The Six Types of Boundaries

Abbey Williams

Boundaries are healthy and essential limits one sets for themselves in their relationship with others as well as with themselves. It is important to understand what boundaries are, what they look like, how we can uphold them, and the positive benefits to establishing healthy boundaries in order to protect ourselves and respect ourselves. There are six different types of personal boundaries and each serves an important role in maintaining our peace and safety.

So what are the six types of personal boundaries? Let’s talk about it!

Physical

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Physical boundaries are probably the most obvious when we think about boundaries. You think about your space and the way in which our society has set us up and physical boundaries appear to be everywhere. We have property lines and maybe even a fence to establish the physical boundaries of our yard. We have lanes we drive in on the roads that act as physical boundaries to keep ourselves and others safe.

But what about the lanes we create in our relationships to keep ourselves and others safe? Are those physical boundaries as clearly defined as the ones that keep our space?

The answer may be, no. Physical boundaries differ from person to person. A physical boundary is what you are comfortable with regarding your physical space. This may include who you feel comfortable hugging or kissing or maybe if you are comfortable with someone touching your pregnant belly or your hair. Establishing boundaries around who and how you allow others to engage in your physical space is solely up to each individual.

Mental

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Mental boundaries is another form of boundaries that people may think of when they think about what boundaries mean to them. These boundaries are related to your thoughts and feelings and may be more to protect your peace than to protect your physical self. A violation of mental boundaries may look like having your reality denied or having someone in your life who tries to control what you think or believe.

What does it mean when someone puts down our feelings? How does this negatively impact our mental well-being and cross the line of our mental boundaries?

Everyone has the right to their ideas, opinions, and feelings. It is important to respect one another’s feelings and opinions which equally means not pushing your feelings and opinions onto someone who disagrees with you. Additionally, it is important to create boundaries for ourselves that create a productive mindset rather than a destructive one.

Emotional

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Emotional boundaries can run parallel to our above mental boundaries. These boundaries serve the purpose to not allow for emotional dumping or dismissing emotions. These are two opposite things that can happen in relationships, but it is important to establish boundaries around how others share their emotions with you and how they respond to your emotions.

You may not be in the emotional mindset to take on a hard topic of conversation or maybe it is a topic you wish not to discuss at all as you deem it inappropriate. This emotional boundary communicates this need and tells the other person that you do not wish to engage in the conversation.

Enmeshment happens when there is a lack of boundaries in our emotional states. When one takes on the emotions of the other person they are in a relationship and their emotions are now your emotions, enmeshment is formed in the relationship which is an unhealthy relationship dynamic. Improving emotional boundaries comes from a lot of reflective work and looking within. This can be done through journaling, meditating, etc.

Material

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Material boundaries are the limits we place on our possessions and the things we own. These boundaries will create understanding to how and when things can be used. This allows others to know how to treat our belongings and if they can have use them.

Material boundaries may be made with our car, money, or any other possession that is yours. Maybe you make boundaries about who and how much money you will loan to friends and family. Maybe there is an instance where lending money is enabling and a boundary must be placed.

There are many reasons for establishing a material boundary, but clearly stating your boundary regarding your possession can help ease your mind and let others know where you stand.

Sexual

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Sexual boundaries are important in intimate relationships as well as with others you come in contact in all settings. These boundaries refer to the expectations you may have surrounding physical intimacy, sexual comments, and other forms of sexual content. These boundaries help one feel safe and provide a level of comfort.

Sexual boundaries are not just important in intimate relationships, but also with the other people in your life. This might mean creating boundaries regarding how a coworker talks to you, how a family member touches you, or how you engage in physical intimacy with a partner. There are many forms of sexual boundaries and each are vital in honoring your physical and emotional safety.

Time

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Time boundaries are maybe one of the increasingly more difficult boundaries to establish, uphold, and maintain in today’s society. In a world that demand productivity and instant gratification, the time is money saying becomes louder and louder.

Time boundaries may include lateness, favors or free labor, and when one can be contacted. It is important to be protecting your time in an attempt to preserve your energy and create peace. This means prioritizing your time for yourself, your partner, your family and utilizing your time in a manner that honors your values while maintaining your energy is a time boundary that is worth having.

The six categories of boundaries are important. Each have great value to add to one’s life.

Some questions you may ask yourself when identifying if you need boundaries in each of these categories may include:

  • What are your physical boundaries? Do you hug individuals when you greet them or do you prefer a handshake?
  • What are your mental boundaries? Are there topics of conversation that you have a hard time with and need to set boundaries around?
  • What are your emotional boundaries? Are you able to separate your emotions from other’s emotions?
  • What are your material boundaries? Do you lend things?
  • What are your sexual boundaries? What are you comfortable with in your intimate relationships?
  • What are your time boundaries? How do you spend your energy?

Effective boundaries preserve your peace, keep you safe, and make your relationships stronger.

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Abbey Williams is the producer and host of the Mimosas with Moms Podcast, content creator of the social media platforms @mimosaswithmoms, and mother of 4. She is committed to supporting, empowering, and connecting with mothers in all seasons of motherhood. She navigates her blended family/coparenting life with her husband, four kids, and two sister labs.

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