setting boundaries in a relationship

Personal boundaries in relationships: Why are they important and how to set them

Personal boundaries help you communicate what is best for you—your needs and deal-breakers.
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Personal boundaries are rules or limitations you put in place to let others know what you deem as acceptable behaviour. These guidelines help you retain your sense of identity and personal space in a relationship. You are essentially letting your partner know what behaviour is okay and where you draw the line. When boundaries are communicated, alongside why it’s not okay to violate them, you allow your relationship to grow and blossom into a healthy companionship.

Setting personal boundaries is nothing but communicating your needs which brings clarity and honesty in a relationship. However, not having healthy boundaries in relationships can lead to unnecessary fights, resentment, and misunderstandings that are never good for anyone.

Personal boundaries help you communicate what is best for you—your needs and deal-breakers. This clarity and honesty are important for self-care, not just for you but for your partner as well. Healthy boundaries are vital to feeling safe, fulfilled and happy. Bestselling author Mark Manson, in his blog, writes, “Not only do personal boundaries boost your self-esteem and bolster your sense of identity, but they also make life a hell lot easier.”

While there are some basic rules to consider when building and maintaining healthy boundaries, it is important to note what works for one person might not work for another. To make things easier, here are some tips that can help you establish healthy boundaries in your relationship.

Establish your boundaries early

Establish your boundaries early in a relationship because once the habits and routines are formed, they are hard to change. Also, this will let your partner know about your needs and expectations—and vice versa. It may require you to step out of your comfort zone to clearly communicate your emotional and physical expectations. But keep in mind, this heart-to-heart communication will help you both understand where you stand as a couple, and whether or not, you are compatible and mutually respect each other’s wishes.

Use your values as a guide

Most of the time, the reason why we struggle to establish boundaries in relationships is that we don’t know our true worth. How can you communicate the same to your partner if you don’t know about your values? Your values are yardsticks to determine what behaviours and habits are acceptable to you. Oftentimes, people who find themselves trapped in a toxic relationship aren’t aware of what they stand for or what they believe in. Knowing your value is the key to making sure that you don’t compromise with your beliefs and ideologies. Your values can be your guide to a healthy relationship.

Communicate clearly

Once you know what you expect from your partner in a relationship, the next step is to inform them as clearly as possible. Leave no room for ambiguity or doubt in your communication if you want your partner to respect your boundaries. Describe what you want using ‘I’ statements. For example, you can say “I felt really bad when this happened,” or “I feel angry when you check my phone without my permission.” The idea is to be as clear as possible. Understand that your partner is not a mind reader. Help them understand why your boundaries are important to you and why your partner should respect them. Make sure you communicate respectfully and with compassion.

Express your disappointment

If your partner violates your personal boundaries, yet you don’t say anything, then you are rewarding that negative behaviour. You keep your thoughts to yourself and allow yourself to bottle up all the emotions. This is how resentment builds. You don’t want that. Instead, just like how you communicated your boundaries, express your disappointment as well when a line is crossed. When you hold your partner accountable for their actions, they will try to respect your wishes and not overstep your personal boundaries again.

Draw your own boundaries

When you are establishing your boundaries in a relationship, know that what has worked for other couples might not work for you and your partner. Each relationship is different. The people involved are unique in their own ways. So, you need to evaluate your needs and your expectations from your relationship—certain behaviours and habits of your partner that bothers you and what lines you don’t want them to cross. This will help you give your relationship a positive and healthy start. Keep in mind that it is okay to tweak your personal boundaries over time so they can rightly express your concerns.

Be patient

An important step in learning how to set personal boundaries in your relationship is to be patient. The very talk of setting boundaries may come as a surprise to your partner and they may not be ready to accept them at first. During those times, you need to be patient and try and explain to your partner why you think they are important. Have regular conversations about them with your partner. Let them know why you value a particular boundary. Over time, these conversations can help nip all their concerns in the bud.

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