A relationship, although blossoming, can sometimes make one ask themselves how much is too much? When and where do I stop? What are the things that are completely off the table? And a bunch of other pertinent questions that can be defining for the relationship. It’s important to know what you want out of the relationship, what you’re willing to do, and partner expectations. After all, at the end of the day, we have to understand in order to be understood. And the first step towards finding that happy place is setting boundaries.
Why you need to set boundaries
Setting boundaries in a relationship may seem absurd as an idea, but we have good reasons why you should do it. As humans, we have a high level of need and dependency. There are some whose need for love and affection overpowers others’. They are ready to go to any length to receive this, and more often than not they end up sacrificing their identities and letting go of their boundaries. They tend to play the victim’s card with the hope that someone will come to save them. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who think they can save or fix their partner, and thus receive the love that they were seeking (ever wondered why opposites attract?). But what they both fail to understand (and I’m no relationship expert here) is that the cyclical creating and resolving of ‘issues’ will leave them both emotionally exhausted and the love and respect that they crave will almost never come their way.
While you’re ready to do anything to not just make your relationship work, but ensure it’s a happy one, it’s important to not do anything for the sake of it. One of the first things that setting boundaries does for your relationship is that they reduce conflict. Setting expectations make things easy, no matter how tough the conversation can be. Come to think of it, this honest and transparent communication brings you closer to your partner.
When is the right time to set boundaries?
It’s easier to set boundaries at the start of a relationship. You know more about yourself than the other person and are more willing to communicate your needs and wants to them. It is important to be honest about your likes, dislikes, what you are comfortable with, your expectations of them and the relationship, your pet peeves, what’s absolutely a no-no for you, and so on. It is important to ensure that they know what you truly expect from them rather than having them play the guessing game and forcing them on your partner. When you have boundaries, you are not going to be taken advantage of or caught up in drama because you’re trying to live this near-perfect life. You’ll like that, won’t you?
Know what you want
You won’t have your needs met if you don’t know what they are. Take a step back and reflect on what you truly believe in. Introspect and gain a more thorough understanding of what you want.
Ask yourself questions such as:
• What behaviours bother me?
• What qualities do I admire in others?
• What makes me feel fulfilled?
While you search for answers to these, thinking about how others make you feel can also help you identify necessary boundaries. Do they make you uncomfortable in any way? Do they control you? Do you feel happy, secure, and respected when with them? Are you pushing yourself in any way, you don’t want to, just for them? Answers to these questions bring you a step closer to knowing where to draw the line.
Improve your communication skills
What you say and how you say it does matter. Communicating boundaries with respect, love and compassion is as important as setting them. The rule of thumb for this conversation is to use more sentences beginning with ‘I’ rather than ‘you’. And remember, if you expect to be heard and your partner to respect your boundaries, it is a given that you do, too.
What a good boundary looks like
Boundaries can vary from person to person—what may be acceptable to some might be a red flag for others. But there are some non-negotiables and some musts which you should know about. Showing gratitude, being considerate of your partner’s feelings, being honest, respectfully agreeing to disagree, and actually listening are some of the basics to expect in a relationship. In addition to this, you need to have space for autonomy, the willingness to meet them halfway, and a strong differentiation of self, i.e. having a full life outside the relationship. You should be comfortable saying no and leaving a situation that otherwise, and create a safe space for each other to express and be honest.