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Good Boundaries Vital to Building Healthy Relationships

In my private practice my path is to remove obstacles blocking my patient's path to reaching their full potential. Many of the people who walk thru my door are in various stages of either substance abuse, substance dependence and other issues that take on the appearance of an addiction. I am very careful to refrain from labeling my patients as I find labeling is not helpful and only adds to the feelings of shame most of my patients are already experiencing from their inner critical voice. In working with my patients one issue continues to bind them together and that is their inability to set healthy, flexible boundaries. Many of the self proclaimed addicts I work with also admittedly suffer from issues surrounding their codependence.  As a result many would describe themselves as typically having very unhealthy interpersonal boundaries. Those of us raised in dysfunctional families often find the concept of healthy boundaries to be a revelation in our recovery. One of the first steps I introduce to my clients on their path to recovery is how to develop and implement boundaries. In doing so the first statement I teach them is as follows:

No is a complete sentence……

In helping my patients develop healthy interpersonal relationships I have received much feedback from my clients. They are often some of my most influential teachers. Below is a list that I have created and edited over the years that I have been informed has been helpful to my clients. Many items on the lists you may recognize from your own past. The purpose of the list is to simply bring consciousness and awareness to your own personal "operating" system and ask yourself if you identify with any of the statements have they proved to be obstacles in your pursuit of happiness?

Signs of Unhealthy Interpersonal Relationships


Telling all.

Talking at an intimate level at the first meeting.

Falling in love with anyone who reaches out.

Being overwhelmed by a person – preoccupied.

Acting on the first sexual impulse.

Being sexual for your partner – not yourself.

Going against personal values or rights to please others.

Not noticing when someone else displays inappropriate boundaries.

Accepting food, gifts, touch or sex you don’t want.

Touching a person without asking.

Taking as much as you can get for the sake of getting.

Giving as much as you can give for the sake of giving.

Allowing someone to take as much as they can from you.

Letting others direct your life.

Letting others describe your reality.

Letting others define you.

Believing others can anticipate your needs.

Expecting others to fill your needs automatically.

Falling apart so someone can take care of you.


Sexual and physical abuse.

Food and chemical abuse.

Recommend readings on boundaries

Boundaries: When to Say to No to Take Control of Your Life

By Doctor Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Thom Kessler, LMFT, RAS