Sometimes in a relationship, things can get out of hand. There are some areas partners should not invade but they did. There are some lines they should not have crossed but they overstepped anyway. This happens when boundaries are not spelled out at the outset. This is when setting healthy boundaries in a relationship comes in handy. Raise your hand if you agree that knowing how to set healthy boundaries in a relationship is important to make a relationship last.
Boundaries – one simple word but means a lot in a relationship. It is that space you give to yourself to take care of your wants and needs. But most people fail to do that.
At some point, we have perhaps thought that boundaries don’t matter anymore. That we should forget about it because we’re in a relationship and that there shouldn’t be any boundaries or walls between us and our partner. That we shouldn’t draw any line.
But to make a relationship lasts longer, and even for a lifetime if you wish, setting boundaries is as necessary as breathing. As to why it is so, keep reading.
Healthy boundaries vs Unhealthy boundaries in a relationship
Though these may vary from one person to another, healthy boundaries are apparently those that pertain to a personal space you reserve for your well-being and mental health. It is that time you give to yourself to just look after yourself, to just be you.
Unhealthy boundaries, on the other hand, may refer to a disregard for your well-being. It simply means a lack of boundaries. This may have stemmed from your desire to please your partner. So, you would then devote most of your time to provide for his wants and needs.
Because of this, you neglect yourself. You forget about your self-worth and value.
Now, let’s take a look at the following as they illustrate the differences between healthy and unhealthy boundaries in a relationship.
- Healthy: Knowing what you want and communicating it to your partner
- Unhealthy: Feeling like you are responsible of other people’s happiness
- Healthy: Saying no and accepting when other people say no
- Unhealthy: Always saying yes and not prioritizing yourself
- Healthy: Valuing your personal boundaries and not compromising them for your partner.
- Unhealthy: Disrespecting other people’s values and beliefs
- Healthy: Communicating in an open and honest fashion
- Unhealthy: Manipulating your partner with your words and actions and being dishonest
- Healthy: Being your own person
- Unhealthy: Feeling incomplete without your partner
- Healthy: Accepting change in a relationship
- Unhealthy: Being unable to move on and accept changes
- Healthy: Listening attentively to your partner while he/she is talking
- Unhealthy: Always interrupting and making it all about yourself
- Healthy: Taking comments in a mature way
- Unhealthy: Taking comments personally
- Healthy: Respecting your partner’s own personal space and trusting him/her
- Unhealthy: Being too clingy, jealous, and demanding
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What do healthy boundaries look like?
Probably, most of us have been bothered by this question. While it is true that we know what boundaries are, how do healthy boundaries look in practice?
Healthy boundaries may vary depending on the area such as in the following:
This type of boundary includes having personal space, rest, and not wanting to be touched in such a way that makes you uncomfortable.
Healthy physical boundaries might be
- I would appreciate it if you ask permission first before entering my room.
- It makes me really uncomfortable when you touch me like that in public.
- Please don’t disturb me right now. I need some rest.
Healthy emotional boundaries are all about valuing your emotions and feelings. It’s being aware of what you can take in and tolerate.
Some examples of healthy emotional boundaries include
- I am sorry that I am not in the mood right now to talk. If it’s okay with you, can we have this tomorrow when we’re fully rested and refreshed?
- When I’m sharing my problems and worries to you, all I really need is for you to listen. It shuts me down when you compare my situation to others and say that it’s “just normal”. Or when you criticized me as if it’s all my fault.
We’ve all heard it – that time is of the essence. In a relationship, setting healthy time boundaries is all about knowing your priorities, making time for each of them, and staying true to them. This way, you won’t be missing out on anything.
Healthy boundaries in a relationship that involve time could be
- By the way, my friends from abroad and I will be meeting this weekend. We’ll be away for two days.
- If am at work, I’d prefer not to be disturbed unless of course it’s an emergency.
In all activities involving intimate physical contact, both parties must give their consent or agreement. If your partner denies it, be the big guy and try to understand. You cannot force someone to do something she’s/he’s uncomfortable with.
Healthy sexual boundaries may include
- I’m not up for it right now. I’m sorry but maybe we can cuddle instead?
- This is something I want to try. Is that okay with you?
- I noticed that we’re both committed to our own career at the moment and have no time for children. So, I’m thinking we should be careful and use contraceptives.
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The importance of setting healthy personal boundaries
Personal boundaries matter a lot in terms of self-care. It sets limits in a relationship in a healthy way; thus, making you feel less emotionally and physically drained.
Delineating healthy boundaries in your relationship helps you also in prioritizing yourself and practicing self-respect. It helps you take care of yourself by saying “no” to things you don’t want to do.
Having personal boundaries makes it even easier for you to communicate your needs with your partner. This then empowers you and teaches you to make healthy choices and take responsibility for yourself.
Without clear personal boundaries, our relationship suffers. We may find ourselves being taken for granted and shut out. It is vital then that at the outset, you make your personal boundaries known to your partner and acknowledge his as well.
