6 Steps to Set Boundaries in a Relationship
A happy relationship assumes respecting boundaries set by each partner. However, we often do not know these boundaries and how to observe them. Learn it today.
What Are Boundaries
Boundaries show where one thing ends and another begins. In a relationship, they help you to define what you are comfortable with and how you would like to be treated by others. Boundaries can be emotional, physical or even digital, spiritual. Some examples of personal boundaries might be:
- Kissing but not in public.
- No physical violence.
- No forcing to sex when I'm tired or have "these days".
- At the beginning of the new relationship - no putting pressure on me to have sex when I am only ready for touching.
- No mane-calling.
- Manipulation with guilt, put-downs are deal-breakers.
- No emotional blackmail.
- I will tolerate no commenting on my weight, potency or wealth.
- Never criticise me when I burst into tears because of frustration or anger.
- I have the right to refuse to answer questions concerning my pst life (relationships and fine details about them).
- No giving out about what you have done for me when I was vulnerable and in trouble.
- Never overpower me (e.g use your higher income as a tool of control).
- Never use any of my vulnerabilities to your advantage.
- No labelling me as "stupid, idiot."
- I will not tolerate being called "crazy" just because I do not agree with your point of view.
- No texting late at night or when I'm working (whether from home or at the office).
- Leaving me alone when I need some "time for myself".
- No controlling (mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law).
- Accepting my need to meet with friends (giving me some space).
- No possessiveness or excess jealousy.
- Understanding my way of working on my spiritual growth (e.g. meditation, using crystals or prayers).
- Respecting my religious practice (if the pertner hase different views on faith and spirituality).
- No deliberate hiding of phone computer etc.
- No decisions will be made for me, without negotiations and joint arrangement.
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Healthy And Unhealthy Boundaries
When you know the examples of your boundaries, define if they are healthy or unhealthy. How do you know it? Just recognize that healthy boundaries help to protect and respect you; an unhealthy boundary seeks to control or harm someone else. For example: “I need space to hang out with my friends and do things I enjoy on my own.” This boundary is healthy. However, if your partner says, “I need you to stop talking to other guys/girls because you might cheat/I get jealous,” that’s not a healthy boundary;. It is simply a warning sign that your partner may have some trust issues and he/she is trying to control who you hang out with.
How To Set Boundaries In a Relationship
"When someone loves you, the way they talk about you is different. You feel safe and comfortable."
1. Define Your Boundaries
If you do not know your boundaries, other people will impose theirs and may hurt or take advantage of you. It would be best to start from the relationships which are not harmonious and cause the most trouble. Let's say your sister is bossy and often calls your names. the time has come to set some boundaries and learn assertiveness.
How To Do It
Take a diary and for a couple of days, observe your relationship. Pay close attention to the moments when you suddenly feel exhausted or unhappy. It might be something said or done. Write these things down and define which kind of boundary has been broken.
Then, look at your needs, from the bottom of your heart, and notice what kind of impact a given relationship has on them. Do they respect your needs? Do they help you with meeting these needs? Or maybe opposite, question and neglect them?
Having defined your needs and the areas where someone takes advantage of or you or uses violence, write down a code of rules which have to be observed.
2. Check Which Of Them Has Been Crossed
Conflicts, arguments and your sudden mood deterioration imply breaching the boundaries. These incidents will occur from time to time as we are humans and sometimes make mistakes. The urge to survive causes crossing the boundaries, e.g. when your partner loses his or her job and becomes more insecure. Then they may need more space while you still yearn for intimacy.
Observe your reactions and actions. Do you feel stung, embarrassed, unworthy? How about assertiveness? Can you defend? What thoughts come to your mind? How does your inner critic work - does he/she fan the flames?
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3.Communicate Your Expectations Assertively
Crossing your boundaries may not be necessarily deliberate. Yet you have the right to tell your partner that he or she has done something wrong. You might feel angry. Communicate it to your partner, but do it in a non-aggressive way. You do not need to cross his or her boundaries and risk escalation of the conflict.
