I live on the edge of a creek that has no boundaries. We decided to fence it off partly because Clever Girl has shown more of an interest in getting into the creek than our previous dogs.

Behind the picket fence, c. 1890 – 1902, photographer unknown via State Library Victoria

Now it’s done, I’m a little surprised to find the garden seems bigger with boundaries than it did without.

Perhaps because the property ends in a sharp drop to the creek, I added a large safety margin, and the defined edge makes that imaginary margin unnecessary.

The certainty the fence provides is also strangely comforting; there’s absolutely no room for error.

While we increased the margin from the house, from the other side, it’s a different story – you know exactly how little room there is for missteps.

Which leads me to personal boundaries, and how they can give you more room as well.

Safe Boundaries

Clearly we’d all like to live free from harassment, and creating and maintaining strong boundaries is good for that.

But how?

Physical Boundaries

To some extent, we do this with our clothes; putting on armour to protect and fortify ourselves. Headology again (I so wish I’d thought of that expression!)

Not just the garment style and construction, the stiffness of the fabric, but also the colours and patterns as well.

A woman in a dark double-breasted pant suit gives off quite a different vibe to one in a short, clingy, leopard print dress, for example.

You’d most likely shake hands with the suit wearer, but maybe hug the woman in the dress. Sit further away from the suit and closer to the dress.

Behavioural Boundaries

Your physical barriers are useful queues for strangers, but with the behavioural, but you may need to speak up about these.

You’ve got to teach people how to treat you

Dr Phil

It’s hard, but when people take you for granted, for example, always running late, or taking phone calls when they’re with you, then you have to tell them this is unacceptable.

Because, you know what they say…

give them an inch and they’ll take a mile


So when something doesn’t feel good, it’s time to push back.

But before you can do that, decide where your boundaries are.

Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries come from knowing who you are and who you are dealing with.

Where the boundaries are also depends on the strength of your relationships. Are the boundaries for strangers, your fifteen special friends, or the 150 outer circle?

I’m not a hugger. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing worse than some rando I’ve just met trying to hug me. I will hold out my hand to shake, or take a step back to prevent it. But my fifteen can come on in.

My friends Katy prefer not to talk about their politics, or religion, or work respectively. I respect that, so we just don’t discuss that. I understand what A

And friends Toseland won’t wait over fifteen minutes for anyone, so you’d better value his time when you’re meeting him. Don’t like it when you touch his collectables, or let anyone else drive his car.

Freedom Provided by Boundaries

All the previously mentioned boundaries give both sides definitive knowledge of where the line is. You know how far you can go, and when to stop.

And in human relationships, that’s always a good thing.

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