How you can set healthy boundaries in a relationship
1. Define your boundaries and be stark clear about it
If it’s your first time doing this, it might be a little uncomfortable and strange. But this is necessary for you to avoid getting overwhelmed in the process. In defining your own boundaries, ask yourself the things, attitudes, behaviors, and characters of a partner you can tolerate.
What are your physical boundaries? What time boundaries are you willing to set? What sexual and emotional boundaries do you want to observe?
What attitudes can you possibly tolerate? Do you think you can handle a pompous, arrogant, self-centered kind of person? Do you think you can put up with a clingy or too submissive one?
All things must be considered and specified. What really matters is that you make yourself clear in the beginning. That way, you would avoid experiencing any regrets and resentment in the end.
2. Set consequences once those boundaries are crossed
All actions have consequences and boundaries are part of it. Make it clear that you are serious about setting healthy boundaries in your relationship. And that your partner should also do the same.
Consequences might sound like this:
- If you don’t control your jealousy and quit controlling me, then perhaps we should consider taking a break from this relationship.
- If you can’t respect the personal space I ask, then I would ask you to leave the house or I will. If you’re ready to meet me in the middle, then come back and we’ll talk.
To set matters clear, consequences are not punishments. They are mere manifestations of self-worth – that you can only tolerate so much. They serve as warnings for your partner not to keep mistreating or manhandling you.
3. Communicate your boundaries with your partner
Once you’re all set with your boundaries and the consequences that come with them, now is the time for you to make them known to your partner. Ask your partner to have an open mind and to try to respect you with your personal boundaries.
Be honest and make sure that you have clearly set the parameters. Be flexible as well.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of your partner and understand how these boundaries would affect him. Then, adjust to accommodate his inputs should there be any.
4. Be consistent with the boundaries you’ve set
Consistency sends a clear message that you are serious about your boundaries. Follow through with what you have set. Make sure you carry out the consequences once one of your personal boundaries is obliterated.
Don’t turn a blind eye and don’t allow any violation of your boundaries to slide. If this happens, it will encourage a number of misbehavior and disrespect in the future.
Tips to create your personal boundaries with your partner
1. Know yourself
Take some time to redefine and to get to know yourself more. Look inside of you.
By getting attuned to your inner self and by understanding your emotions and actions; you get to realize more if that mirror that one of your partner.
Compatibility matters in a relationship. That is why understanding yourself first before setting your personal boundaries helps.
2. Understand why you need boundaries
What are the reasons you need boundaries? Do you want to make your relationship work? Do you want to grow emotionally in a respectful relationship environment?
I believe you don’t want to confine yourself in a relationship that doesn’t help you grow. You don’t want to end up being resentful and bitter.
You don’t want to be kept in the dark. Then, you have to realize these and set your healthy boundaries.
3. Be straightforward but be kind and polite
In setting healthy boundaries in a relationship, you have to be honest and clear about them. This may take a lot of courage to most and that’s okay. What you need to do right now is to express them.
But you also need to be polite. Don’t be confrontational in sharing your personal boundaries with your partner. Be compassionate and accommodating.
Again, you have to stay true to your own boundaries. You aim to make your relationship work in a healthy way. Thus, make sure to be firm about them.
4. Don’t feel guilty about setting your own boundaries
It matters that you put yourself first. That is an act of self-love and self-care, remember? Of course, you also need to consider your partner but that doesn’t mean that you go forgetting about yourself.
For a relationship to thrive and last longer, you need to look after yourself. Because how can you possibly do your part in your relationship, if you don’t know what’s best for you?
5. Consider your expectations
Expectations are normal in every aspect of our lives most especially in a relationship. It’s just that you have to make sure that they’re reasonable and achievable.
You cannot just merely layout your personal boundaries without taking into account whether it’s realistic or not. To set healthy boundaries in a relationship, you have to consider this as well.
6. Make it as a habit to regularly communicate
Make a room to accommodate your partner’s needs as well. To make a relationship work, both of you must take responsibility.
Don’t assume that you are on the same page or that you know what he likes and needs. Reach out and talk.
7. Don’t try fixing people
One of the mistakes a partner can make is attempting to fix the other. You cannot go around fixing your partner by setting boundaries. That is not a way to build a healthy relationship.
Set boundaries in such a way that promotes healthy and lasting relationships.
8. Be patient in setting healthy boundaries
Most of us are probably new to setting boundaries in a relationship. That is okay. All you need to do is to start as early as now. Take this as your training ground and practice it occasionally.
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OVER TO YOU
Know that setting boundaries to have a healthy relationship does not happen overnight. It requires time and effort so you have to be patient and open.
Relationships are two-way – it involves two sensible people working together to make it work. For it to flourish, healthy boundaries must be set.
Boundaries are not there to build walls but it’s there to create a relationship atmosphere that is healthy and safe for everybody. Boundaries must be then observed with utmost respect and fidelity.
Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself. It doesn’t make me mean, selfish, or uncaring just because I don’t do things your way. I care about me, too.”Christine Morgan