How to Set Healthy Boundaries With Friends — Talkspace

Types of Boundaries

There are 5 different types of appropriate boundaries you can set in your friendships and other relationships. Setting boundaries with friends can seem stressful at first, especially if the friendship has already lasted a long time. Still, it’s often needed and a very beneficial way to nurture a healthy relationship on a deeper level. 

Be sure to let your friend know that the appropriate boundaries you’re setting are in an attempt to better the friendship, not weaken it. In fact, it will benefit your friendship and mental health. The 5 types of boundaries are:

Time boundaries

You may need to set some time boundaries for friends who:

  • Always show up late for planned events
  • Get angry when you tell them you’re busy
  • Cancel at the last minute, leaving you hanging

Set boundaries for the time you have available. Let your friend know that time is precious for both of you and that you don’t like wasting yours.

Material boundaries

If you have a friend who uses your things without asking first, or if they use them in a disrespectful, careless way that could or often does damage them, you need to set some firm material boundaries. You can accomplish this by simply saying something like:

  • “Sure, you can use my camera, but I need it back tomorrow, please.”
  • “I’m sorry, but I can’t lend you any cash right now. Is there another way I can help?”
  • “Sorry, but I just don’t let anyone drive my truck. It’s a personal thing.”
  • “I’m sorry, but I don’t share my drinks/food.”

Whatever the case is, you need to represent your wishes with assertiveness. It’s OK to insist that your boundaries are respected.

Physical boundaries

We’re all entitled to our own bubble. If a friend is touchy-feely and you’re not OK with it, you shouldn’t hesitate to set a physical boundary that you’re more comfortable with. It can also be about your personal space like your bedroom. To set a physical boundary, you can say:

  • “I’m not a hugger or toucher. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it makes me uncomfortable when you XYZ.”
  • “This room is my personal space. Please knock before just walking in.”

Any time someone invades your personal space, let them know and ask them to be aware of and change their behavior.

Emotional boundaries

If you’re overwhelmed with your own emotions and life challenges, then it can be difficult to recognize a friend’s emotional needs and validate their feelings. If you’re unable to respond to someone else’s needs at any given moment, you can say:

  • “Sorry, and please know I love you, but this is not a good time for me to talk.”
  • “This is a very tough topic for me. Can we talk about something else?”
  • “I’m sorry you’re going through a tough time, but I just can’t be there for you the way you need me to be right now.”

Yes, friends are supposed to “be there” for each other. However, sometimes it’s not possible. And that’s OK.

Intellectual boundaries

Friends need to have mutual respect for each other’s ideas and thoughts without being dismissive. That said, you have every right to shut down a conversation if you realize it’s heading south and ultimately won’t be healthy for you or your headspace. You could say something along the lines of:

  • “I understand what you’re saying. I just don’t agree with you.”
  • “Maybe let’s just drop this conversation? We don’t seem to be agreeing.”
  • “I don’t mind if you disagree with me, but please don’t insult me.”

Let your friends know that you’re fine with having differences of opinions and that you’ll continue to appreciate their uniqueness.

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