Setting Boundaries with the Safety Sandwich

While boundary setting can be uncomfortable and sometimes incites conflicts, it can help your relationships grow and will help you stand up for what matters to you. Nothing kills a relationship like resentment; without boundaries, resentment thrives like a weed. What brings couples closer together is the ability of each person to take responsibility for his or her feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. The Safety Sandwich is a great tool for setting boundaries.setting boundaries relationship learning to set boundaries communication personal growth healthy communication assertive assertiveness

Boundaries with Safety Sandwiches

If you can “sandwich” your boundary between two positive safety statements, you can provide an assurance of connection while articulating your needs. You need to make it clear that this boundary is important to you as well as the person with whom you are setting boundaries. Think of the safety statements as the 2 slices of bread, and the boundary as the filling or the meat of the issue. Here are a few examples to get started:


“I love sharing what’s going on with you…” (safety statement)

“…but I really need to process this by myself right now…” (boundary)

“…Thank you for supporting me.” (safety statement)


“I appreciate getting to hear your point of view…” (safety statement)

“…  I have different thoughts on the topic. I think we’ll just go in circles trying to convince each other. Let’s put a pin in it…” (boundary)

“…Thank you for sharing with me and giving me another perspective.” (safety statement)


“I really love talking on the phone with you…” (safety statement)

“…but I’m not able to talk every day…” (boundary)

“…maybe we can set up a time every Wednesday to talk instead.” (safety statement)

While you cannot control the reaction of another person, your efforts to maintain connection while protecting your needs are your responsibility.  If their response is inflammatory, try to hear where the pain is coming from. Perhaps they need a little more assurance that the relationship and your connection are okay. Otherwise, they may need their own time and space to process. It is a great idea to process both successful and unsuccessful attempts at boundaries with your therapist.

Article by Sarah O’Leary, AMFT#123449 (supervised by Jennine Estes, LMFT#47653)

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It’s been nearly 20 years since I first became interested in studying psychotherapy. I began practicing the scientific approaches to psychotherapy in 1997 and I was hooked from then on.

I earned my Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family psychotherapy in 2004 and I am currently licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist MFT (LMFT#47653) with the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS).

I focus my practice upon the empirically-based and proven research methods of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

I’ve seen these techniques consistently get results and I truly believe they are the most effective at creating positive, long-term change.

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