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Relationship Realness: Setting Boundaries

It’s cool this morning up here in Ventura and I am grateful to have the morning to myself. I’ve been pretty absent from journaling the last few weeks as I am going through several huge transitions. I haven’t really known how to share about them here. I’ve also been so committed to writing for other websites that by the time I sit down to post on the blog I have no energy for it.

As some of you know at the beginning of this year I turned down my first book deal. It was a decision I have zero regrets about because in my heart it wasn’t the book I wanted to write. Once I let that go some amazing writing opportunities came my way and I jumped at the chance to widen my audience and share my passion for holistic living. Being hired to write informational wellness articles has been such a great experience and I am truly grateful for it. As the year starts to wind down and I narrow in on what direction I want to focus on during 2016, it’s clear I need to let go of spending so much energy writing for other websites and get back to pouring my heart into this blog. While a tiny part of me is afraid to let go of these opportunities, I recognize that on a deeper level I am committing to the writing practice that lights me up and that feels right.


When this year began the word I chose to embody was EASE. In some ways it feels like some kind of cosmic joke because 2015 was one of the most challenging and painful years I have had in a long time. It was also one of the most transformative years. I have cleared lifetimes of karma and healed some of the darkest wounds in my past. 2014 was all about laying the groundwork that gave me the foundation I needed to shake things up they way I have this year. While there wasn’t anything easy about this year, I have learned to lean into the hard times and stay present and kind through them which is a really big deal.

Much of my life I’ve had two operating modes when it comes to conflict in intimate relationships with my family and partners. I either soak up everyone’s energy like a boundary-less sponge or totally check out and shut down. These last couple of months I am learning (yet again) that there IS a middle ground where I can set a boundary for myself and stay present with what is happening.

Jason and I hit a huge wall a couple of months ago. I was so unhappy in our relationship and I couldn’t see any future together. We were exhausted. Since getting back into couples therapy it felt like everything was crumbling faster than we could scramble to save it. We were sinking so fast and neither one of us had the energy or desire to jump in and try to save the relationship. It’s such a painful feeling to sit across from the person you love and feel how much distance has come between you and not have the will to reach out and try and save them from drowning.

What I have learned about myself in the last couple of months is that I have some more healing to do around my relationships with my parents and that it is imperative that I set boundaries to stop taking on Jason’s energy. On the one hand this is such basic relationship 101 work but on the other hand it’s coming through so clearly and painfully because it’s my last lesson. I’ve done loads inner healing on setting boundaries over the last 14 years and this huge lesson is cycling its way out of my life. It’s as if the light is right in front of me but those older energies are so strong they pull me down every chance they get.

Have you ever cycled through a big lesson in your life? For ages I thought that you just circled back through lessons until the end of time, but the truth is you can break the patterns and learn the lessons! If there are areas in your life where you keep coming back to, wow how did I end up here again?, there is something you aren’t getting. Until you uncover what the deeper teaching is you will keep repeating the cycle.

In yogic philosophy these repetitive lessons are often referred to as samskara, our patterned conditioning. It is believed that we are born with our emotional impressions or karmic inheritance, samskara, and they can be positive or negative. Each time we repeat a samskara it is reinforced. Unconsciously repeating negative samskaras slows down personal growth and development. The more awareness you cultivate, the easier it is to recognize the patterns and change them.

This philosophy really resonates with me. I believe that we are born into the world with certain energies and patterns. Part of our journey is to shift them so that we can be examples of light and joy to the people in our lives. As a teacher and healer I know I have to continue to do the work of releasing patterns that no longer serve me and set an example to others. In order to carry a potent message forward you have to heal yourself first.


Setting boundaries is about taking care of yourself and standing in your power. If you’re an empath like I am chances are you have taken on other people’s energy and had times in your life where you confused the absence boundaries with love. When you can’t tell the difference between your partner’s sadness and your sadness you are not fully living your own life.

