You've probably heard about the importance of boundaries in healthy relationships and optimal mental health. But can you ever have too much of a good thing? Can the limits you have with other people actually hinder closeness, vulnerability, or communication?
As it turns out, yes! Healthy relationship boundaries require some flexibility and adaptability. Here are some signs your lines might be too rigid.
You Cut People Off Immediately
Do you see the world in black-or-white? Do you tend to label people as 'good' or 'bad' with very little room for the vast in-between? If so, you might struggle with rigid boundaries.
Human relationships are inherently complex. If your go-to instinct is to completely abandon a relationship if someone hurts you, you might not be giving people the time, attention, or compassion to explain themselves. Ultimately, this makes it hard to form close attachments to others.
Of course, this doesn't mean tolerating abuse. You certainly have a right to end relationships that no longer serve your well-being. But if this is a persistent pattern, you may owe it to yourself to engage in some meaningful self-reflection.
You Never Change Your Mind
Do you strongly believe in your values, morals, and opinions? Do you find yourself getting angry when someone tries to challenge them? If so, you may be more stubborn than you realize, and this tendency might inadvertently impact the boundaries you have with others.
Being open-minded is an important trait for human connection. If you resist anything new or find yourself arguing constantly- you close yourself off from growing or compromising. As a result, others may find you difficult to manage.
You Don't Share Your Feelings
Do you tend to keep your secrets and fears to yourself? Do you take on other people's emotions without revealing what's going on in your world?
Boundaries are often a process of taking-and-giving emotional comfort. It requires a mutual sense of vulnerability. But if everything is one-sided and you're never the one opening up, it can cause other people to assume that you're:
always okay (even when you're not).
unable to truly express your needs or desires.
You Don't Really Care About Other People's Needs
In healthy relationships, both people must respect one another. If someone shares their need with you, they want to feel secure in that disclosure. They want to know that you won't judge or shame them.
So, if you disregard their needs- or if you laugh at them- it can send a terrible message that you don't value them as a person. This can cause other people to shut down, lie to you, or withhold true connection.
As a result, you may feel lonely in your relationships, and you will likely miss out on the benefits of close intimacy. This can cause other people to stop caring about your needs in response.
You Become Overly Defensive
How do you react when someone gives you negative feedback? What happens when someone points out a mistake or tells you that you hurt their feelings?
If denial or defensiveness are your primary responses, you are likely going to have difficulties in your relationships. These reactions signify that you aren't open to growth or learning. In addition, they show that you probably think you're above the other person.
Defensiveness can be a frustrating trait for your loved ones. They may tiptoe around you, lie about what's going on, or tell you what they think you want to hear to avoid conflict.
You Never Really Trust Others
Are you overly jealous or insecure in your relationships? Are you constantly anticipating that someone will betray or abandon you the first chance they get?
This lack of trust often comes from feeling "burnt" by trusting someone in the past. As a result, you subconsciously guard yourself when meeting new people. You avoid giving too much of yourself in case someone else takes advantage.
But it's a double-edged sword. When you refuse to trust others, you limit your ability to build genuine connections with others. Instead, you remain hypervigilant and paranoid. You almost look for reasons for people to hurt you, which can become a devastating, self-fulfilling prophecy.
What If Your Relationship Boundaries Are Too Rigid?
Rigid relationship boundaries don't make you a bad person. Most likely, you've experienced trauma or toxic relationships in the past. Your walls and defenses act as a safeguard to seemingly prevent you from being hurt again.
That said, you can work on improving your boundaries. Insight is the first step, and intentional action is a close second. You need to be aware of what you're doing, and you need to consciously decide to change your course of behavior!
Therapy and professional support can make an invaluable difference in strengthening your boundaries with others. The sooner you intervene, the better you will feel.
At the Mental Health House, we are passionate about helping individuals and their loved ones maintain meaningful, fulfilling relationships. Contact us today to learn more!