Let’s start by examining boundaries and the types of boundaries we need in our lives. Oftentimes, when we identify an area where we need to set boundaries, it could cross over into several boundary types, but these are the four general types every person needs:
Physical. This type is the easiest to define. It’s the boundary between your person and your property, and another’s. Crossed boundaries here could relate to too much intimacy -- as in one person taking advantage of another’s personal space and, ultimately, sexuality -- or to our resources. If someone always “borrows” our money or asks us to pick up the check, it’s an example of the person taking advantage of our physical “stuff” -- what’s ours to do with as we please.
Mental boundaries have to do with our thoughts. When we can listen to another’s point of view and still maintain our own, that’s maintaining our mental boundaries. If someone continually argues his or her point of view in an effort to get you to agree, that person is crossing your mental boundaries.
Emotional boundaries allow us to have our own feelings. If you’ve ever had a friend who repeatedly called you to spew their “emotional garbage” on you and left you feeling awful, you’ve been a victim of crossed emotional boundaries. This is not to say you can’t empathize with friends and family, but when you start taking on issues that belong to someone else, you likely need to set some boundaries.
Spiritual. These boundaries allow us to define our relationship with God, even when others try to impose their beliefs on us. They also tell us when to step aside and let God work in our lives or in others. Many times, we stretch our boundaries in order to “help” someone, forgetting that they need to help themselves and that we are not God. We can’t do it all.