Learn how to set and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. Learn about the 5 types of relationship boundaries.
This post is about setting healthy boundaries. If this is something that you are currently learning, make sure to get in touch with me over on my Facebook community, where I offer free trainings and Masterclasses on topics just like this one. You can also follow my location independent life @unchained.connection and DM on my personal Facebook Page anytime to say hi! If you’re interested in 1-1 support, you can also apply for my 3 months Signature Offer. I would love to work with you now or in the future! Drop me a line if this blog helps you. ~ Andrea.
Healthy relationships need boundaries, and personal boundaries greatly improve relationship satisfaction.
Before we dive in, let us clear up some misconceptions about boundaries in relationships, shall we?
Personal boundaries are not against others. Boundaries are not a tool of manipulation to make others do what we want.
And setting a boundary is not about building a protection wall between you and others. Setting a boundary is also not an ultimatum.
Boundaries are not a tool you apply to another person. Boundaries are for yourself.
It is important to remember that we can not control other people. Personal Boundaries are not a tool to do that. The only thing we can change is ourselves, our behavior and how we respond to other people's behaviors.
Boundaries are pro love, pro connection, and pro relationships. You need them for any healthy relationship: with family members and romantic partners.
Are you currently in an unhealthy relationship?
I feel you. Over time, I have collected some pretty excellent skills on how to overcome this. No, I am not going to "fix" you. As there is nothing to fix. There are just some skills to learn.
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Boundary in relationship
Now that we talked about what boundaries are not, let's dive in, girl!
So, what are relationship boundaries? Boundaries define the rules you set for yourself on how you want to be treated in relationships. They are FOR YOU and not AGAINST others.
They define what we are available for and what not. Your personal limits. Basically they are the guidelines that help others relate to us. They set clear expectations for every relationship.
Boundaries help to strengthen relationships. They ensure healthier relationships, but also a healthier you! Boundaries empower you and make you feel more confident. They are a tool of self-respect and an expression of your values.
Healthy limits in relationships offer security because it is clear to your partner what we are willing to accept and what we don't. Of course, this entails that we know this ourselves!
And that is often where the problem begins.
When we have codependent tendencies, we often do not really know ourselves. We might be unclear about our own identity and what we want & need.
We might have gotten used to pleasing others. So how can we let others know if we don't know ourselves?
When we are clear about what we are available for and what not, and we communicate directly, this makes people that are in a relationship with us feel safe.
Setting boundaries is one of the most important skills you need to learn to create healthy relationships with mutual respect. If you are in a relationship and you have not talked about boundaries with your partner yet, I invite you to discuss your own boundaries with him as soon as possible. There is no perfect right time. The best time is today ;-)
There are different types of boundaries in relationships. The 5 most important ones are physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, sexual boundaries, financial boundaries and time boundaries:
Physical boundaries could be how much personal space you desire to have, so you feel comfortable and safe. Or when, or how, you want to be touched. Physical boundaries protect your personal space, body, and privacy. A physical boundary is also set to determine who you allow in your home or room.
You might enjoy public displays of affection, or be uncomfortable with if your partner does this in public.
Violations include standing or sitting too close to you, family members entering your room without knocking, inappropriate touching/physical intimacy, public displays of affection in public (like kissing) or looking through your diary, personal computer or your mobile phone.
Emotional boundaries could be what topics you are available and comfortable sharing about with a friend and which ones not. It separates your feelings from other people's feelings. Healthy emotional boundaries relate to not accepting responsibility, feeling guilty, or apologizing for the actions of anyone else.
Violations of an emotional boundary could be, you taking on the responsibility for someone else's feelings, letting yourself get manipulated by other people's feelings, sacrificing your own needs and wants, and trying to please others instead, blaming other people for your problems, and accepting responsibility for other people's problems.
Sexual boundaries relate to your physical intimacy and are necessary in intimate relationships. If you are in a romantic relationship, have an open conversation about what you are open and not open for. This can be challenging to speak about, but it is crucial to create healthy romantic relationships.
A violation may be your partner not using protection during sex, or trying out a position you are not comfortable with.
