Setting, and respecting, boundaries is key to any healthy, fulfilling and mutually rewarding relationship. Usually the need to set boundaries in relationships arises when one person or partner feels as though their needs are not being met. Boundaries can be set at any stage in a relationship, even before the first date. This may seem like overthinking things but essentially, you are teaching others how to treat you right from your first interaction. Not to worry, you are not literally saying things like "I have a boundary around you sending me a booty call text at 3am before we've even met in person." You simply establish the boundary by not responding to said text. Easy. The earlier you can establish healthy boundaries, the better. As you’ve probably already guessed, this post is all about how to do just that. So friend, keep on reading to learn the five simple steps to creating boundaries that strengthen your relationship and will lead to ultimate, mutual fulfillment. 1. Ask Yourself, “How Do I Feel? Are My Needs Being Met?”
You may already know that you want (or need) to have a conversation with your partner about setting boundaries, but have you fully explored your own feelings and needs at this point? If the answer is no, then you’ll need to start here or your requests will come across unclear and likely difficult to take action on. Determine the feeling first. Have you been feeling drained? Exhausted? Fulfilled? Happy? Content? and what do your instincts tell you about why this is so?
Do you feel you’re giving far more than you’re receiving? What needs, be specific, do you feel are being neglected or left to the wayside? Is it attention? Appreciation? Helping with household stuff? Once you’ve fully explored and consider your own feelings and needs, it’s time to move onto step two.
2. Now, Put Yourself in Your Partner’s Shoes
Now that you’ve taken care of yourself, it’s time to put yourself in the place of your partner and complete the same exercise. Try your very best to exercise the utmost empathy and truly explore your relationship through the eyes of your partner. Look at the past six months and ask yourself, “How have I treated him? What have I done to show him my love and support? How do I imagine he feels when I do this or that?”
Try to be completely and totally honest with yourself and get as real as possible here. No doubt this is difficult, but it's very important in creating healthy partnerships. Your learnings from this exercise will help you immensely when it comes time to have the boundary discussion with your partner.
3. Consider the Setting, Language and Tone
Where and how you have a conversation is just as important as the conversation itself. This is true for every single type of relationship, and couldn’t be truer for romantic relationships. Plan to have your conversation at home in a relaxed, familiar setting where you can both be your authentic, genuine selves and healthily engage in discussion without constraints.
Allow yourself enough time to explain where it is that you are coming from, how you’d like to proceed and then your partner can do the same. Boundary setting, and respecting, is a collaborative effort and requires both of you to give it your all. Putting a level of thoughtfulness into the experience and discussion will really help with both of you feeling heard and self-expressed. At the beginning of the discussion, you can say something like, "both of our goals are to work things out and continue on in our relationship". This can diffuse any resistance.
4. Set the Boundaries
Ready for the hard part? Don’t sweat it, because it really doesn’t need to be that hard. In fact, you may find that you truly enjoy the process of setting boundaries with your partner. This is an excellent chance to really bare your soul, and have your partner bare his, and get to know each other – and each of your needs – on a whole new level.
Perhaps you’re going into this because you feel you don’t spend enough time one-on-one with each other and want to ensure you leave work at the door. Perhaps you feel that you need more alone time, or time with your friends, so that you can truly be your own person and bring a better version of yourself to your relationship. Maybe you’ll learn that your partner has felt that your relationship with your mother or siblings is affecting your relationship at home. Maybe you’ll learn that your partner’s been craving this same conversation but hadn’t known how to start it off without coming across the wrong way.
An example of the language you can use is:
"I know you don't intentionally do (action) to hurt me but when you do it, it makes me feel (feeling). What I would love instead is (action). How does that sound?"
Whatever the scenario, I assure you that you’ll come away feeling more confident, secure and committed to your relationship.
5. Commit to the Boundaries and Stay Committed
After you and your partner have identified and committed to boundaries, you’ve got to make sure you stick with it. It may take practice and it may take time, but I encourage you to respect the relationship work that you have done and honour your partnership by keeping it going. Your happiness, needs and love life are far too important to take a back seat to life’s many other demands. Make progress your priority and just watch, you’ll see your relationship flourish like you could never have imagined.
To your authenticity,