Recognizing healthy limits is a critical skill for everyone to develop. Healthy limits help us to recognize and change behavior that is damaging to ourselves and our relationships, and they can be used in every area of your life. Learning to establish healthy limits takes time and practice, especially if you’ve been conditioned to have weak boundaries or no boundaries at all. Also, some limits can be fluid, so it’s important to recognize that limits can and sometimes should change just like you grow and change. Limits are a vital component of healthy relationships (both with yourself and with others) because they establish how you want and expect to be treated, which can reduce misunderstandings and create more lasting, healthy relationships.
Personal limits are self-imposed guidelines we create to help us in a variety of ways. They can be used to improve our health, like exercising a certain amount each week or eating in a certain way. Limits can help us avoid negative behaviors like drinking too much or socializing in order to avoid problems at home. They can also help us structure our lives and create balance, like when we limit the amount of overtime we’re going to work or limiting how much television we’re going to watch. Personal limits can often be designed to help us reach goals or improve our mental health. For example, a person who knows they tend to use alcohol as a coping mechanism might decide to limit any alcohol consumption to one or two drinks per week. Someone who is worried about a decline in health might limit the eating of unhealthy foods to only on special occasions to reach a weight loss goal. Establishing personal limits in a thoughtful and practical way can help you make improvements in almost any area of your life.
Social limits refer to the boundaries you create around your relationships with other people in your life. Social limits can include anything from how much time you spend with friends and family to how many details of your personal life you’re willing to share with them. Social limits help us better define relationships. They let people know what they can and can’t expect from us, and help us understand what we can expect from them in return. Having healthy limits is important in all relationships, and you must be able to clearly communicate those limits to others. In some cases, you will need to be prepared to defend your limits against criticism and pushback from others. Although establishing limits isn’t always easy, it is a necessary tool for maintaining good mental health.
In some ways, setting limits with a romantic partner will be similar to social limits. However, the level of intimacy you experience with a romantic partner is likely to be much deeper than with other relationships, and so there will be additional limits and boundaries that you need to understand and explore. Deciding to share your life with another person often requires major changes on the part of both parties, so you may need to learn what your limits are as the relationship progresses. Things like spending, travel, meals, chores, work schedules, and daily activities can all be areas that need boundaries by one or both people. Good communication will help you establish healthy limits that work for both of you.
Romantic relationships often include a sexual component. Sexual intimacy and sexual boundaries can sometimes be considered a taboo topic in our culture, but healthy sexual relationships require that people establish and discuss those limits together. Violating an established social boundary can cause negative feelings, but when it is a sexual boundary, the consequences and negative feelings can be greatly amplified. Unfortunately, if you haven’t discussed what your limits are in a sexual relationship, your partner may not realize there is a problem before the boundary has been crossed. Open communication is an essential component to setting healthy and effective limits and should never be overlooked because a conversation may be uncomfortable or embarrassing. The consequences of not communicating that limit could be far more uncomfortable than a simple conversation.
If you’re struggling with establishing limits in your life or relationships, a professional mental health expert at the ADHD wellness center can provide support and guidance as you learn to develop the skill and begin to create the boundaries you want and need. Mental health support can be an invaluable resource as you work to develop your limits and educate others on the ways in which you wish to engage with them moving forward. Unhealthy relationships and connections may not survive after you establish healthy limits, so a mental health expert can help you understand and navigate those transitions.
The ADHD Wellness Center is always available to help anyone with mental health support and resources. We specialize in ADHD but have plenty of experience helping those with a wide variety of mental health conditions. Schedule an appointment to speak with an experienced professional.