The Top 5 Must-Read Books On How to Set Boundaries

Marlena Bontas
3 min readFeb 11, 2018
Photo by Matheus Bertelli

Many people talk about boundaries and how important they are. But do they actually know how to practice what they preach? Boundaries are certain rules or values that define who you are as a person. Having strong values prevent you from accepting a low-paying job, getting drunk with your friends to please them, or letting a toxic parent control you or your married life.

Healthy boundaries are the bedrock of a good relationship and marriage. However, you might be surprised to find out that even people who weren’t raised by narcissistic parents have trouble understanding the concept of boundaries.

On the other hand, if you come from a family of narcissists, not only you weren’t taught boundaries but you were even encouraged to accept abuse from others and believe that it is OK.

I understand what it means not having boundaries. My mother used to walk in on me while I was taking a bath or changing in my clothes. (no, I wasn’t a kid anymore).

I couldn’t keep secrets from her, it was devastating for her to find out that I moved to a new apartment during my studies or that I didn’t eat dairy anymore. This little habit of letting people break into my personal space without even feeling angry about it lead to meeting all kinds of dubious people.

One was an anti-social landlord who would send me text messages at 3 am asking me why I misplaced his dishes in the kitchen. Another, a male friend who pretended to give me a massage at 2 am and, who in fact wanted a special kind of rubbing in a special kind of area.

Since then, I learned more about boundaries from articles, books, and my own therapy sessions. If you too had toxic people in your life who’d break into your personal space without feeling sorry about it, check out the following books.

These books are written by professionals who have years of experience in psychology and the mental health field. They’ll help you understand what boundaries are and how to set limits with everyone in your life. Because, believe it or not, without healthy boundaries, your life is pretty much screwed.

1. Boundaries, by Henry Cloud, John Townsend

This is an award-winning book that teaches you how to set reasonable boundaries. However, I should warn you that it has a religious undertone.

2. Boundaries workbook, by Henry Cloud, John Townsend

Henry Cloud’s workbook on boundaries is based on the one above. However, this has a more practical approach.

3. Where to draw the line: how to set healthy boundaries every day, by Anne Katherine

This is a practical book for maintaining boundaries in all kinds of situations.

4. Boundary power: how I treat you, how I let you treat me, how I treat myself, by Mike S. O’Neil, Charles, E. Newbold Jr.

This book teaches you the concept of boundaries, how to set personal rules and how to protect yourself when others try to break these rules.

Mike O’Neil doesn’t shy away from asking the reader if he or she has crossed someone’s boundaries at one point in their life.

5. Better boundaries: owning and treasuring your life, by Jan Black

Jan Black’s book applies to everyone who needs to learn about boundaries, including mental health professionals. There are no religious references in it, thus, it is more appropriate for the non-religious folks out there.

And remember, that, to build strong boundaries with others you need internal boundaries. What does this mean ? You might ask.

Well, internal boundaries make you a separate person from your own family. You have your own self that does not depend on your mother or other people’s validation to exist.

For example, if your mother disagrees with your lifestyle, life partner, or career, you won’t try to gain her approval. Instead, you’ll accept her disappointment and move on. Accepting who you are and what you want as an individual with different needs and wants from their family is the key to having healthy relationships.

In case, you don’t manage to set limits with your loved ones, ask help from a counselor who is specialized in this subject. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.

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Marlena Bontas

Content writer, tea drinker, English-Romanian girl living abroad. Writes about NPD, relationships, health, finances and business.