While I knew what were my emotions and what were Jason’s, I still subconsciously took on his energy. He has a few behaviors that are exactly like my Dad’s (big surprise right?!). Without being specific about it to be respectful of Jason’s privacy, the basic picture is that when Jason behaves in a certain way I go right back to being a child feeling like I have to change in order to make him (aka my Dad) happy. In those moments I am totally boundary-less and once my mind is attached to past experiences, it’s impossible to navigate the present moment. Interestingly, once I am in that past state Jason gets triggered and we end up in this loop where neither one of us is present. In the cycle we act/behave/communicate from the part of our past that needs the other person to give us what we didn’t get from our parents growing up.

This is classic couples psychology. We’ve been bringing up each others messy stuff and thankfully getting super clear on how to move forward with it. I won’t speak to what Jason’s work is, but mine has been to work on my boundaries. The only way for me to grow in this practice is to stay aware in each moment no matter how uncomfortable it is. As I mentioned earlier, this is so obvious to me now because this lesson is working its way out of my life. Often times towards the end of a samskara cycle the lesson is so polarizing and vivid to make sure that we are getting it. It takes a great deal of discipline to keep my heart open through all of this work. No matter what happens with Jason and I, I am coming through these changes grounded in my power and ability to separate myself from the behaviors of those closest to me without separating myself from them as humans.


Setting boundaries isn’t about throwing up walls and creating cold and calculated distance. This practice is about learning to give yourself the space you need in each moment to stand tall and love the people in your life exactly as they are. Setting boundaries is about knowing your limits, asking for what you need and taking a moment of pause before reacting. Through the integration process of actively setting loads of boundaries in my relationship I am much happier than I have been in a long time. The path to healing is unfolding very quickly because I am not absorbing energy that isn’t mine.

Learning to set boundaries is an essential life skill that you must master if you want to travel lighter and be of service in this world. Now, more than ever we need teachers and guides that are doing this important work of clearing their samskaras to light the way for others.

Lots of love.


image by Marielle Chua


  • I love this and relate to it so, so much, Ashley! My partner is the very first person I was able to stop this similar sort of trigger-induced looping with, and it was a painful, challenging, and downright scary process sometimes because it meant letting go of things that I feel I needed to be *safe*.

    I grew up in a very abusive environment, so I learned that when things got messy I either needed to change who I was or completely bounce just to survive. Having a hard time in our relationship sometimes, not trying to change who I am, and also not leaving has been one of the most difficult transitions I’ve ever gone through, but I feel like on the other end of the lesson was BLISS. I love my person. I love my person when he annoys me and when I annoy him and when we are angry or sad or triggered or depressed. When I have no energy for him, I walk away- but not in a permanent way, for the first time in my life. I walk to the gym, or to my kitchen to make a beautiful meal, or to my meditation cushion, or to a book. We return to one another when we’ve recharged OURSELVES. Such new territory for me! Holy shit.

    • ashley

      Hi Lacy! It’s so wonderful to hear from you. I’ve been following your adventures in Portland and love how everything is opening up for you there. Super inspiring!

      I really appreciate what you shared about letting go of what you felt you needed to be safe. This is such a major part of this work. Your story is so moving and I love how committed you are to yourself and the relationship, so committed you’re willing to show up through it all and take care of yourself through it. This is HUGE and I am glad that you celebrate that transformation. Your words are coming in at the perfect time and I am grateful for you sharing this here. Thinking of you and sending love. xoa

  • LS

    Thank you for sharing. I would very much appreciate the meditation!

    • ashley

      Thank you for the feedback Lauren and I’ll start working on those meditation! Lots of love. xoa

  • Wow! First, thank you so much for your honest words. Second, you seriously made my day when you mentioned youll be back here, writing more. I don’t have time to read a lot of blogs, but I do read yours consistently.
    Life has certainly been interesting over here lately, and this post was exactly what I needed to read. I’ve struggled for years with boundaries with my parents. It’s been super difficult, but it is definitely something I’ve started working on a lot lately.
    Again, I’m just so happy you’ll be back here more. I really admire you and your awesome energy and honesty.
    So much love to you. ????

    • ashley

      Hello dear!
      It’s always such a treat to hear from you. I treasure your words and they always resonate. Thank you for the encouragement about writing here more again. Feels really good!

