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We all have our emotional limits — and it’s important to recognize them in order to set clear boundaries. Unfortunately, life can be incredibly overwhelming at times, making it difficult for us to regulate our emotions and to have awareness around when enough is enough.
Growing up in an environment that is dismissive or invalidating to our emotional needs, often creates a pattern of connection in relationships where we abandon our own needs to care for the emotions of those we love.
Suppressing emotional needs and limits over time can result in relationships with ineffective boundaries and a significant stage of the healing process involves improving awareness of our own emotional needs and limits to know what we feel and need in our relationships with ourselves AND our loved ones.
Here are a few simple ways you (or your loved ones) can recognize emotional limits as well as set healthy boundaries that promote open, healthy, and happy relationships with the people you love!
Become Aware of your Somatic (Body) Response to Feeling Uncomfortable
How does your body physically respond to feeling uncomfortable in an interaction (i.e. knot in stomach, holding breath, tension in legs, face feeling hot, urge to cry/run away, etc.)?
Once you have a clear understanding your somatic and emotional response to feeling uncomfortable in interactions with others, it will be easier to honor that feelings for yourself and know when to communicate a boundary or need to others.
Building emotional trust with yourself involves recognizing both somatic and emotional signs of discomfort and VALIDATING these feelings! In the healing process from past trauma, it is important to acknowledge and honor feelings of discomfort as signs that a boundary may need to be established in a relationship.
Define Your Limits
The next step in setting effective boundaries in relationships is to define your limits. What are you willing and not willing to do? What are your deal-breakers? What are triggers for you from past relationships? What unhealthy interactions and behaviors of intergenerational trauma in your family are you unwilling to continue?
Knowing our limits when interacting with others is key for maintaining healthy relationships. We all have a different threshold for how much we are comfortable with, and it is important to take the time to know and understand these limits in order to protect ourselves from feeling overwhelmed or taken advantage of. It is also important to consider our emotional capacity on any given day and how this capacity may impact our limits in relationships with others.
Setting boundaries can help us communicate more effectively, as well as give us the space we need to process our emotions and be able to handle whatever life throws at us without feeling drained. Knowing what our boundaries are helps us move forward in life with confidence and respect for ourselves and those around us.
Communicate Your Boundaries
This can be difficult, but it is important to be assertive and clear about what you need and expect from the relationship. Remember that you have a right to set and enforce your own boundaries, and don’t be afraid to say “no” if someone asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. Refer to the list below for examples on how to set a boundary with loved ones.
- I appreciate your support and guidance, but I need to make my own decisions.
- I’m not ready to talk about this right now and need some space.
- Please respect my privacy when it comes to certain topics – politics, religion…
- I’d like a little more time and space before making any commitments.
- I need you to acknowledge my feelings, even if they differ from yours.
- I will share information with you when I’m ready, but please don’t pressure me for it right now.
- I need you to honor my wishes even when it’s difficult.
- It makes me feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed, when you yell at the television during sports games.
- I’m feeling frustrated, so please give me some space while we work this out.
- When things get too intense, I need some time to decompress and process before continuing the conversation.
- Please acknowledge that my feelings are valid – even if they clash with yours – and discuss them without judgment or criticism.
Use the DEARMAN skill to communicate boundaries and get your needs met in relationships.
Be Willing to Compromise
While it is important to set firm boundaries, it is also important to be willing to compromise. There may be some areas where you are willing to budge, and others where you are not. The key is to find a balance that works for both parties involved and allows you to honor your emotional experience and needs to create a feeling of safety.
Respect Others’ Boundaries
Just as you expect others to respect your boundaries, it is important that you respect theirs as well. If someone tells you “no,” don’t take it personally or try to push them into doing something they don’t want to do. Everyone has a right to set their own limits, and it’s important that we all respect each other’s autonomy.
Why Do We Need to Set Boundaries in Relationships?
Setting healthy boundaries is incredibly important for maintaining a life of balance and peace. It is an essential process for creating respectful relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Boundaries are about drawing clear lines between what we feel comfortable with and what makes us feel uncomfortable.
It is important to be honest about these boundaries in order to protect ourselves from situations that are emotionally draining or hurtful. When we set healthy boundaries, our confidence in ourselves will grow and allow us to feel safe in any environment we find ourselves in. Learning how to respect our own boundaries will also help us recognize when others need the same thing.
Knowing and setting boundaries for ourselves in our relationships with others is a necessary part of creating a life of balance and peace. Taking the time to learn what is comfortable for us and communicating that clearly can help us protect ourselves from feeling overwhelmed or taken advantage of, while also respecting those around us and improving our overall communication in relationships.
When we understand our own limits, we can handle whatever life throws at us with confidence and clarity. Setting healthy boundaries is an important step in creating respectful relationships that are built on trust and understanding.