Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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Healthy Relationships, Healthy Boundaries


By Greta Whittemore, MA, LCPC, Therapist, John R. Day & Associates, Christian Psychological Associates


Over the past several months, I have noticed that I have been talking a lot about boundaries in relationships and how good boundaries aid in our mental health. My clients often present scenarios in which they want to keep information about a situation or issue to themselves, but feel compelled to share this information to others who inquire, especially family members. Many people believe that familial or close relationships should not need boundaries. I contend, along with others mental health, that if we want to keep our relationships healthy, boundaries are a must. So what is a boundary in a relationship anyway?

Like other boundaries found in our world, such as fences around a property, a relational boundary defines where one person begins and another ends. Physical boundaries, otherwise referred to as a “personal bubble” define the physical distance between people where all feel comfortable. For most friendly and familiar relationships, this is about arms-length distance. For strangers, the distance is greater, for spouses and children, it is closer. Informational and emotional boundaries define what level of access others have to our personal information, thoughts, and feelings. This level of access allowed should be based on the level of trust earned by demonstrating responsibility and wisdom in the information given. One example is our online passwords or social security numbers. This information given to responsible persons helps us navigate our world; when given or stolen by irresponsible persons can bring financial ruin. Another example, perhaps less often acknowledged, is sharing personal problems or situations. When shared with people who acknowledge the responsibility that comes with having this information, we receive a listening and compassionate ear, advice when asked for sans judgment or criticism or attempts to control our situation, and assurance that information will be kept in confidence. Conversely, in the hands of an irresponsible person, sharing can leave you feeling isolated, controlled, manipulated, and betrayed. Over time without boundaries, you will become bitter and resentful and increasingly unable to trust anyone or seek appropriate support. So as we begin a new year, how can you put boundaries in place to keep your relationships healthy?

Examine your relationships and determine what levels of access you want to give others. Use the drawing below to plot out your relationships and levels of access others can have depending on how responsible they are with your personal information. Write your initial in the centermost circle and then write names of those you can trust the most in the circles closer to you and names of others you can trust less in the circles further out.

Understand and accept that people will move in and out of levels of access throughout your life. Often, people struggle with feeling like a bad daughter/son/sister/brother when they refrain from sharing problems or issues because they anticipate judgment, criticism, unrequested advice, attempts to control or manipulate, or become subject to gossip. As an adult capable of making your own decisions and choices, you are not compelled to keep an irresponsible family member in your inner circle if they cannot be trusted. You will become frustrated and resentful expecting people to change because of their family role to you.

When communicating a new boundary with another, be prepared for push back and calmly stand your ground. As Lysa TerKeurst, in her 2022 book, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes, shares, “Children explain, Adults inform.” As an adult, you do not need to justify or explain why you have set a boundary nor need approval from the one with which you are setting the boundary The other person may very well not like the change and attempt to get you to revert to your old patterns by emotional manipulation tactics or threatening to withdraw from the relationship. If you find this is the case and you are having difficulty with knowing how to create boundaries and maintain your boundaries, seek help from a psychotherapist that can help you.

     Read about boundaries from reliable sources. I have found two authors who have written books that are most helpful in understanding and enforcing boundaries, Henry Townsend’s Boundaries books (Boundaries, Boundaries Face to Face, Boundaries in Marriage) and Lysa TerKeurst’s book mentioned above.


           For more information or to book an appointment, contact John R. Day & Associates, Christian Psychological Associates at phone 309-692-7755 or visit us online at We have an office in Peoria at 3716 W. Brighton Ave., as well as in Bloomington, Canton, Pekin, Eureka, and Champaign.