In romantic relationships, there is a widely common misconception that setting boundaries between you and your partner are harmful and unnecessary. Many seem to believe that boundaries put unnecessary restriction and stress on the relationship. However, the opposite is actually true. All healthy, loving relationships have boundaries. Boundaries should differentiate where one person ends, and another begins. Boundaries are not easy to establish as they do not come naturally.
Openly communicating with your partner about your wants and needs in the relationship as a couple and outside of the relationship as an individual provide you and your significant other the basis to build on. By doing so, you begin to create a more comfortable area to operate and communicate. The healthiest relationships often include two individuals who feel responsible for their own happiness and feel as though they are not defined by their relationship. Boundaries help set up this feeling. As mentioned already, creating boundaries can be difficult so here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating them:
- Open Communication: Arguably the most important step to creating healthy boundaries is communication. Be honest, yet respectful with your partner. Clearly communicate your thoughts and feelings with them and be receptive and open to their thoughts and feelings. Build off of your mutual love and respect for one another.
- Be Self-Aware: Tying into communication, being self-aware means you understand yourself, your thoughts and feelings, and what you want from your relationship. You need to know what you like and dislike, where your comfort zone is, and how you wish to be treated. This makes it much easier for you to communicate with your partner.
- Never Assume: Having communicated with your companion about what you would like from your relationship as well as what they would like, it is important to never feel as though you know how they would feel. While no one may know your partner better than you, you still do not know how they will react to a given situation. It is not best to assume how they would feel if you were to overstep their boundaries.
- Use Appropriate Language: This does not mean avoid using profanity, even though your relationship may be more okay with profanity use, but instead refers to how you communicate with your lover. When setting boundaries, avoid dealing in absolutes. Avoid phrases like “You can never…” or “You should always…” as this type of language may make your spouse feel trapped and controlled. Also, try using “I” statements to help you own your thoughts and feelings without making your partner feel defensive.
- Be Consistent: Whenever you set boundaries, follow through with what you have said. If you do not, this may encourage your partner to assume they can continue to overstep your borders without asking. The same goes for you. Always respect your significant other’s wishes and discuss with each other whether it is appropriate to push their boundaries with their consent. Also, avoid double standards. Never set limitations that bound your partner but allow you to get away with the same thing.
- Respect Each Other: The best way to successfully create boundaries for a healthy relationship is to truly respect one another. Respect how your lover feels, their thoughts and wishes, and their opinions. Do not set up limitations that will make them feel isolated or betrayed.
An important reminder when entering a new relationship is that the relationship should not define you. You were your own individual before the relationship, and you will be your own individual after it. You are allowed to have your own friends, interests, and hobbies that do not include your partner.
Boundaries should not be seen as restraints in a relationship. They are not put in place to prevent you from enjoying your own personal life, but rather to ensure that you respect and understand your significant other better. Whenever appropriate boundaries are set, you set your relationship up to be healthier. If you do feel as though you are struggling to set up the correct limits or have other pressing issues within your relationship, do not hesitate to call LifeWorks Counseling Center. Our relationship counseling is put in place to allow you and your partner to better understand each other.