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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

Are You Setting Healthy Boundaries or Hiding Behind Walls?

healthy boundaries

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I thought I was setting boundaries.

But in reality I was also building walls.

It’s easy to do. To get so carried away with a line in the sand that it becomes the beginning of a foundation of a fortress. A stronghold intended to keep you safe. But that really holds you prisoner.

Do you know the difference between setting healthy boundaries and constructing isolating walls?


tennis-court-443267_1280Boundaries are rational and deliberate lines that define what is and is not allowed to be done to you. They are communicated and consistent and are less about keeping others out than keeping yourself intact.

Boundaries allow others to see you. Be with you. But they don’t allow others to use you.

Boundaries say, “I’m not letting anyone abuse me” and “You can come in as long as you abide by the rules.”

Healthy boundaries are anchored in awareness and self-respect. When in place by both partners, boundaries allow for a deeper connection because both people don’t feel as though they are threatened by an increase in vulnerability.  Although you may be hurt, your self will remain intact.

Examples of boundaries include not tolerating abusive actions or language, refusing to accept the responsibility for another’s happiness or choices and not acting in opposition to your own values and ethics.



brick-293507_1280Emotional walls are bricks of self-protection mortared with fear. They are erected as a result of being wounded. They are rarely acknowledged and their existence is often only discovered when somebody runs head-first into one. Unlike boundaries, which only keep out those who misbehave, walls do not discriminate – they hold everyone back.

Walls say, “I will never allow myself to be hurt again” and “I’m not letting anyone get close to me.”

Walls are built upon fear. When one or both partners in a relationship is hiding behind walls, a deeper connection forged through vulnerability is impossible. As a result, the partner(s) hiding behind the walls may feel safe, but he or she will also feel empty and disconnected because the true self is not being seen. The wall keeps others out. And it also holds you prisoner.

Examples of walls include never letting your emotions show, deliberately withholding important information from a potential partner and isolating out of a fear of being hurt again.

wallsWhich are you building? Walls? Or boundaries?

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10 thoughts on “Are You Setting Healthy Boundaries or Hiding Behind Walls?

  1. Something I’ve come to believe in the past few years…

    when a relationship fails it often has very little to do with the relationship, and instead has much more to do with identity and a sense of self. The idea that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else is very true.

    I have heard countless stories where a couple is in love, but over time one of the partners pulls away and builds up walls. It later turns out that person never really knew who they were, or loved themselves. Instead, they sublimated who they were and presented the “self” that they believed was expected of them.

    Over time this causes strain, as they aren’t being true to themselves and come to resent playing a role. Their partner doesn’t see “all of them”. But that’s not the partners fault, it’s because of walls they have built and what they have allowed them to see.

    1. This is an insightful comment and, to me, does spell out what can go wrong in a relationship. Thank you.
      The setting setting boundaries versus building walls is also important when one finds oneself alone after a break-up.

    2. Drew, sorry… I have no words LOL, you worded in a paragraph what I have learned in 30 years 🙂 But then again, 30 or 20 or 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have actually understood your words. Wow, thanks for this!

      1. Good thanks Lisa.
        When people used to ask me how I was I would always answer “fine thanks” even though I was at the bottom of a deep dark hole. My children would say to me, ‘Mum, when we ask you how you are and you answer “good” instead of “fine” we will know we don’t have to worry about you anymore!’

  2. I can identify with your insightful views on boundaries. It is so easy to put up walls without realizing as self-protection. In the end,, this is just self destructive.

  3. wow i have been searching for differences between boundary and wall. you have made it crystal clear!! thank you so much!

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