Navigating Toxic Relationships and Setting Boundaries

Toxic relationships can be emotionally and physically draining, and can leave us feeling unhappy, unsupported, and unfulfilled. They can also have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. A toxic relationship is one in which one or both parties engage in behavior that is harmful or abusive to the other person. This behavior can be overt, like verbal or physical abuse, or it can be more subtle, like manipulation or neglect. Regardless of the form it takes, toxic relationships can be damaging and need to be addressed. If you suspect that you are in a toxic relationship, it’s important to seek support and take steps to protect yourself and your well-being.

As women, it can be all too easy to get caught up in unhealthy or toxic relationships. Whether it’s with a romantic partner, a family member, a friend, or even a coworker, toxic relationships can drain our energy, undermine our self-worth, and leave us feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

But the good news is that it is possible to break free from toxic relationships and establish healthy, fulfilling ones. One important step is learning to set boundaries. Boundaries are the invisible lines that define what is and is not acceptable in our relationships. They allow us to protect ourselves and our energy, and they help us communicate our needs and expectations to others.

So how can you set healthy boundaries in your relationships? Here are a few tips:


It’s important to take the time to understand your own values, beliefs, and needs. This will help you identify what is and is not acceptable to you in a relationship. This process might involve exploring your own emotions, reflecting on your past experiences, and considering what you need in order to feel safe, respected, and fulfilled in a relationship.

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Reflect on your past experiences: Think about times when you felt happy, fulfilled, and satisfied in a relationship, and times when you felt unhappy, unfulfilled, or disrespected. What were the key differences between these experiences? What were the characteristics or behaviors of the people you were with, and what were the dynamics of the relationships? This can help you identify patterns and preferences that can guide your future boundary setting. Knowing yourself and your needs is an important step in setting and enforcing healthy boundaries in relationships.

Here are some strategies for getting to know yourself and your needs better:

  • Explore your emotions: Pay attention to your emotions and how they change in different situations. What makes you feel happy, fulfilled, or satisfied? What makes you feel unhappy, unfulfilled, or disrespected? What are your triggers for negative emotions, and what are your coping mechanisms for dealing with them? By understanding your emotional landscape, you can better identify your needs and how to meet them.
  • Identify your values: Think about what matters most to you in life, and what you stand for. What are your core values, and how do they guide your decisions and relationships? By understanding your values, you can better align your relationships with what is most important to you.
  • Seek feedback and support: Talk to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist about your needs and boundaries. Ask for their input and feedback, and listen to their perspectives. This can help you gain a more well-rounded understanding of yourself and your needs. By taking the time to get to know yourself and your needs, you can better identify what is and is not acceptable to you in a relationship, and set boundaries accordingly.

Need more information about how to identify and communicate your needs in a relationship, check this article by the Chelsea Psychology clinic here.


Once you clearly understand your needs, it’s important to communicate your boundaries to others. Be direct and assertive in expressing what you are and are not comfortable with, and use “I” statements to describe how their behavior is impacting you. For example, instead of saying “You’re always so critical of me,” you might say “I feel hurt and unsupported when you criticize me.” This helps to avoid blame or accusations, and allows the other person to understand how their actions are affecting you. Here are a few more examples

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  • Use “I” statements: You might say to a friend, “I really value our friendship, but I feel like I’m always the one initiating plans. Can we make an effort to plan things together more evenly?” This communicates your need for more equal effort in the relationship, while also expressing appreciation for the friendship. You might say to a romantic partner, “I need more affection and emotional support from you. Can we work on finding ways for you to show me love and care in the ways that matter most to me?” This communicates your need for more emotional connection, while also giving your partner specific ways to meet that need.
  • Be specific: Instead of making general statements like “You always do this,” or “You never do that,” be specific about the behavior that is causing a problem. For example, “I feel hurt when you cancel plans at the last minute,” or “I feel disregarded when you don’t listen to me when I speak.” This helps the other person understand what they need to change in order to respect your boundaries.
  • Be clear and direct: Don’t sugarcoat or minimize your boundaries. Be clear and direct in expressing what you are and are not comfortable with. For example, “I don’t want you to speak to me in that tone of voice,” or “I need you to respect my privacy and not go through my personal belongings without my permission.”
  • Practice active listening: When the other person responds to your boundary setting, practice active listening by giving them your full attention, paraphrasing what they say, and asking clarifying questions if necessary. This helps to ensure that you both understand each other’s perspectives and needs. By communicating your boundaries clearly and effectively, you can help the other person understand what is and is not acceptable in the relationship, and work together to find a way to respect each other’s boundaries.


