Episode 12

(Part 2) Setting boundaries with family, friends

Today we’re picking up our series on setting healthy boundaries with family and friends. 

Setting boundaries can be one of the hardest things for people to do but one of the most important.

The difference between walls, boundaries and healthy boundaries

Why are healthy boundaries so important?

  • Because your marriage is team #1
  • Protecting your mental, physical, and emotional well-being by protecting against unhealthy or toxic opinions, behaviors, speech
  • Causes conflict and unhealth in you
  • Worst of all, causes bad health in your home, including your kids
  • Create disunity between the two of you

Signs of healthy boundaries

  • You protect yourself from being taken advantage of
  • You have margin in your life and don’t overcommit yourself
  • You have respectful communication with others
  • You have strong self-worth
  • You have close, trusting relationships
  • You only take responsibility for what you should 
  • You can say “no” when needed
  • You can set limits for others and not feel guilty
  • You have a strong sense of identity and know who you are
  • You understand you can’t heal other people or change them for that matter
  • You clearly communicate your needs and wants

Signs of potential unhealthy boundaries

  • Allow yourself to be used
  • Over-commit your time or to other people
  • Low self-worth and critical of yourself
  • Feel exhausted and burnt out regularly
  • Have a hard time saying “no”
  • Feel guilty for trying to set boundaries
  • Change yourself to fit in with others
  • Own other people’s problems as your own
  • You constantly put other people’s needs before your own

When your spouse won’t set a boundary with someone they should

  • Express what you’re experiencing from the person you think a boundary should be set with
  • Express what you’re experiencing in your spouse
  • “It seems like you don’t want to address it or don’t see the problem, etc.”
  • Express how you see it negatively impacting them/you/your marriage/your family

Ask questions like:

  • What do you think about what I’m sharing?
  • What do you think we should do? 
  • What’s your view point?
  • How do we get resolution together? 
  • Ultimately, if they won’t set it or you can’t get on the same page… 
  • You may need to set it 
  • You may seek counseling to better work through these things
  • You may need to distance yourself from the person you need to set a boundary with
  • You need to continue to talk through this stuff together

What not to do when your spouse isn’t setting a healthy boundary

  • Attack or accuse
  • Belittle
  • Be passive aggressive
  • Guilt trip or shame them

How to set healthy boundaries

1. Think through and clarify your boundary or limit

  • Ask yourself these questions:
  • What’s making me uncomfortable? 
  • Why does that make me uncomfortable/uneasy?
  • Am I over-reacting? (i.e Am I the problem for myself?”
  • What do I want to see change?

2. Prepare to communicate your boundary

  • Anticipate responses based on what you know about the person
  • Don’t try to plan for every single contingency with a prepared rebuttal
  • Prepare your introduction to help your boundary be received well
  • The best prepared intro may not matter depending on the other person and what they struggle with
  • The first few seconds of a potentially hard conversation can set the tone for the rest of it
  • Remember, some people will always respond poorly to healthy boundaries and that’s not your fault so have a healthy boundary and don’t receive it
  • If it’s a controlling person, anticipate them making you out to be the bad guy

3. Communicate it directly, kindly and clearly

Here’s how healthy boundaries sound with someone being controlling

“Thanks for your viewpoint but we’ve made our decision.”

“Thanks for your idea but we’re going to decide this as a couple.”

“This isn’t something I’m willing to discuss.”

“Please don’t do that/say that, I see it as unhelpful.”

“Please ask me next time.”

“Don’t make fun of the big hammer.”

“No” or “Nope” or in Spanish “No”. 

“Nein” “Nyet” “Ne” (that’s Croatian, by the way)

You don’t have to follow “No” with an apology or explanation either

Final keys

  • It’s okay to repeat your boundary verbatim.
  • Be careful of setting your boundary, the person pushing back and you get pulled into an argument or tit-for-tat debate because you’ll most likely lose your boundary
  • Sometimes, it takes time and repetition for someone to get it.
  • If you’re being made out to be the bad guy and guilted in the moment, don’t receive it and you may just repeat your boundary
  • Don’t shift your boundaries by how you communicate them
  • This may look like softening your position or backing off of it a lot


Again, setting healthy boundaries is a critical life skill to keep yourself, your marriage and family healthy. 

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About the Podcast

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Fostering Marriage
Keep your marriage strong when fostering kids

About your hosts

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Joel Fortner

Joel has been married to MaryBeth since 2010 and began the fostering journey in 2019. They have a heart to serve married couples who've chosen the fostering journey. He and MaryBeth have 2 biological kids and 2 foster kids (and 2 dogs) and make their home in middle Tennessee, where Joel serves as a leader and coach with Chris LoCurto and team.
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MaryBeth Fortner