Sometimes the other party is totally unaware of crossing the boundaries. Then communicating to them that your boundaries have been crossed will help you to improve the quality of your relationship and you both will grow.
Example of assertive communication:
"I would like to show you some of our products"
"No thank you, I'm not interested"
"I really have a great range to offer you"
"That may be true, but I'm not interested at the moment"
"Is there someone else here who would be interested?"
"I don't want any of these products"
"Ok, would you take this brochure and think about it?"
"Yes, I will take a brochure"
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4. Behaviour Rehearsal
It means literally means practising assertiveness in the way you want to be perceived. One of the useful techniques assumes using "I" statements, as it helps dissipate any emotion associated with an experience and allows you to accurately identify the behaviour you wish to confront.
4.1. Repeated Assertion (the 'broken record')
It allows you to feel comfortable by ignoring manipulative verbal side traps, argumentative baiting and irrelevant logic while sticking to your point. To use this assertiveness technique most effectively, apply calm repetition, and say what you want and stay focused on the issue. You can practise this technique by reading aloud, in a calm voice, the examples of boundaries listed in this article (when you finish reading go to the top of the page).
It allows you to receive criticism comfortably, without getting anxious or defensive, and without rewarding manipulative criticism. You just need to acknowledge the criticism, agree that there may be some truth to what they say, but always consider this criticism destructive overall.
An example of fogging could be:
"I agree that there are probably times when I don't give you answers to your questions. However, I have a different view on that issue."
4.3. Negative Enquiry
This assertiveness technique seeks out criticism about yourself in close relationships by promoting the expression of honest, negative feelings to improve communication.
To use it effectively you need to listen for critical comments, clarify your understanding of those criticisms, and use the information if it will be helpful or ignore the information the manipulative one.
An example of this assertiveness technique would be:
"So you think/believe that I am not interested? How can you prove it?"
This assertiveness technique lets you look more comfortably at negatives in your own behaviour or personality without feeling defensive or anxious, it also reduces your critics' hostility.
You should accept your errors or faults, but not apologise. Instead, tentatively and sympathetically agree with hostile criticism of your traits. For example:
"Yes, you're right. I don't always listen closely to what you have to say."
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5. Try To Find a Solution To Set Boundaries
Arguing in order to win will never work. Instead, try to find a solution. Maybe you need to give your partner more space or indeed, learn how to listen to him/her more attentively. Of course, he/she may not be happy with the message which you communicate and even more, in turn, present the case when you have breached his rules. It might be a catharsis and after confrontation, healthier rules may be established.
6. Apply the Agreement On Regular Basis
Once you have agreed to respect the new boundaries, observe it. You or your partner may be tempted to cross the boundaries sometimes, but it'd be better to respect the agreement. From time to time, you may review the boundaries and establish new ones, e.g. when your partner loses a job or becomes promoted and will work longer hours.
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7. Be Aware Of Changes
Each relationship goes through a life cycle. First, your court then ties the knot. Later, the decision of having kids and bringing them up is made. After growing up, your children leave the nest. Then you, as a couple, will need to learn how to live together and face the challenges which were ignored while you were raising your kids.
You also go through changes yourself. For women, it is pregnancy, maternity and menopause. During this time, you may need more care from your partner while becoming moodier. As I wrote above, changes in your career may also have an impact on your relationships. The same happens when you have to take care of your old parents and when they die.
As you grow, become more aware of yourself, you might want to set new boundaries. For example, you may notice that your partner should respect you more, not raising his or her voice when there is a conflict. Your core values may also change. For example, you might focus more on family than a career, start having a new hobby. Then it is also necessary to set new boundaries.
While meditating, you can do a couple of things: release and cleanse negative emotions, meet your boundaries better and empower yourself to be more assertive.
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In a Nutshell
Today you have learnt how to establish and observe healthy boundaries in a relationship. Apply the following tips: identify your boundaries, observe when they are breached, communicate the problem assertively and beware of changes. Enjoy a blissful time with your partner. Good luck. With love,