... the other Black experience

Mental health: setting boundaries in a relationship is a matter of survival

Identifying and setting personal boundaries, in any type of relationship, is a healthy and necessary measure of self-care. Boundaries that set your limitations or mark your standards for treatment and communication with others. In my experience, many of us don’t know how to set boundaries until these boundaries have been crossed. Survivors of abuse, like myself, can thrive in healthy future relationships by being in touch with the behaviors and red flags that are detrimental to our well-being, and setting boundaries accordingly.

By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor

1) Identify and affirm your feelings
Has someone done something that made you feel uncomfortable, pressured, drained, “crazy”, upset, etc.? Take an honest reading of your feelings whenever you feel something off or negative about a person or situation. Trust yourself by making room to know yourself. Every morning in the shower I take the time to express graduate and give self-affirmations through introspection. You can meditate, chant, pray (if you’re religiously include) whatever you want, just take the time to touch base with your inner-self and show love and care for you. Being able to set boundaries requires learning what they are. And, I think, that starts with being in touch with yourself.

2) Articulate your boundaries to others
However you feel is more important than how someone else will feel about having to adhere to them. If your partner makes jokes at your expense that make you feel insecure and icky, let them know you’re not okay with certain types of jokes. Early on, I tell a potential partner I’m not okay with negative comments or jokes about my body. Even though I’m very secure with my body and appearance now, loving and accepting myself has been a long journey, and no one, not the love of my life, not my best friend, not my mother, is allowed to interfere with the relationship I have with myself.

3) Stand by your boundaries
Someone who tries to push or break your boundaries after you’ve articulated them is disregarding your feelings, at best, and being abusive, at worst.

Think of the ‘you’ during your moments of self-affirmation and stabilization. The healthy and deserving person you are, the people and things in your life that help nurture and champion your goodness and happiness. And ask yourself if the person negating the boundaries you’ve set is in conflict with that image of yourself and your personal community.
It’s not selfish to draw a hard line in the sand and to stand by it when it’s crossed. And understanding, setting, and standing by your boundaries takes patience and time to learn. And sometimes abusers and folks with the wrong intentions will still get in and you’ll still get hurt, but boundaries can be a powerful tool to help mitigate the damage.

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK's editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at

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