10 Laws of Boundaries

This is a follow-up to my Boundaries post from April 2019 where I discussed the three types of boundaries and their functions in our lives. It started some great conversations with clients and other counselors, so if you haven’t read it, start there and then come back to this post. Today, I want to expand on the earlier post by highlighting the 10 Laws of Boundaries as outlined in Boundaries (Cloud & Townshend, 2004).

1- The Law of Sowing and Reaping. One of the first things we (hopefully) learn as children is that our actions have consequences. The older we get, the more serious our choices and the more serious the consequences. There are a lot of phrases across many cultures and capture the “what goes around comes around” idea, and that’s because it’s legit. If you enable a person by protecting him from the consequences of his actions, you are intercepting his opportunities for personal growth and doing him a great disservice in the long run. It’s difficult to watch someone struggle, especially when we care a lot for that person, but struggle is what brings character growth.

2- The Law of Responsibility. Being responsible to someone without being responsible for them can be challenging, particularly in relationships which haven’t had healthy boundaries in place for a long period of time. We can be held accountable by people we trust, but they aren’t responsible for us or our choices. Love people without trying to live their lives for them.

3- The Law of Power. Power is different from control. That’s a blog for another day, but I want to highlight that what we are talking about here is having influence over some things in our lives while not having influence over others. We have power to change ourselves in many ways: our attitudes, our belief systems, our behaviors. But great peace comes when we accept that we don’t have the power to change anyone else!

4- The Law of Respect. Mutual respect for people and boundaries is crucial. We want other people to care enough for us that they will respect what we need, and it is healthy for us to behave in similar ways.

5- The Law of Motivation. My dad has given me a ton of “wisdom nuggets” throughout my life. One of my favorites is: “If someone needs an immediate answer, then your answer ought to be ‘no.’ If you don’t have time to weigh your options, then you might feel obligated to go along with something that you wouldn’t do if you had enough time to think about it.” The bottom line: if you don’t feel free to say no, then you’re not genuinely saying yes anyway. Keep your motivations in check. Love is a choice.

6- The Law of Evaluation. It’s important to evaluate whether our boundaries bring pain to people in our lives. If the pain brings growth, it is oftentimes worth sticking to. If the pain brings wounding or trauma, that’s a red flag to revisit the boundary and consider whether it needs to be changed in some way. Although we don’t have to adjust our boundaries based on their effects on others, it’s important to consider how other people hurt while we strive for safety and wellness.

7- The Law of Proactivity. It is wise to set boundaries based on our wants, needs, and desires. By using our wise minds (both logic and emotion) in this process, we can step forward confidently. Prioritizing personal values is worth it!

8- The Law of Envy. You can’t drive your own car well if you’re focused on the cars everyone else is driving. Stay in your lane! Adopt an attitude of gratitude instead of dissatisfaction. Look at yourself long enough to see where you need to make the changes that will get you where you want to go.

9- The Law of Activity. Lean in when you’re solving problems. Boundaries are easier to set before there’s an issue rather than trying to backtrack after someone has overstepped. Without boundaries, a passive person is more likely to be dominated by a more aggressive person. It’s a good thing to assert what you need, especially with people you love. Boundaries require action, and often that means allowing people to reap what they’ve sown.

10- The Law of Exposure. No one will know our boundaries if we don’t communicate them! If it’s not clear, then it’s not working. These conversations can be difficult, but worth it. Boundaries allow for consequences without nagging; if you’re nagging, then you’re working too hard.

Which ones are easy for you? Which ones are more difficult? If you’re looking to establish new boundaries, you can start by saying ‘no’ to small things without trying to justify your response. One step at a time, friends!


Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. S. (2004). Boundaries. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

When Father’s Day Is Difficult

“Happy Father’s Day” doesn’t apply to everyone. There are many situations— death, estrangement, unfulfilled dreams of being a father, and more— that may leave a person feeling a tangled ball of emotion this weekend. If you’d like tips on how to survive this Father’s Day or how to support someone you care about over the weekend (including alternative e-cards), check out optionb.org!

Resources for Veterans & Families

At the beginning of May, Wounded Warrior Project hosted the Veteran Support Conference to open up community dialogue about veteran-friendly organizations, provide insight into the military community, and share resources for our vets. Attendees were able to hear firsthand experiences of transitioning back to civilian life, including the hope that comes with community support.

This community dialogue has inspired me to create a list of resources for our local military members and their families. Let’s spread a message of hope this week of Memorial Day! Visit my Military Resources page to learn more.

A Spectrum of Relational Health

You don’t need a degree in counseling to realize that relationships are complicated, especially when they don’t feel balanced. That can happen in a number of ways, but today I’m focusing on the dynamics of healthy interdependence and how easy it can be to slide toward the more extreme ends of the spectrum of relational health.

Independence sounds admirable enough, but it’s not good for long-term relationships. When a person cannot (or will not) bring down walls in vulnerable ways to expose weak spots, lean on a partner, or ask for help, the relationship withers over time. Isolation starves relationships. Bringing vulnerability into relationships, however, is like offering sun and water to a plant: it’s necessary for healthy growth.

Codependency is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days, but when I say it to a client, the most common response is, “I’ve heard that word a lot, but I’m not sure what it actually means.” For the sake of this discussion, codependency means excessive reliance on another person (usually a partner) for psychological and/or emotional validation, purpose, and identity. Typically, a person struggling with codependency is attached to a person who is dealing with an addiction or a physical or mental illness and needs that person to remain in a weak place in order for their own identity to survive. My favorite codependency resources are by Melody Beattie as well as books like this one.

So if independence and codependence can be so detrimental for our relationships, what’s left?

Interdependence is the gold standard for healthy relationships. It can be intimidating because it is built on both partners’ levels of confidence and relational intelligence. But once achieved, both partners are able to be strong enough to hold up the other person and simultaneously vulnerable enough to lean on that person for love and support. I often see people coming into my office with resistance to one or the other, and it doesn’t work well in the long run. Interdependence is like building a teepee where each post is strong on its own but gains both strength (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts) and purpose (a safe place) in relationship to the others as each post is strategically placed with equal weight distribution.

The next time you catch yourself feeling a lack of balance in your relationship, take some time to assess where your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors fit on this spectrum of relational health.

On this Mother’s Day…

“To those who gave birth this year to their first child – we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away – we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising – we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.”

-Amy Young, The Messy Middle blog