      Setting boundaries with parents is so huge! This time of year it always comes up for me intensely. Especially because I only see my folks once, maybe twice a year. Sometimes it feels like there is even more pressure to “get it right” or “heal asap” because of the limited time we have. I am happy to learn you have jumped into working on this more, it’s some of the most important work we can do for ourselves and our family. You are such and inspiration Nicole. Adore you to the moon and back! xoa

  • B

    I consistently work to set and uphold boundaries, and the process needs constant maintenance. As a child of an alcoholic, I practiced co-dependency from a young age. I actively work to protect myself from harmful energies and not take on others’ issues as my own. My mother is currently in recovery, but when she was deep in her addiction, my boundaries were set with practical application. For example, I would only reach out to her in the daytime, before her ritualistic nighttime drinking. Currently, I have a friend going through a particular destructive period. I share light and strength with her, but do not take on her darkness when she is unable to see past it. When I find myself slipping into old behaviors, I work to switch to a healthier role in the equation.

    (As a note – Ashley, your blog is such a lovely space where I learn and grow. I am constantly inspired. Thank you!)

    • ashley

      Hi Brooke,

      I am very grateful for your words here. I grew up in a similar situation and have learned like you to set boundaries with my family. It’s taken years to be able to enjoy them fully with a sense of lightness and joy but it’s been worth it! I really appreciate you sharing how you set boundaries with your mother and what that looked like. I know other readers will really benefit from your experience.

      Your wisdom is coming through in your share and it feels good to know we are on a similar path of self care and boundary setting. Wishing you a beautiful rest of the week. Thank you again for being here. xoa

  • Tracy

    Hi Ashley!

    I love the honesty that always shines within your posts!. It’s obvious that you gravitate toward incorporating beauty into your endeavors but it never seems like you are trying to make your life look like a catalogue (those blogs have their place but I certainly don’t relate to them!).

    I struggle with depression that is crushing at times, and I see it as being composed of layers of emotional sediment that must be purged. I sometimes feel like I’m a boxer getting into a ring to stare these things down – not so much to defeat them, but rather to become equal to their force (there is a light side to each bit of darkness and I don’t want to lose that in the process!). Basically, I’ve been giving birth to myself over the course of many years and it is very painful at times. ;)

    I’m inspired by the idea that “until the subconscious is made conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate”. I’ve felt in moments of horrid despair that emotional misery is my fate but am now certain it’s not. It makes me want to jump for joy to have finally discovered this and I am grateful to be reminded that there are others who are on a similar path. You are one of my north stars <3!


    • ashley

      Hi Tracy!
      It is so wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for sharing such genuine and heartfelt words here. Your comment is exactly why I started blogging, to make authentic connections and hold space for each other.

      I love the way you wrote about depression and giving birth to yourself over the years. It’s such painful process and you’re right, there is always a hint of a silver lining, we just have to open our hearts to it. We have to do the work of becoming conscious to break cycles (our karma) and stand in our true essence. Your words are coming in at the perfect time this morning and I treasure your journey. We’re in this together all the way!

      Love and light to you. Always. xoa

  • Hi Ashley, thanks again for your wonderful and honest words. Setting boundaries is such an important thing, especially if you’re an HSP. Knowing your limits can be so helpful and relationsship saving. Many years I compared myself to others and tried to adopt their boundaries, because I wanted to fit in and feel accepted and loved. I can not remember how many times my man and I had big fights and arguments als a result of this. Even though we studied various communication methods and were trained in nonviolent communication. ;-) I really learned setting boundaries the hard way, with parents, family members, friends and clients. There are still situations when I find myself following old patterns and there are still people that won’t respect my boundaries. In such moments I am still in fight or flight modus, still figuring out how this grey middle area can look like. I guess nothing comes easy and to feel ease there is a lot of heavy stuff that wants to be moved first. Have a wonderful weekend! Corina

    • ashley

      Hello Corina,
      I hope your week is going well. Yes yes to being a HSP and needing to create boundaries! Like you I learned setting boundaries the hard way too and it’s taken years to get comfortable with it. Sometimes we have to move loads of heavy stuff to enjoy the lightness but that is okay. I find the more we have to move through the more useful we can be in the world. Everyone I look up to has moved mountains, overcome so much and their stories are the ones that touch me deeply and inspire me to stay on the path and keep showing up no matter how it looks and feels on any given day. You have a lot to offer this world too. Sending love. xoa

