For those, who dig in psychology, relationships are an easy thing. They know the right words to say to achieve mutual understanding. However, there are those who are yet to uncover the secrets of the human mind. Such couples often have to cope with a lot of problems on their way to happiness.
Unfortunately, we aren’t born with the instruction manual in our hands, so it’s common for people around us to cause us inconvenience by saying something we’re not ready to hear, taking our stuff without asking for permission, asking questions we’re not ready to answer, and so on. If you want to avoid these inconveniences, you need to establish certain boundaries in a relationship. But how strict should they be?
What are boundaries in a relationship?
Most of the problems come from violating boundaries. There’s no one to blame except partners themselves because they did a bad job setting them. What are healthy boundaries in a relationship, anyway?
Basically, they are what your partner isn’t allowed to do to you. This is like marking the territory. Countries and states have borders that protect their territory from unwanted invasion. When crossing the invisible line, you’ll find yourself on a strange land. Lines like this protect your personality from abusing; they’re the basis of your psychological health. If they’re violated too often, you become angrier and more irritable.
Here's what you need to know about the boundaries in relationships:
- Any relationship problems are the result of their violation.
- They help us teach people how to communicate with us.
- Wide and strong boundaries allow us to maintain psychological health and become happier.
- It’s never too late to revise the boundaries and make them broader.
- Weak and narrow limits lead to your partner violating them all the time.
- Strong and broad ones protect your self but limit the freedom of your partner.
So, if a couple has problems, it’s always because of a violation of boundaries: your loved one treats you not the way you’d like. In this case, you need to look for a spot where the boundary was broken (what exactly caused those unpleasant feelings) and set it again.
If you’ve been together for a long time, it’s more difficult to reset healthy relationship boundaries than to build them correctly from the very beginning. You should think about how you can extend them so as to protect yourself as much as possible from the traumatic experience.
- What exactly is a problem for you?
- What does your partner do?
- What would you prefer instead?
- By answering these questions, you’ll establish new, clearer, and more liberal lines.
Examples of boundaries in a relationship
There are a lot of ways to resolve arguments depending on what problem you stumble upon. Here are a couple of relationship boundaries examples for you.
Let’s say you’re only in the first stages of your relationship, and you don’t live together yet. Your partner wants to spend as much time as possible with you, so they hang out at your place every day. But you don’t like it. You ask them to limit the time you spend together to just one or two nights a week instead of every day. Here, you’ve just established a boundary in your union. Example number two: you and your loved one are now a happily married couple dealing with a newborn baby. Your spouse asks you to take on a bit more responsibility with the kid (like changing the diapers at night, bathing them, and so on) because they want a bit more personal freedom.
Setting boundaries in a relationship
Boundaries settlement is a peaceful way of sharing personal space. The key word here is “peaceful.” If you think that your relationship doesn’t have enough limitations, here’s what you need to do to set them safely.
Treat your loved one’s personal space with respect
What happens between people who have problems with setting boundaries in relationships? There’s always a place for disrespect, mutual accusations, and reproaches in their union, and the list can go on. Both partners constantly step on each other’s territory: one violates, and the other, fearing to refuse or offend, allows them to do it. Their territory is all that belongs to them. It’s their body, their personal belongings, their physical space (even a shelf in a closet or bathroom), their time, and so on.
Deny requests you can’t fulfill
Sometimes we don’t want to lend our loved ones a helping hand, but this doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to meet their wishes. Of course, we want to, but in different ways. People with healthy boundaries in a relationship agree to help their partners when they know they can do it, not expecting anything in return, and politely refuse when they’re not ready to or can’t help.
Don’t be afraid of distance
You may not always be aware that your partner has violated your territory, but you may feel strong emotional discomfort which is accompanied by the feeling of confusion, irritation, or anger.
That’s why, to begin with – and this is the most difficult part – you need to realize that you’re dealing with boundaries violation. You need to react to it every time it happens, showing your partner that you don’t like what’s happening. How? Increase the distance between you. After all, you have the right to your personal, psychological, and physical space, and you can protect it from others. So don’t be afraid to set some physical boundaries in a relationship if necessary.
