Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in relationships where we need to define a boundary. But what is a boundary? Think of a boundary as a property line.  For your house, you know exactly where your yard ends and your neighbor’s yard begins. The same principle applies when it comes to our own relational property. There is a line of where I end and you begin—and it is up to us to show others where that line is.

Do we want a thick wall around ourselves to keep people out? No. Do we want an open yard where any one can walk on the grass or throw trash in our yard? No. We want a fence with a gate that gives us the ability to let people in and out as we determine.

So how do we build that in ourselves? We set limits so people know what we will allow and what we won’t allow. And we should do this in love.

There are three parts to setting a boundary:

  1. Let them know you are for them: No one is a villain here. Many people have no idea they even crossed your boundary because you never let them know. Start your conversation from a place of compassion instead of anger.
  2. State what happened and how it made you feel: This is not a time for blaming, attacking or accusing, instead we are to own what happened and our feelings in it. This helps the other listen to what you are saying without having to be defensive.
  3. Help them understand what you want for your relationship in the future:  This is where you will set the line so they now know what it is you desire in the relationship.

For example: Your spouse is late for dinner and it is becoming consistent.  Instead of arguing or accusing, sit them down and say “I love you and I know you have a great work ethic, and that work ethic is keeping you from being home for dinner. When that happens, I am afraid that you don’t want to be home with us for dinner and it hurts my feelings. In the future, I would like you to call me as soon as you know you will be staying later so I know you are thinking of us.”

This keep dialogue open and your needs known.

Setting limits in love is hard, which is one reason why we created the Marriage Workshop for couples to learn how to talk to each other in a way that they can be heard and understood. We have had couples tell us that they have had more effective and connecting conversation in the one weekend than they had in the last 2 years.  We hope you can join us!

Lindsey Castleman, marriage and family counselor Connect with her at Sign up for the next marriage event at