A boundary is a limit. It’s a line you draw that you feel protects you emotionally, physically, socially, or spatially. All through life we are faced with boundaries. From the time we were children, when our parents said, “No hitting your siblings” to adults now having social distancing boundaries enforced.
How often do you think about boundaries in your relationships?
If you want a healthy relationship, you must be able to set and keep boundaries. Without them, you’re likely to have unnecessary conflict. You can set boundaries while you are dating or once you’ve actually made a commitment to a long-term relationship.
Conflict can arise even with boundaries, but more conflict will come without them. For example, during the dating stage men and women may not talk a great deal about each other having friends of the opposite sex. However, once they’ve committed to a long-term relationship and one or both of them want to hang out with the opposite sex, it could cause an issue.
Not many men like their girlfriend to hang out with other guys- even if she says they are just friends. Many women are the same way. If their man wants to go have dinner with a female friend, it is oftentimes difficult for his girlfriend to feel good about it. Granted, some couples are completely fine with such arrangements, but the important key to note is to have a discussion about it. State what you are comfortable with and set boundaries if necessary.
Double standards are a no-no as well. If your guy tells you he is allowed to hang out with women, but you are not allowed to hang out with men, that is a double standard. And, it can cause a relationship to go south in a hurry.
Healthy Relationship Boundaries
For optimal growth in a relationship, healthy boundaries ought to be discussed and agreed upon. Each person needs to take responsibility for their role in the relationship and draw lines when it comes to what is acceptable and what is not.
It’s alright for you to say no to things that you are uncomfortable with in a relationship. If their flirting with the waitress bothers you, tell them. If she’s texting her old boyfriend and it bothers you, let her know.
Your expression may or may not result in your partner changing their behavior, but at least you can discuss how it makes you feel and not end up with resentments down the road. You’ll also find out if this is the type of relationship you want long-term.
Discuss Your Boundaries
Some couples make a list of rules and boundaries for their relationship. It may sound trivial, but having a conversation and writing things out may serve your relationship well. This list will serve as a reminder down the road. Of course, you can always add or take away from the list through the years.
Common Relationship Boundaries
In addition to boundaries that have already been mentioned, here are some other boundaries that are common in relationships:
Have an honest discussion around sexual intimacy. Both you and your partner should be able to express your thoughts, beliefs, and boundaries regarding sexual expression in the relationship. It might feel awkward, but press through. Understanding each other’s preferences, beliefs, and expectations can help your relationship thrive and leave less room for resentment, confusion, or other negative emotions.
Discussions about finances are important in a relationship. Those that ignore this topic tend to run into problems down the road.
Discuss your thoughts, expectations, and boundaries around money. If you don’t see eye to eye, work at a compromise that suits both of you.
If anyone is badgering the other with questions of past relationships, that’s overstepping a boundary. You have every right to let your past stay in the past and so does your partner. Of course, you’re free to share what you want, but when you feel assaulted with questions, it’s time to draw your line in the sand and say, “That’s not something I’m comfortable sharing with you.”
It helps to set some boundaries around those outside of your relationship, such as friends and family. Have a discussion about what you both want in terms of visiting hours, family interaction time, and how friendships come into play. Outside influences, such as in-laws or adult children can be a blessing or a curse depending on various factors. Determine what you’ll allow in your relationship in a way where you and your partner are respected.
Social Media & Technology
If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t care if your partner gets on your social media, that’s great. But if you like your privacy, you have every right to say, “hands off”. Talk about what you desire and see what your partner desires when it comes to social media and technology. If you want your mobile phone, iPad, computer off limits to your partner, it’s alright for you to say so. This doesn’t mean you are hiding something. It means you enjoy your freedom when it comes to your things. And, vice versa if your partner tells you this.
Every relationship ought to draw the boundary line of respect. This means not allowing name calling or any type of abuse. You deserve respect and so does your partner. If you’re not getting it, shore up your boundary line with a serious conversation.
Boundaries Can Enhance Relationships
Boundaries enhance relationships. They take shady areas out of the grey into black or white. If boundaries are lacking, there may be confusion, anger, jealousy, or a host of other negative emotions. So, think more about what boundaries you have in your relationship, and ones you’d like to set. Then, have a warm discussion around them with your partner.
Your relationship will be better for it.