There are many people who believe that boundaries have no place in a loving relationship. In their understanding boundaries are unnecessary when people are in love. Quite the opposite is true. Every healthy relationship has defined boundaries.
Boundaries define the rules of engagement in a relationship. Without them, ambiguities exist and the situation can become confusing. Clearly defined boundaries that are respected by both parties will build trust. In such a relationship the partners do not have to defend their boundaries. They may even cross them from time to time with agreement from the other.
In romantic relationships, boundaries are crucial because the partners share the most intimate moments, emotional, sexual and physical.
When the relationship is healthy both partners respect the opinion of the other. They consider the feelings of their partner and they are grateful for the shared consideration of the other. On the other hand, when the relationship is not healthy, one or the other will violate the boundaries. They will disrespect the opinion of their partner, believing them to have similar feelings as they do.
Boundaries that absolutely exclude or include certain behaviours are bound to fail. Examples of this kind of boundary are those that consider what must NEVER or ALWAYS happen. This suggests no compromise and may not be reasonable.
Boundaries which are not explicit also don’t work. You can’t expect your partner to understand a vague boundary such as “you must do the dishes every now and again”.
Some people expect that their partner should know what the boundaries are without ever telling them. They may even become annoyed and sulky when the partner fails to understand that they have overstepped the boundary which had never been discussed.
Boundaries which will create friction, which are manipulative or which display a double standard also don’t work. You can’t set a boundary for your partner which you yourself won’t honour, nor should you blackmail them with threats of withholding favours.
Poor boundary setting can set the stage for problems in the relationship.
One of the most important aspects of setting boundaries starts with an awareness of your likes and dislikes and with the understanding of the way you wish to be treated.
Your partner cannot know what your wishes are unless you express them. Many people fearing disagreement fail to let their partner know what it is they require from the relationship. Your partner needs to know you would like to be treated under various circumstances. Failure to convey this information will cause confusion.
It is vital that communicate your wishes clearly and definitively.
Examples: Do not go into my wardrobe. It is private.
If you are at my home at 7 pm I’ll make you a packed lunch for work.
When your partner has upset you by violating a boundary, you should express your feelings and the reasons for feeling the way that you do. You should also let your partner know that you do love them and that you want to stay in the relationship. You should make it clear that you require clear and respected boundaries. You should also give your partner space to discuss how they feel about the boundary.
In communicating a boundary violation you could try wrapping the complaint in a couple of compliments. A compliment on either side of a criticism can make it more palatable.
Rather than directing the sentences at your partner as in “you do these things that annoy me” you should rather use the word I as in “I would love it if”. This way it will feel less like an attack on your partner.
Healthy relationships depend on clearly defined boundaries that are properly articulated, transparent and objective. Make clear to your partner exactly what you want and hear them out when they offer you similar information.