Financial boundaries could be that you made the decision to not loan any money to friends. You can let them know that you are not in the position to loan money to them but that you are happy to listen to them and help them to come up with some ideas on how to solve their issue if they like.
Violations may look like your boyfriend using your credit card without your permission, or buying something that requires a big investment from your joint bank account without discussing it with you first.
Time boundaries can be related to work or your private life. You might have your own business and set a boundary to not work after 7pm in the evening. Or you might have a boundary that you don't want to spend time speaking on the phone after 10 pm. To maintain that boundary, you could switch off the phone after 10 pm or just don't pick up if anyone calls after that time.
A violation could be your boss demanding you to work on the weekend. If you set a boundary for yourself that you need 8 hours of sleep, a violation of that boundary may be your boyfriend practicing his guitar at 11 pm when you are already in bed.
Boundaries in relationships are not just related to friendships and romantic partners, they are also necessary in other relationships with family members or in your work life.
In fact, having poor boundaries is one of the major causes of burnout. That is why learning the skills to set healthy boundaries will improve all areas of your life, including your mental health!
If you are starting a new job, setting boundaries is a crucial part to making sure that you avoid boundary issues later down the line.
When people fail to communicate their boundaries early on, it often becomes much harder over time, since coworkers and bosses have already gotten used to the fact that you are always available.
Often, a main sign of poor boundaries in relationships is that we feel angry. If we are angry, this is often a first indication that a boundary in the relationship has been crossed. We don't feel respected.
If you feel that other people are taking advantage of you or you are constantly fixing other people's problems, these are also signs that your boundaries might be too weak.
Our negative feelings come from the fact that we did not remain true to ourselves.
Often when we say “yes” or tolerate things that violate our limits, we will notice this by negative emotions. We can feel pressured to do something we don't want to do, we feel uncomfortable, or feel disrespected. This almost always causes you to feel resentful.
Healthy boundaries result in better mental health. Having mutual respect in your relationship creates a safe environment to discuss your and your partner's boundaries.
When discussing boundaries, it is important to speak of - and take responsibility for your own feelings and have an open mind towards the fact that your romantic partner might have different feelings.
It may feel uncomfortable at first, but having an open conversation creates emotional intimacy and brings you and your partner closer together.
Technically, a boundary is separating space. When we talk about boundaries and humans, that separation is not always as straight and narrow as we would like.
If we imagine it being a barrier, it can be made of different materials.
It can be made of a rigid material like steel, where nothing can pass the material or maybe or a see through cloth that is so thin that everything can go through.
A healthy boundary is made of a material that is flexible and strong at the same time.
For example, "cotton". ;-)
So let's look at some examples of healthy boundaries:
Boundaries in regards to social media - are you ok with tagging, posting, commenting? What about sharing photos of you or letting the world know you are on vacation? Discuss the things that are ok and not ok to share with your partner.
Boundaries around ex-partners - are you ok with friendships with exes? Can an ex be invited to your wedding? Be clear about what you are comfortable and uncomfortable with.
Boundaries around your finances - especially when the relationship is new and you might not feel comfortable to talk about how much you earn or how much savings you have.
Boundaries around your sex life - there might be certain things you enjoy and certain things that are a “no go” for you. Being clear on what you are not available for, makes it easier for your partner to ensure you will have a great time together. Your ideas about protection & safe sex are also crucial to communicate.
Alone time - Spending time on your own is healthy. Especially if you easily adapt to others, spending time alone helps you to stay connected with yourself. Clearly communicate what your need for alone time and personal space looks like.
Boundaries in regards to arguments - what is acceptable in the heat of a fight with your partner, and what is not? What will you do if your limits are crossed?
Once the boundary is set, we often get challenged and people around will test to see how flexible we are in regards to the boundary. This is when it is important to reinforce and maintain the boundary.
It is better to start by setting one small boundary and to maintain, then setting lots of boundaries to not maintain them. When we do not make an effort to maintain our boundaries, our environment stops taking us seriously.
So go ahead and start setting a small boundary that will be easy to maintain.
What boundary would you like to set? Make a plan on how you want to maintain your boundaries, so you are mentally prepared when challenges arrive.
The importance of clear communication is paramount. Rushed conversations and ambiguous responses will cause people to not understand and respect your boundaries.