  • Corinne

    What a great post and discussion. Part of being in partnership is being sensitive to your other, but certainly not at the expense of yourself. It has always been a challenge for me to tow the line, especially with so many cultural cues and messages urging women to be nuturing and supportive of spouses– concepts which got mixed up in my development, and morphed into something entirely different. As a woman in recovery, I have had to learn about what it means to care about myself, and how my self care improves the lives of those around me. When I take the time each day to be alone, for however short a time, I am effectively re-commiting to the support & nurturing that makes me a unique person and partner. If I talk myself out of this daily ritual (there’s no time, I’m tired, _____ needs me) I am submitting to my karmic cycle of self-destruction. Today the whole process seems less paradoxical, less black-and-white than before. It’s not an either/or, me/him; I choose connection and intimacy with him when I connect with my true self in peace and surrender first.

    Thank you, your site means so much to me.

    • ashley

      Hi there Corinne,
      Thank you for adding your thoughts and experiences to the conversation. It’s wonderful to hear from you. I love everything you shared and how much work is involved with breaking out of our cultural patterns. It’s amazing to me how much of our subtle behavior is determined by our culture even if we don’t agree with it. Recovery is so much about awareness and being able to recognize what is true for me and what isn’t. I am grateful we have so many opportunities to learn and grow and support each other through it all. What you said about making time for yourself is very important, this is a HUGE piece for me too. Giving into the excuses becomes less and less of an option when you want to live free and take risks. I am truly grateful for your words this morning and wishing you a beautiful week. xoa

  • Heather

    Hi Ashley, thank you for this. I set boundaries now (ie I don’t see my family) and it has assisted me greatly in learning about why I can’t function around them. Just wondering if you have any reading material that might assist me with the boundaries vs childhood trauma, co-dependency etc. Interested if any particularly rang a bell or assisted. Thank you so much – love and appreciate your posts. hx

    • ashley

      Hi Heather,
      It’s great to hear from you. I’m inspired by your commitment to your self care and growth. I highly recommend literature from Alanon, a 12 step program. They have many great books on boundaries regardless of if you grew up in an alcoholic home or not. Boundary setting is boundary setting. Melody Beattie has also written some great books on codependency and boundaries. Those are great places to start. Keep us posted and have a beautiful week. Very grateful you are here.

  • You are powerful

    Thank you soooo much for sharing. This is such a beautiful message of strength, power, and encouragement. Especially for us all that have been there. I’m just now finding my power and strength and learning how important it is to set boundaries, not only in relationships but friendships and with family as well. I’ve struggled with this for years! Never fully having the courage to say “no”. Thank you again, your message is so touching. Thank you!

    • ashley

      Hello! Thank you for writing and sharing here. I completely understand where you are coming from. It’s such a process. And you are 100% correct, being able to set boundaries in all areas of your life is really important. I started with my family and branching out from there. Thinking of you and sending love to you. This is such a healing journey you are on and I am grateful are doing the work. Big hugs. xoa

  • Kenna

    Hi Ashley!

    I would def. love a boundary meditation. I was at Golden Sol recently and recognized your name on the board! I used to do Seva there!! xo


    • ashley

      Hey Kenna, it’s so great to hear from you! Thanks for letting me know. I am working on one! Can’t wait to share.

      Wishing you a wonderful weekend.
      Lots of love,

  • Oh this post resonates with me so much, thank you for sharing so freely and deeply Ashley! I feel like boundary setting is my life’s work. I struggle with putting other people’s needs first and taking on energy from others, especially my husband. The dynamic you described between yourself and Jason is very familiar. I’m super inspired by your words and intentions. If I had to name my boundaries that I’ve set, a lot of the strongest ones have been built this year around my relationships with my brothers and parents. I’ve outgrown old patterns, roles and habits with them, to the point that it was painful and made me angry, but this year, really the past 6 months, I’ve focused on honoring the boundary for my own well being but also working to connect with them in a way that’s healthy for me. I struggle sometimes with old triggers and guilt but overall I’ve built some momentum and it’s feeling more solid and grounded. I would love to see a boundary meditation! That would be awesome. Thank you for all you do, sending a big hug.

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