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Just as it’s important to set and communicate our own boundaries, it’s also important to respect the boundaries of others. This means not trying to push or change someone else’s boundaries, and being willing to work within the limits they have set. It’s important to remember that everyone has different boundaries, and it’s not our place to try and change them.

Respecting the boundaries of others is an important part of building healthy relationships. Here are some tips for respecting the boundaries of others:

  • Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues: People often communicate their boundaries through verbal and nonverbal cues, such as body language, tone of voice, and eye contact. Pay attention to these cues, and be sensitive to when someone seems uncomfortable or uneasy.
  • Ask for permission: If you’re not sure about someone’s boundaries, it’s okay to ask for permission before doing something that might potentially violate them. For example, “Is it okay if I hug you?” or “Can I share this personal information with others?” This helps to ensure that you are respecting the other person’s boundaries and that they feel comfortable with your actions.
  • Respect “no”: If someone tells you “no” or sets a boundary that you don’t agree with, it’s important to respect their decision and not try to push them to change their mind. This may be difficult, especially if you care about the person, but it’s important to respect their autonomy and their right to set boundaries.
  • Be open to feedback: If someone tells you that your behavior is violating their boundaries, listen to their feedback and try to understand their perspective. Be open to making changes to your behavior in order to respect their boundaries.

By respecting the boundaries of others, you show them that you value and respect them, and that you are committed to building healthy and fulfilling relationships.


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Setting boundaries is not a one-time event – it’s an ongoing process. As we interact with others, we may need to adjust or reinforce our boundaries based on changing circumstances or needs. It’s important to be prepared to enforce our boundaries, even if it means saying no to unreasonable requests or ending a relationship that has become toxic or abusive. By standing up for ourselves and our needs, we show others that we value ourselves and our well-being.

Enforcing your boundaries is an important step in maintaining healthy relationships. Here are some tips for enforcing your boundaries:

  • Be assertive: Assertiveness means standing up for yourself and expressing your needs and boundaries clearly and directly. Don’t be afraid to say “no” or to express your needs and limits.
  • Use “I” statements: When enforcing your boundaries, use “I” statements to describe how the other person’s behavior is impacting you, rather than blaming or accusing them. For example, “I feel disrespected when you cancel plans at the last minute,” or “I feel hurt when you speak to me in that tone of voice.” Set consequences: If the other person continues to violate your boundaries, consider setting consequences for their behavior. For example, you might say “If you cancel plans at the last minute again, I will not be available for future plans with you.” Consequences should be appropriate and respectful, and should not involve any form of abuse.
  • Seek support: If you are having trouble enforcing your boundaries, consider seeking the support of a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. They can provide guidance and encouragement as you work to assert yourself and protect your boundaries.
  • By enforcing your boundaries, you show the other person that you value yourself and your well-being, and that you are committed to building healthy, fulfilling relationships.

Here are 8 simple things to think about when setting boundaries.

Culled from the

  1. Visualize and Name Your Limits.
  2. Openly Communicate Your Boundaries.
  3. Reiterate and Uphold Your Boundaries.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No.
  5. Take Time for Yourself.
  6. How Much Time You Spend Together.
  7. Setting Physical and Sexual Boundaries.
  8. Respecting Emotional Boundaries.

Benefits Of Setting Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries is an important aspect of self-care and can have numerous benefits for both individuals and their relationships. Some benefits of setting boundaries include:

  1. Increased respect: By setting boundaries, you show others that you value yourself and your needs, and that you expect them to respect those needs. This can lead to increased respect and appreciation from others.
  2. Improved communication: Setting boundaries can improve communication by helping to clarify what is and is not acceptable in a relationship, and by giving people the opportunity to express their needs and expectations.
  3. Enhanced self-esteem: Setting boundaries helps you to assert yourself and to stand up for what you believe in. This can lead to increased self-esteem and self-confidence, as you learn to value and respect yourself.
  4. Greater control: Setting boundaries gives you greater control over your life, as you are able to decide what is and is not acceptable to you, and to take steps to protect yourself from harm.
  5. Improved relationships: Setting boundaries can improve relationships by creating a sense of trust, respect, and understanding between people. It can also help to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts, as people are able to communicate their needs and expectations more clearly.

Overall, setting boundaries is an important part of maintaining healthy and fulfilling relationships, and can lead to numerous benefits for individuals and their relationships.

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