Healthy boundaries can be the difference between a healthy, happy relationship and a toxic, dysfunctional relationship.
Boundaries are important to protect yourself, your life, and your own alignment. They are a set of ‘rules’ that we create internally for ourselves, for behaviours we will tolerate, for the standards we implement for those in our lives, to the amount of hours we want to work or the time we spend around others.
Boundaries are for you and about you. They are about respecting your needs in your relationship. When you are uncomfortable about something in your relationship, but don’t speak up and share it with your partner, resentment can build. Effective boundaries can keep your relationship strong, healthy, and growing in the right direction.
When it comes to setting healthy boundaries, there may be different aspects of your relationship where you need them, for example;
- Physical boundaries
- For example, you might enjoy public displays of affection, or be uncomfortable with it. If your partner kisses you in public and you are uncomfortable with it, you need to let them know.
- Emotional boundaries
- For example, if you are upset and your partner tries to fix it, you could feel as if your partner isn’t hearing you. Your partner might be trying to help you, but it just leaves you feeling more upset. This is a place where a boundary might be helpful. You could say, "When I’m upset, I would like you to listen to me without trying to fix it. I just need to vent sometimes. When you try and fix things, I don’t feel heard. If I want your advice, I will let you know."
- Sexual boundaries
- Healthy sexual boundaries include mutual agreement, mutual consent, and an understanding of each other’s sexual limits and desires. You might want to avoid sexual contact with your partner if you are reminded of a traumatising experience. Establishing a boundary around what is comfortable for you can keep your sex life healthy and happy.
- Intellectual boundaries
- Boundaries around showing respect for different views and ideas can keep your feelings from being hurt. If you feel as though you can’t discuss certain topics with your partner because you believe they don’t respect your opinion, or put you down, a boundary might be needed.
- Financial boundaries
- Having different rules and agendas related to where and how you spend your money can cause a great deal of strain on your relationship. If you feel as though you are often fighting about money, boundaries are probably needed.
There are no rules as to where you set boundaries in your relationship. It’s all about where YOU feel you need to set them in order to keep your personal wellbeing and your relationship healthy.
Given the current state of the world, you may be spending more time than ever with your partner. If you find that you are together a lot, it may not always be easy to set necessary boundaries. However, it’s crucial to recognise if you are sacrificing your mental health for the happiness of others. Of course, sometimes love means doing things for others you do not want to do. But, if you find yourself often saying “yes” out of guilt or the fear of letting someone else down - you could be doing more harm than good.
Boundaries are an integral part of healthy relationships because they help to maintain a balance between you and your partner. They also help minimize conflict, because they establish a precedent for what you both expect from each other. Having boundaries can actually bring you closer to your partner because they are set through open communication.
So how do you set boundaries within your relationship?
- The first step is to identify and define your desired boundaries. Creating boundaries within your relationships means knowing when to honour your emotional needs. Before setting boundaries, consider acknowledging why they are important for you. The best way is to write out your personal boundaries, any boundaries that exist in your relationship already, and any boundaries that are missing from your relationship. Then write down why each boundary is important to you. Having it all on paper makes it easy to clearly see gaps and areas of improvement.
- Next, you need to communicate your boundaries to your partner. Clear (and kind) communication is the foundation for any relationship. When discussing boundaries with your partner, being honest about what you are comfortable with or not comfortable with will ensure that they know what you truly expect from them. Relationships are a two-way street, so you need to listen to each other’s needs. Since you expect your partner to honour your boundaries, it’s also important to fully listen to their needs as well.
- Explain why these boundaries are important to you and your relationship. You don’t have to over-explain, but you do need to make it clear that you’re establishing this boundary for a reason and it is to be taken seriously. For example, if you’re spending a lot of time together right now, you may desire more alone time. It’s just as important to set aside time for yourself as it is to have quality time with the person you love.
Remember, that in a relationship, you should be able to say anything, but the WAY you say it, matters. Healthy relationships include respect from both sides. The best way to communicate your boundaries with your partner is with compassion, understanding and respect for each other’s expectations. Having respect each time you communicate will ultimately make your relationship healthier and stronger.
At the end of the day, boundaries are necessary in order to build trust within yourself and within your relationship. If you don’t set boundaries for yourself and stick up for your inner self, your self-worth will lower. Others will perceive you how you perceive yourself. So, if you don’t value yourself, others won't either.
You get to decide what your boundaries are. It’s tough and it does take practice and time - but, stick to them and your relationship will flourish.
If you’d like to find out more about setting boundaries, I encourage you to listen to my podcast episode ‘How To Set Boundaries & Take Back Control’ - you can listen here.