One of my clients set the boundary that she would leave the conversation if her husband puts her down. When he did put her down, she left.
However, she had not communicated this before, so her husband did not know if she was angry and was confused.
We can not expect other people to respect our boundaries in relationships if we don't communicate these first. Don’t leave your partner in the dark. Speak up!
Boundaries change over time, so it is important to communicate and discuss your, and your partner's boundaries regularly.
If you find it difficult to discuss boundaries with your partner, consider visiting a couples therapist.
There is no need for long explanations to “why”. This often only shows an insecurity with our decisions. It is important to use the word "I", not "We" which I often see women use to avoid being clear out of fear.
When we first start to set proper boundaries, we will often use a lot of words to beat around the bush, which leaves the other person utterly confused. Or we might come across very strong and rigid and leave the other person feeling upset and hurt.
When you first start out with setting boundaries, you might feel guilty when setting or maintaining boundaries.
Keep it simple and focus on what you are going to do: “If I feel you put me down again, I will leave the conversation”.
So what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries?
Unhealthily defined boundaries often are too rigid or too porous.
Often, when we start to set boundaries, we might have very rigid rules to block conversations and refuse engagement.
A rigid, unhealthy boundary kind of resembles a wall that we build around us. An example can be that we set a time boundary to leave work at 5 pm. Having a rigid boundary means that we will push this through, no matter what.
A healthy boundary would be that we can give some flexibility to this rule for big exceptions. For example, your associate needs to go to the hospital for an emergency and your boss asks if you can stay another 20 minutes to set up forwarding on her emails.
Too porous boundaries applied to this example might be that you take on all the work of your associate and spend 1-2 hours more at work until she is back at work. This would really affect your mental health.
You feel responsible for solving the problem at work, and take on this responsibility while neglecting your own needs.
Distinguishing the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries can be difficult at first, but will get easier over time.
Let's look at an example of a romantic relationship boundary.
A poor boundary may be changing your clothes and appearance just to please your partner, because you are afraid he might leave you if you don’t follow his wishes.
In this case, your boundaries are porous or non-existent. A healthy boundary would be that you are open to hear what your partner likes, but you choose to wear what you like, and show up in a way that makes you feel good about yourself.
Unhealthy boundaries often show up in relationships in oversharing information with someone you just met, controlling the other person, not respecting the privacy of the other person, pleasing, being physical when you are actually not comfortable with it - to name a few.
Toxic relationships are usually full of unhealthy boundaries which highly impacts your well being and mental health. They might make us feel like we are on a rollercoaster.
Often when we have weak boundaries, we also tend to cross the boundaries of our romantic partner ourselves. If we have low self-esteem and feel insecure, we might be the one snooping around his phone or doing other things that cause relationship problems.
If your partner crosses a boundary, it is important to communicate it, and follow up with doing what you communicated you would do. If we are on the other side, we might feel hurt if our partner lets us know that we have crossed a boundary.
It is important to become aware of our own thoughts at this moment. Other's boundaries are guidelines for us that help improve the relationship.
They are not against us. Stay open and try to remind yourself that every person in the relationship has their own way of setting the necessary boundaries.
Take some time to reflect on your past or current relationships.
Were or are there any unhealthy boundaries present?
Boundary Badasses are not created overnight. Learning to set boundaries is a skill that you need to learn and practice to master.
It is crucial to set boundaries when you are starting a new relationship.
Boundaries play a big role in regards to your well being and mental health.
Here are some helpful tips on how to get started:
Use the following questions to help yourself get clear on your own thoughts in regards to your limits around physical, emotional, financial and time topics:
The more detail, the better.
You might be surprised what new ideas come up once you start to write them down.
Close your eyes for a moment, and see yourself communicating the boundary clearly and with confidence.
Remember, this is a process. Start with a small, non-threatening boundary and when this goes well, take on more challenging limits.
Download the Free Guide "60 WAYS TO SAY NO with confidence and
without feeling guilty".
If you would like more support around setting boundaries, feel free to send me a message!
> Recovering from Codependency
> What is my Attachment Style?
> The meaning behind Unchained Connection
Categories: boundaries, boundary in relationship, codependency