Setting Boundaries in Your Relationships
Something I wasn’t familiar on for a long time is setting boundaries in a relationship. This can go for a relationship with your significant other, a fuck-buddy, a best-friend, sibling, parent, co-worker, etc. Relationships are forged in every aspect of life. And sometimes because someone is so close to us we think that they understand our boundaries or they will not cross the line.
When I came out of my mentally abusive relationship a little over two years ago. Something I did not establish between us was my boundaries. I allowed things to go down that I would never allow today because I loved him and believed that he was my soul mate, and believed respect just was supposed to come along with those two things. But they did not. And this does not only happen in abusive relationships.
When you’re establishing boundaries between you and a partner it allows both people to feel comfortable and safe. This is something I focus on now when it comes to my developing personal relationships. As soon as a red flag appears I am quick to speak my mind, and its not to pick a fight with the other person it is to protect my mental health, something that was completely depleted when I came out of the abusive relationship and worked hard to rebuild.
As a naturally passive person I can say I have allowed people to push my boundaries and let it go because I don’t want confrontation or I don’t want to make things a little uncomfortable. The thing is, someone shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable for sharing your personal thoughts on their actions, whether those actions are little or small. It could be as simple as your roommate blaring music and being loud at night when you have work in the morning, if you don’t like that speak up or they will continue to do it. Or it could be big like your partner asking your plans for the evening. In the very beginning of my previous relationship I was invited to a rappers house and I was taking my best friend along. When my boyfriend called and asked my plans for the evening I told him and he basically told me I was not to go and then threatened to break up with me if I did. Right there in that moment I should have established the boundary of the fact that I wasn’t going to be with someone that wanted to control me, and by the way I still ended up going to the rappers house just with out my partners knowledge. So in the end both of us were wrong, but neither one of us had established our boundaries.
A lot of times the biggest thing getting in each others way of respecting one another’s boundaries is ego. You have to be open and willing to listen, and while you may not like everything this person is saying you need to give them the chance to air their thoughts and feelings. You have to communicate your feelings or how else is someone going to know you are upset with them and their actions? You must be willing to follow through on what you say whether that is agreeing with your partner or friend that you could do something differently, as well as taking responsibility for your actions and your side of things.
And the most important thing, the thing I believe we all struggle with is knowing when to let that relationship or friendship go because it is no longer bettering us and allowing us to grow to our full potential.
When a lot of us hear the word boundaries we automatically think it is a bad thing. That can be the case, but not always. “Boundaries that often fail are those that include the words ‘always,’ ‘never’ or any absolute language,” said Bridget Levy, LCPC, a therapist who works with couples and directs business development at Urban Balance. Such boundaries are usually unrealistic and don’t last, she said. She shared these examples: “You can never” or “You must always.” Other poor boundaries alienate you from your partner, have a double standard or try to manipulate an outcome, she said. She shared these examples: “If you aren’t home by 7 p.m. every night, I will not have sex with you,” “If you don’t do X, I will hurt myself” or “You are not allowed to do X, but I can do it when I please.” This is the type of treatment I received in my abusive relationship and if you are experiencing this in yours you need to bring this to attention immediately to your partner, and if they do not want to make changes then you need to leave and move on.
Boundaries can extend into all of these categories, especially when you are trying to build a life with someone.
What are your overall expectations in the relationship?
I have heard a lot of don’t expect anything from anyone. But in my opinion that is damn near impossible when you are in a relationship or in friendships. You expect your friends to keep your secrets and not go talk behind your back. In relationships expectations can be what you expect to see from that person and how they conduct themselves as far as respecting you.
Everyone can handle different levels of pain. Some of us are more sensitive than others and that is okay. Certain things should not be tolerated in a relationship like; being lied to, cheated on, verbally abused, yelled at or spoken down to, etc. I tolerated things like verbal abuse and being spoken down to in my previous relationship and it took a lot out of me, and I did it because I loved him but this love was not healthy or good and once leaving the relationship I was able to see that very clearly.
