting to set or the reasons behind them. But don’t feel obligated to explain yourself. You can if you would like to, however, the intention behind boundaries is to make sure your life is as healthy and happy as possible. So the people in your life need to treat you respectfully and appropriately. Your boundaries are based on what you want in your life, not what others think you should take from them.

How to Defend Crossed Boundaries?

Before a boundary is crossed you should have in your mind what your next step is to prevent acting rash or emotional.  Depending on what the offense is you can give a warning and restate what you will and won’t tolerate. You can also take some space from the relationship, and when you’re ready agree to slowly working your way back to where you were as long as you’re seeing consistent acceptable behavior for a period of time. Or you can end the relationship if there is no way to maintain your health, happiness, and values by keeping this person in your life. Blood relationships won’t dissolve, but you don’t need to acknowledge or engage family that crosses your boundaries.

You get to decide how the people in your life treat you. Likewise, you will have to accept other people’s boundaries to be in their lives. You may not like or agree with it, but it’s best to keep unreasonable people at arms length anyway. Setting boundaries with family, friends, or really anyone, is a part of a healthy life. And upholding them when challenged will reinforce the respect you believe you deserve.

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