Defining boundaries in Relationships – setting priorities in life

Defining boundaries in Relationships – setting priorities in life

Veena Sethuraman

TedX Speaker, Head Learning & Development, InMobi


All of us are in the constant process of giving and taking energy in our interactions and encounters with other human beings. Irrespective of whether this happens in an intimate circle, social circle/social media or professional circle, we do get impacted by this energy and we do impact others positively or negatively.
For me, this has been a constantly evolving journey. To learn to define and re-define these boundaries in relationships,  in an authentic, mindful and healthy way has been a therapeutic and churning journey, to say the least.

And it is not easy!

The Most difficult boundaries in relationships

One of my therapy clients who has a narcissist father, moved out of her house to stay alone at the age of 18, to stop getting abused physically and emotionally by her father. She continued her studies with the amount she earned from her day time job. Once she got a job, she got her mother to stay with her and took care of her.

Her clarity in creating a boundary with her parent amazed me, because, the most difficult one to define boundaries in relationships, is the one with parents. Here, the boundary is defined by nature, since birth. While the relationship may assume various shapes and sizes over time, to re-define boundaries with parents is never easy. It can fill us with guilt and sadness. Many people continue to suffer because of the “natural obligation” they tend to feel towards this relationship; and hence, continue to carry the unhealthy boundaries loyally.

I recently exited a whatsapp group which drained my energy, in spite of my need to feel belonged there. On one side, while I realized my need to feel belonged in that group; on the other, I realized that it is a social need in me and not a personal need. The amount of mindless dialogues happening in that group made me grasp, that I may never feel belonged there, as that was not my tribe.

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But the “stuck-ness” I experienced was because of the inner conflict between “how much should I take from them and respond?” and “how much should I ignore?”.

The insight that, I cannot allow myself to get impacted beyond a certain level, helped me conclude that, I will be in a better position to handle them if I were not part of that group; and I exited. I must say, it did save a lot of energy in me and it helped me handle the people involved in an outside whatssap context much more authentically and mindfully. In this case, I had to define one type of boundary with the people involved in whatssap. With the same people, I had to re-define my boundary in a face to face context to create a healthy impact.

Another common difficult scenario is the couple relationship. The boundary in this relationship would be ever evolving and would need to be constantly defined and re-defined to ensure that the relationship is a space to not just give and take love. It is also a space of respect, trust and fun.

I remember how a friend of mine told me once, “There are many instances we have had fights and differences of opinion. While in all those instances, my love for him has never changed, my respect and trust for him has oscillated many a times. And every time, keeping my love intact, I have behaved with him to ensure that I get the respect I deserve.” In her case, with the same person, every day is a new day, when it comes to boundaries. But as she said “Who can afford to have the same boundary forever?”

Some insights on managing boundaries in relationships

– Its ok to define and re-define our boundaries in our various relationships.
– We would need to define different boundaries with different folks.
– With the same person/or set of people, boundaries could be consciously defined and redefined based on the context.
– The more clarity you get about the boundaries you want to keep, the less you get negatively impacted.
– Last, but not the least. All these are applicable for others as well, for them to keep their boundaries with you.

Keeping boundaries is not about becoming selfish. It is about prioritizing your self-care and self-love.

Because you deserve it.



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Ritoo GoswamiSreeanandmmGanesh Kumar R Recent comment authors
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Sirish Rao

Very well explained Veena …

Ganesh Kumar R
Ganesh Kumar R

Defining boundaries comes with experience and maturity. Nicely articulated by Venna !!!!


Excellent… Redefining the scripts in Terms of TA. Well explained with appropriate examples. And I’m on the way ..

Ritoo Goswami
Ritoo Goswami

Excellent article!


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