Recognize that you need boundaries
What’s the main difference between a person who managed to establish healthy boundaries in a relationship and the one who doesn’t feel where they begin? The first sees and acknowledges that a loved one is an independent person with their own feelings, values, worldview, and experience which may differ from those they have. They’re responsible for their reactions and actions. They have the right to think what they think, feel what they feel, want what they want, and say what they say.
Everyone has the right to their own interests, needs, life goals, and the task of both partners as a couple is to respectfully combine these interests, needs, and goals, rather than trying to push them closer to their own. A person with blurred boundaries perceives their loved one as a part of themselves because they don’t feel where their own personality ends and their partner’s one begins.
How to set boundaries in a relationship with a narcissist
Setting boundaries in a relationship with difficult people is very, well, difficult. As a rule, you quickly realize that your partner is suffering from self-love and that you’ll have to make an effort to build a constructive relationship with them. The main reason for this is the initial disrespect of such people to the limits you try to establish. Therefore, they will violate them all the time. What should you do?
Remember your priorities
The most important thing when dealing with a narcissist is to remember that your desires, interests, and yourself as a person always come first. As soon as you begin to doubt the importance of your own interests or the importance of yourself, you lose control. At the same time, narcissists, like no other, are able to instill a sense of insignificance. Your money, your time, your self-esteem, your future – that's what's at stake when you’re dealing with such kind of person.
Be honest with yourself
To learn how to set boundaries in a relationship with a narcissist, you should maintain objectivity and honesty. If you really made a mistake, admit it. If you allow yourself to treat people like dirt, then others also have the right to treat you like this. As for objectivity, try to remember that a person has many different sides: good and bad ones.
Stay simple, kind, and strict
To be strict doesn’t mean to be callous, humiliating or offending people around you. It means to stick to your position and insist on it if needed. To make it clear.
In fact, a lot of narcissists have difficulties determining the emotions and causes of other people's behavior. Other people may seem too confused or reacting to them. Therefore, speaking about your position directly and simply, you can make it a bit simpler for them to understand the world around them. Perhaps they’ll be even grateful to you.
Open relationship boundaries
Everyone must decide for themselves what the concept of “open relationship” means to them. The thing is that each couple has its own one. For some, this is official permission for cheating, but for others, it’s just the opportunity to have some fun separately from their partner. Each interprets the term differently. That’s why even open relationships should have boundaries, at least these.
A partner is above all
You need to let your loved one know that if they want to make things between you work, your interests and needs should always come first for them.
The most important rule of a non-binding union is freedom. Sure, you don’t need to set super-strict, Christian relationship boundaries, but you can't date anyone. If you want your union to thrive, you need to make a list of people neither you nor your partner can date.
Don’t involve everyday problems. If your partner is trying to do this, this may be one of the signs that they want to bring back monogamy into your union.
Keep friends and parents away
The dumbest thing you can do is to invite your partner to a family celebration or a party with friends. Not everyone is able to understand non-binding relationships, especially parents.
Can relationships work without boundaries?
On the one hand, strict limitations reliably protect against unwanted invasions, but they also make it difficult to establish a close, trusting union. Does this mean it's better to get rid of them at all? No. Too weak boundaries or the lack of them excessively involve you in the problems of your partner, making you dependent and too impressionable. What are some good relationship boundaries, then?
Healthy borders are the very golden mean that allows you to value your own opinion and listen to your loved one’s thoughts at the same time, know your needs and declare them, and establish warm relations but not dissolve in them. Healthy boundaries are the key to happiness. If they’re violated, it brings irritation and anger. They’re the basis of mutual respect we all talk so much about and so desperately want to achieve.
As you can see, the ability to set respecting boundaries in a relationship properly, without prejudice, without devaluing your personality, and without injuring your partner, is an art and even more. It’s the task that lies before you. Like any other skill, it requires practice and a bit of theory. Following our tips and focusing on your experience, you’ll learn how to set boundaries in a relationship and get what you with almost zero effort.