Building relationships with other people is a complex process. Over the years I have noticed that individuals fall into one of three very different categories based on the boundaries that they have developed and protected.
RIGID PROTECTION - Imagine building a strong and rigid wall around your heart and life. Some people who are afraid or very private tend to keep to themselves and not attempt or allow others to become close to them - either physically or emotionally. Deep down they may actually crave contact feel quite lonely but their behaviours interfere with this.
OPEN VULNERABILITY - Some people live their lives like a football field allowing the players and crowd to walk all over them! There are few or no boundaries and little idea of where one person ends and another begins. These relationships are sometimes referred to as "enmeshed" and can be quite annoying for individuals who prefer more privacy. Sometimes a person's needs are neglected or unmet because everyone else gets attention.
HEALTHY BOUNDARIES - Pretend you are sitting on the porch of your house. You are able to view the community by looking over the waist-high white picket fence that surrounds the yard. You are protected from animals and children who might otherwise race across the lawn but still can enjoy the scenery. The key is the fact that you have a gate with a latch on the inside. That allows you to be able to open and close the gate when you choose to do so. Good boundaries are like this. They protect you but, at the same time, allow you to choose when you will open up to the world.
It is interesting to note that sometimes people display each of these styles in different settings. You may demonstrate rigid protection in the workplace, open vulnerability in your family and healthy boundaries with friends at the same time. The important thing to remember is that you can change any situation if you choose to do so.
Psychologists can help you to develop both assertiveness skills and healthy boundaries. Then you will be able to enjoy the view and open the gate to ensure that your relationship needs are met!