“An intimate relationship is one in which neither party silences, sacrifices, or betrays the self and each party expresses strength and vulnerability, weakness and competence in a balanced way.” ~Harriet Lerner
Relationship boundaries are a set of limits and rules that we set for ourselves and our partners. They can be porous, rigid, and healthy at the same time. It is, as the name implies, the healthy one that we all strive for.
Setting clear and reasonable boundaries in your relationship empowers you and helps you uplift your self-worth. It can help in the development of a beautiful and content relationship. However, if you don't establish clear boundaries from the start, your relationship may become toxic and dysfunctional over time.
What are healthy boundaries in a relationship?
Healthy boundaries and self-esteem go hand in hand in a romantic relationship. It boosts your conscience and allows you to safeguard your mental and emotional well-being. Emotional closeness has a solid basis for flourishing when the lines of accountability are clear and respected by both parties. When boundary lines aren't maintained, however, issues like misunderstanding, hostility, trust issues, and emotional neediness occur.
Healthy boundaries in a relationship may look something like this:
Not feeling terrible about declining physical touch when you're not in the same mental state as your lover.
Having the ability to prioritise your own ideals over theirs and cultivate self-love.
Expressing your honest feelings without fear or hesitation.
Bringing up your partner's inappropriate behaviour and letting them know that it's a boundary violation.
7 ways you can set healthy boundaries in your relationship
1. Introduce boundaries at the onset of your relationship.
Setting boundaries early in a relationship is much easier than later on when your emotional involvement in the relationship is much greater. You develop certain routines and behavioural patterns as you spend time together, which can be tough to disrupt for the sake of creating boundaries.
When things haven't rolled out much yet, it's easier to talk about restrictions and limitations affecting your own space and comfort levels. On the first few dates, don't let the fear of "what if they think I'm selfish or less loving" get the best of you. Talking about these issues will only benefit your relationship in the long term and prevent it from becoming problematic.
Even if it's too late for you to put this into practice, remember that it's better to be late than never. Although it may be emotionally draining to change the way things have been going for so long, it'll all be worth it.
2. When talking, use more "I" statements.
When you're seeking to convey your boundaries, using "I" statements will help you express your feelings more clearly to your partner. In this context, it's more important how you say something than what you say. Starting discussions with "I feel" rather than "I know" makes your message seem much less overpowering and quite respectful and understanding towards your partner.
When you use more "I"s while sharing your thoughts, you take accountability for your feelings and needs. This helps in resolving the conflicts better because you are not criticising the other person but rather letting them know how you feel about their behaviour.
When it comes to setting boundaries, the onus is on you to be both respectful and assertive. Switching from "you" to "I" sentences effectively communicates how their words or actions affected you and encourages your companion to empathise with your feelings.
3. Don't feel bad about wanting some "me time."
We are sometimes mentally conditioned to feel guilty when asking for personal space. We, too, believe we are not entitled to it. Now that's seriously messed up. You shouldn't feel awful about needing some alone time in a relationship; you deserve it.
It's not that you're rejecting your partner when you ask for space; it's just that you're not in the correct mental state for it. If spending time alone or apart from your partner helps you feel better, it's okay. Finally, if you are happy, you will be able to maintain a healthy relationship.
But it's also essential to keep your partner's feelings into account and let them know that it's not about them - it's about you.
4. Communicate your boundaries with compassion and clarity.
A relationship is about two people, so you should be really mindful while setting boundaries and rules in a relationship. And the key to building it in a healthy way is - maintaining compassion and clarity throughout.
Setting boundaries should sound like, "I love you, and I know you enjoy spending time with me, but it works best for me if we go out on dates only on weekends and not on weekdays when I am already overwhelmed with a lot of work." You are being precise about why you want it while also respecting their feelings in your statement.
Defining and enforcing boundaries can be difficult, especially if they go against cultural norms or deeply set notions about how we should engage with our partners or family members. However, we must prioritise our own contentment and feeling of fulfilment over people-pleasing and take steps to convey our personal limits to our partners with kindness in order to maintain a long-term healthy relationship.
5. Know when to assert your boundaries and how to do so.
If you are not communicating openly with your partner about your wants, you know something is wrong with your limits, which is why some issues must be addressed directly at the start of a relationship before certain behavioural patterns can be developed.
You must also consider when the best moment is to discuss boundaries. If you start establishing your limits about something else in the middle of an argument that has nothing to do with it, it may be difficult for your partner to grasp what you mean, and they might misinterpret your thoughts.
Similarly, some boundaries can be discussed later or as needed. It's easier for both of you to comprehend and appreciate each other's point of views if you discuss things when you're both relaxed and open to deep conversations. Knowing the right place and the right time to talk about such topics can lead to constructive dialogues free of misunderstandings.
6. Respect your partner while informing them of your limitations.
The idea is to collaborate with your partner to find a place where you both appreciate and honour each other's boundaries and requirements. It should not come out as obnoxious or demanding but rather as a respectful discussion in which mutual relationship goals and needs are addressed.
So, when establishing your own boundaries, remember to respect and acknowledge your partner's as well. Even in challenging conversations, you must remember not to be overbearing to your partner to the point that they feel their emotions are ignored or dismissed. It's a two-way street, and remembering that is the best way to avoid a sour relationship.
7. Your actions must be consistent with the boundaries you've set.
If you're going to set a healthy boundary in your relationship, you need to keep to it first, even before your partner does. If you send mixed signals, your partner may become confused and invade, knowing that there would be no repercussions.
It's critical to act on the consequences in a compassionate but firm manner so that your partner understands that the rules you've established for your happiness and mental health are not fragile, and that they must be respected in order for the relationship to remain joyful.
So, the next time your partner crosses a line, follow through on what you said you'd do.
Now&Me - A Community That Respects Personal and Emotional Boundaries
Even though your companion fails to respect your boundaries, the Now&Me community will never fail to do so. So unburden your soul and share your deepest emotions anonymously without the fear of being intruded into your personal space. Now&Me provides you with a safe space where you feel heard and receive all the kindness, support and love from our users across the world. "Now" is the time to reflect on "me" - express your feelings on Now&Me.
1. What does setting boundaries sound like?
Setting boundaries may sound like - “I understand you are upset, but you cannot speak to me this way” or “I can’t do this for you right now, I am busy”.
2. Can boundaries be unhealthy?
If your relationship boundaries are overly porous or strict, it might be toxic. It can lead to burnout, depression, discomfort, and even physical sickness caused by stress.
3. Is setting boundaries selfish?
Setting boundaries may appear to be self-centered, but it is not. It's perfectly acceptable to prioritise your own happiness over that of others as long as you respect their boundaries.