Refer to the emotional, intellectual, and physical aspects of sexuality. Healthy sexual boundaries involve mutual understanding and respect of limitations and desires between sexual partners. Sexual boundaries can be violated with unwanted sexual touch, pressure to engage in sexual acts, leering, or sexual comments.
-Sex is a big thing. In today’s time and age I definitely think we have made it a lot smaller than it should be. And that goes for myself included, outside of practicing celibacy. I have had people I hook up with and don’t care for personally but then there are people I have had sex with that I do actually care about. It’s okay to tell your partner you aren’t in the mood to have sex. It is okay to discuss with your partner that you feel like you want to have more sex. I find that with people you are just casually hooking up with sometimes boundaries can be crossed because it is supposed to be casual and you aren’t in a relationship. But the thing is, this is a form of a relationship and if you feel like you can’t express your thoughts and feelings with this person who has seen you in your most intimate form then you probably should not be hooking up with them because you are unable to express boundaries.
Refer to money and possessions. Healthy material boundaries involve setting limits on what you will share, and with whom. For example, it may be appropriate to lend a car to a family member, but probably not to someone you met this morning. Material boundaries are violated when someone steals or damages another person’s possessions, or when they pressure them to give or lend them their possessions.
-I see it a lot these days. Women taking care of their man while he builds his career or his passion. I was almost fully supporting someone at one point in my life, and while I don’t like to say I have regrets I definitely learned. In my opinion someone should be able to stand on his or her own two feet before entering a relationship, obviously when people get married the ideas of the financial split change. But if you’re breaking your back to provide a home and food and whatever while your partner sits on the couch for the majority of the day and smokes weed, you should probably say something because this pattern will not just break on its own.
The limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships.
A person who always keeps others at a distance (whether emotionally, physically, or otherwise) is said to have rigid boundaries. Alternatively, someone who tends to get too involved with others has porous boundaries.
-I tend to bounce between healthy and rigid. Since coming out of an abusive relationship I have found it more difficult to feel comfortable with the personal touch of someone else. But with certain people I have recognized right away that I don’t mind them physically being close to me that could even mean hugging or simply patting my leg.
Refer to a person’s feelings. Healthy emotional boundaries include limitations on when to share, and when not to share, personal information. For example, gradually sharing personal information during the development of a relationship, as opposed to revealing everything to everyone. Emotional boundaries are violated when someone criticizes, belittles, or invalidates another person’s feelings.
Refer to how a person uses their time. To have healthy time boundaries, a person must set aside enough time for each facet of their life such as work, relationships, and hobbies. Time boundaries are violated when another person demands too much of another’s time.
-Recently I experienced this with a friend of mine that I hooked up with. Telling me they were going to be at my place in 30 minutes to an hour, which then turned into 5 hours. I immediately established this was not okay and a form of disrespect to my time and me.
Refer to personal space and physical touch. Healthy physical boundaries include an awareness of what’s appropriate, and what’s not, in various settings and types of relationships (hug, shake hands, or kiss?). Physical boundaries may be violated if someone touches you when you don’t want them to, or when they invade your personal space (for example, rummaging through your bedroom).
Refer to thoughts and ideas. Healthy intellectual boundaries include respect for others’ ideas, and an awareness of appropriate discussion (should we talk about the weather, or politics?). Intellectual boundaries are violated when someone dismisses or belittles another person’s thoughts or ideas.
With boundaries and relationships I do believe how we act and react and conduct ourselves in relationships can go as far back as our childhood, and also witnessing our parent’s relationships and others around us. Maybe you didn’t witness boundaries in love, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have them in your relationship. It is really important to ground yourself before entering relationships. I believe this keeps you from the feeling of “I can’t live with out you.” Because you know what makes you special and what makes you special with out someone else. Setting boundaries will keep your identity in your relationship and it is very important for your emotional, mental, and self-care.