Boundaries as I described in one of my poems are rest stops in relationships. They are not fences or walls that prevent people from getting to us but rather they determine how far one can cross a certain “line” when it comes to our interactions with them.

Communicating boundaries can be a scary place to be because of our fear of them been misinterpreted or overlooked but boundaries when expressed and respected in friendships bring respect and commitment and less drama especially in adult friendships.

Sometimes I am tempted to think that the concept of boundary is a challenge in our Ghanaian culture, maybe it’s the blind spot for us being stereotyped as “a people known for its hospitality”.

The level of our respect for boundaries determine our level of respect for any relationship, and in this case friendship most precisely.

Boundaries help us in managing expectations and also in the establishment of balance in friendship. Boundaries provide us with the freedom and liberty to claim our personal rules and standards about certain aspects of our lives.

Standards are good. They direct us. They become the references for our do’s and don’ts.

Below are healthy necessary boundaries we need to highlight in our friendships.

  • Responsibility boundaries: There is a thin line between asking for helping and running away from your responsibilities. This type of boundary can be quite a tricky one to have because often a lot of people abuse their friends by hiding behind the shadows of “needing their help” in other to walk away from their own responsibilities. While in some time past I have tried to be a “hero” to meet the needs of most friends, I am learning to state clearly and declare humbly how far I can go all out to meet a friend’s need especially when I know they are in the best position to assume that responsibility for themselves. It doesn’t mean I do not care or insensitive. It means i trust that you have the capability to handle the things that concern you while i only come in to offer my best of help. And I have observed that it saves me from harboring judgement or pain or feeling overburdened with things.

  • Intellectual boundaries – A healthy friendship gives room for people to express their opinions without feeling threatened that a relationship will be lost because they believe different or see things in different perspective. In fact a healthy friendship provides the room to agree to disagree in peace. Setting an intellectual boundary with friends means establishing the fact that you are entitled to share your views or opinions and not feel coerced or manipulated to please the other people because you are afraid of losing the relationship . Intellectual boundaries give us the opportunity to be assertive and listen with attention what the other is saying even if we don’t agree.

  • Material boundaries- This helps us to communicate what materials are open to sharing and what are not. A friend of mine recently narrated an incidence with a friend who came to her apartment for a sleep over. She woke up the next morning and found out that her friend had used her sponge to bath without telling her. Again, she explain her allergic reactions to her perfume but her friend didn’t think it was a big deal. No matter the level of intimacy in a relationship, it is important to always ask what people are comfortable with sharing and what they are not especially in our adult friendships which turn to offer many different seasons of chance for many people.
  • Space boundaries – Almost everyone who comes to my house including my parents know that i don’t take shoes into the living room. And because of that, my entry way has a beautifully wooden shoe rack that offers to keep shoes of my own and visitors with protection. Living with compulsory cleanliness disorder makes it very unbearable for me to live around the smallest bit of dirt I see around and to minimize that feeling, I have some few standards when it comes to my space. And because of that, unconsciousnessly I turn to do same when I enter another person’s space. Before some of my friends got married, I could visit and feel comfortable sleeping on their beds because they were okay with that. I can’t do that in their matrimonial homes now no matter the level of intimacy i share with them unless I am invited and permitted to do so. We must also learn the habit of asking for things before we take them no matter the level of intimacy we have with people.

In any healthy relationship ,intimacy doesn’t equate to entitlement .

– Jo Nketiah
  • Financial boundaries- I have lost many relationships and some good amount of money due to financial dishonesty from people I call friends. When it comes to financial boundaries, we must be open to let our friends know clearly and honestly how far we are willing to involve our finances in our friendship with them for example how much loan we are willing to give when asked and the payment methods needed to be put in place for paying back. Those of us at the receiving end must also have integrity enough to honor our promises. We must pay back when we ask for a loan, contribute to hangouts, and discourage ourselves from having entitlement to the finances of our friends. Again, we must have respect for how they choose to spend their finances. We can offer help and advice when we can and is called for, but it is not our position to go around telling our friends what we feel it’s the appropriate way to handle their finances.

  • Physical boundaries -Personally, I am very particular with physical touches because they can be misinterpreted in many ways or my share of subtle traumatic experiences with them . Whether it is the same sex friendship or opposite sex friendship, it is important to communicate what we are comfortable with and what we are not. And If we respect a friendship as well as the people involved, we will honor their sentiments when it comes to physical boundaries.

Boundaries can be challenging and I can admit. The risk of being misunderstood cannot be overlooked.

A remember being hurt by a comment sometime ago by a friend who said I didn’t come across as someone who was capable of making allowances for people when I let known some boundaries I had in place for relating to people. But I can testify boldly how rewarding boundaries have helped me and fortified some friendships in my life. With boundaries I don’t need to pretend and neither do I need to worry if others are pretending with me.

So say hello to boundaries now.

Jo Nketiah

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