Stop Trying To Change Other People

You can only control yourself, anyway.

Problems in relationships often occur when there is a lack of, or confusion around, personal boundaries.

Boundaries, like fences, tell us what belongs to us… and what doesn’t. In a relationship, it’s more of an invisible bubble around “me” and “you.”

State Forest boundary marker.

Since it’s not so obvious as a fence, sometimes navigating personal boundaries can be tricky. Especially when one person seems unused to, or unable to, respect and acknowledge them.

Personal Boundaries

We all need personal boundaries, whether we realize it or not. By setting boundaries, we clarify who is responsible for what.

We can set boundaries for things like our:

  • Emotions
  • Thoughts
  • Personal space
  • Sexuality
  • Values and ethics
  • Belongings
  • Time and how we spend our energy

How To Set Boundaries

Start by asking yourself, “What areas of my life feel out of control?” Make a list, and next to each area that shows up, evaluate what kind of boundaries are there.

There are three types of personal boundaries:

  1. Rigid: These kinds of boundaries are like walls. You can’t get in, no matter how hard you might try.
  2. Porous: These boundaries are barely noticeable, even nonexistent. They may change from one day to the next. Porous boundaries often lead to the most confusion.
  3. Healthy: In healthy boundaries, there is some kind of clear expectation, with a way to get in/out; a fence with a gate or opening and rules posted.

Once you identify the types of boundaries you have in your life, it’s time to consider where you want to improve.

All too often we complain that others don’t do what we wish they would do, or they do too much of something they don’t want.

Maybe boundaries need to be clarified.

Back to the Fence Analogy

There are some cases for the old adage “fences make good neighbors,” If you have a dog and want to make sure they stay on your property and don’t cause problems by “getting loose” (my dog, all the time!), a fence is a good idea.

Fencing in a home would be an example of a “rigid boundary” and it might be very appropriate for some relationship situations as well.

For example, what if you don’t like someone calling you all the time late at night?

Take Action.

Change the setting on your phone to “Do Not Disturb” at the time you prefer to be left alone.


You can tell your friend that you’ve created this personal boundary to protect your evening peace and quiet, and it’s not a slight against them.

This kind of communication around boundaries is absolutely essential.

Evaluate Honestly.

On the other hand, if your boundaries are VERY rigid, and they leave you feeling closed off from the world and you wish you had more connection, perhaps you need to loosen them up a bit.

Boundaries Give Us Freedom

When our personal boundaries are clearly defined, we have freedom to act however we wish. If other people don’t like it, well, they are responsible for their own feelings, which is part of THEIR boundaries.

We are not responsible for anyone’s feelings but our own.

We need personal boundaries to define what is our responsibility, and what isn’t.

This is how we become our best selves.

In what ways do boundaries come easily for you? What areas are they more difficult?

When You Have Variation In Your Boundaries

It’s normal to have healthy boundaries in some parts of your life, but in others there’s room for improvement.

Boundary setting is an ongoing process which evolves along with you. Changes in your life are going to require boundary adjustments. Don’t feel guilty about changing a boundary, especially if there’s a major change in your life (say, a new job or baby!)

Hopefully, if you’ve set clear boundaries with people they will be willing to adjust and adapt!

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