There is a lot of talk about boundaries these days. I talk about them all the time.
And they are still confusing. So, I will put them down as simply as I understand them (with thanks to Terry Real and Pia Mellody).
Boundaries are fluid, and they change as we change. They aren't hard, impermeable walls. They are more like a wall of bricks or cement blocks, softened by breathing moss, that we put up/pull down, depending on the situation. So, if our partner yells at us, we add a few bricks to the top of our wall and say, "No, please don't talk to me that way. Talk to me nicely." If that happens, we take a few bricks off our wall so we can look over and connect.
Boundaries protect us from the world. It's a relatively easy concept to understand (harder to do but practice really does make better). We say no or walk away or tell someone how we feel or what we need. A friend is always late when we meet, so we say, "I notice that you are late and I am frustrated at having to wait. Next time, I will wait 15 minutes and then leave." We realize our time is valuable--and that we are valuable--and we respect ourselves enough to say something.
Yes, yes, this feels awkward and weird and no one talks to people that way, etc., etc., but is what you are doing now getting you what you want? Everything new feels awkward, especially learning a new language.
Boundaries protect the world from us. What's that, you say?? How does the world need protecting from me; the world offends me, not the other way around! Take a minute, tamp down that self-righteous indignation and ask yourself if you have ever behaved badly. Cut in line, taken something that wasn't yours, said something mean, hurt someone. Just as you need some walls against the world, it needs some against your worst self on your worst day. Terry Real calls it an internal protection--our skin--that holds us in and stops us from spilling our guts.
Boundaries help us connect. Yes, they are there to protect us, but they also allow us to truly connect with others. When we say yes and we really mean it, we are there 100% for someone. And when we say no--kindly, firmly--we are there, 100% for ourselves. We are free to connect with others, fearless and free and moving through the world with love.
Yes, yes, that does sound so noble and spiritual. You are going to fall flat on your face when you first say no. You will feel guilty and uncertain and resentful at times. And yes, there will come a day when you ask yourself, "How do I connect with this person and yet, protect myself?" And, you will find the answer.