Photo of a line drawn in the sand
Where do you draw the line? Boundaries make for healthier relationships

Change your life: Defining boundaries

28 April, 2014

I recently spotted a sign at the entrance to a building site.

Clearly intended for those working on the site, its message couldn’t have been simpler:




I found myself thinking, if only we could be as clear, concise and straightforward in our approach to relationships how much easier things would be.

As a general rule, we seem to find it hard to state clearly what our needs are, and more specifically, what behaviour we consider to be acceptable from others and what behaviour isn’t.

So often, we skirt around the issue, drop­ping hints here and there and hoping that the other person will catch on.

” “Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want” – Joseph Wood Krutch

Establishing strong boundaries around what is and isn’t accept­able from others is extremely important for successful, healthy relationships. Boundaries are like an imaginary line of protec­tion that you draw around you.

Examples of people overstep­ping your boundaries might be: your spouse criticising you in front of others; unthinking friends who call you late at night when you’re getting ready for bed; a co-worker who makes a habit of shedding their workload onto you.

So what can we do about this? The first step is to become clear in your own mind about what behaviour is acceptable to you and what isn’t.

Then you will need to communicate this to those around you. This needn’t be done in an angry or proscriptive way. All you are doing, in effect, is making clear to others that you respect yourself and you ask that they respect you, too.

Pro rata, you could invite them to let you know if there are any ways in which you are overstepping their boundaries – and take steps to modify your behaviour accordingly.


  • Annabel Sutton is a Professional Certified Coach and Author.  She has lived in Los Angeles and Indonesia; survived earthquakes and riots, lived with head-hunters and enjoyed a portfolio career.  She now enjoys a somewhat quieter life in Somerset!  Her latest book, 52 Ways to Transform Your Life (Weekly Wisdom for Busy People), contains 52 inspiring, quick-to-read life tips and is available from . Find more information at