While there is nothing wrong with helping or pleasing other people, you shouldn’t spread yourself too thin. Doing so, which may include saying “yes” when you actually mean “no” could lead to feelings of resentment or being disrespected later on.
Not being able to set personal limits or boundaries can cause people to abuse or take advantage of you, which can then drain your physical and mental energy.
Here are some tips on how to set healthy boundaries and how everyone can benefit from therapy.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries refer to the rules or limits you set for yourself and within relationships with other people. They help you identify the things you are comfortable with and the way you’d like others to treat you.
Healthy boundaries can protect your personal space, safety, and security, as well as your physical and mental well-being.
There are 5 different types of boundaries:
With regards to romantic relationships, boundaries prevent two people from becoming entangled in a toxic or unhealthy bond. They allow couples to maintain not just their space and needs, but also their individuality.
Boundaries, furthermore, enable partners to feel safe, fulfilled, and respected while maintaining a meaningful connection.
Here are some examples of common boundaries in relationships:
- I like kissing and holding hands, but I am not comfortable doing them in public.
- I am okay with following each other on social media, but not with sharing accounts and passwords.
- I love spending time with you, but I also need quiet time or “me-time”.
- I am okay with cuddling and some touching, but I don’t want to have sex yet.
What are the benefits of setting healthy boundaries in relationships?
As previously mentioned, boundaries can prevent you from entering a toxic relationship. By having them early on, you’ll be able to establish the type of action or behaviors you will not tolerate.
These can also include the things you expect in a partner or the relationship, and how you should be treated.
Below are the other benefits of having healthy boundaries in relationships:
- See if the person is who you want to be with – You are not meant to be compatible with everyone. The way your partner reacts to your boundaries can help you decide if the relationship is worth pursuing.
- Reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings – With healthy boundaries, you and your partner will know how to treat each other. This can reduce confusion and misunderstandings.
- Allows you to grow – Communicating your boundaries enables you to become more open and vulnerable. This can then help you grow personally and connect with your partner in an honest way.
- Helps protect your mental well-being – Without healthy boundaries, you may have to deal with behaviors you’re not really comfortable with. Setting them limits your exposure to stress, as well as emotional and physical fatigue.
How to set boundaries
Setting healthy relationship boundaries may seem daunting at first, especially if you’re not used to asserting them.
Here are some helpful tips on maintaining and setting boundaries with your significant other.
Define your boundaries first
It can be difficult for others to follow your personal boundaries if you don’t have them in place. Tune in to your thoughts and emotions so you can determine your limits and non-negotiables.
You can also look into past experiences or scenarios where you felt angry, offended, or disrespected. It could probably be due to someone crossing or disrespecting your boundaries.
Pay attention to the values that matter to you, especially those that help you thrive as an individual. It could be spending certain occasions with friends or loved ones, keeping hobbies or maintaining family traditions, and others.
It can also be helpful to write them down on paper so you can see them clearly, as well as examine or revisit them in the future.
Identifying or knowing your boundaries is not the same as setting them. So, once you’ve drawn them out or reflected on them, you need to communicate your boundaries to your partner.
Do take note that people do not mind readers, so they won’t know your needs or limits unless you tell them. Constantly dropping hints is not the same as clear or effective communication.
The right way to do this is to sit down and communicate with your partner. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a serious or an intense conversation. You can also express some of your boundaries casually during a conversation.
If your partner, for instance, does something that makes you feel offended or uncomfortable, you can tell them right at that moment and set the boundary.
You can also choose to have a conversation about setting boundaries if possible. Below are a few things that could help you communicate your relationship boundaries effectively:
- Highlight an issue or a potential problem.
- Tell or describe how you would want your partner to act or respond.
- Explain why you’ve set that boundary and what it means for you.
- Be honest about the things you are comfortable and not comfortable with.
Use “I” statements
Starting conversations with “I” statements enables you to say what you think or feel without attacking the other party. This fosters a collaborative discussion and prevents you from sounding accusatory, which could happen with “you” statements.
Leading conversations with “you” usually indicates blame or responsibility on the listener, which can then make them defensive.
Here are some examples:
|You don’t care about me or my feelings.
|I feel upset when my emotions are not heard or acknowledged.
|You always leave your stuff or mess all over the house. You never clean up.
|I feel annoyed or frustrated when the house is messy when I come home. I would like you to keep your stuff organized or picked up.
|You never open up or tell me how you’re feeling.
|I would love for you to talk more or share your feelings about this (issue).
Listen, listen, listen
Once you’ve discussed or laid out your boundaries in relationships, it is time to listen. If you don’t understand what your partner is saying, don’t hesitate to ask questions.
You can also reflect on and paraphrase the content of the message to make sure that you clearly understand what is being conveyed.
Here are a few tips on listening effectively:
- Put your phone away when your partner is talking.
- Listen to what they are saying instead of thinking about how to respond.
- Wait for them to finish before responding.
- Be ready to hear something you might not like and think about it before responding.
Realize that boundaries can change
The boundaries you have are not set in stone. As your relationship with your partner progresses or changes, it is a good idea to reevaluate them. The things you might not be okay with initially might become comfortable after a few months or getting to know that person more.
You might also experience something for the first time and realize that it is a boundary you need to establish.
You can always change your mind about the boundaries you have at any time. Just let your partner know about those changes. Also, make sure that you are making those because you want to, not because your partner forces or pressures you into doing so.
Consider professional help
Some people who were exposed to situations where boundaries were violated or not created may find it challenging to set or maintain them. If you or your partner are having difficulties on how to set boundaries, talk to a mental health professional.
They can help you create boundaries and teach you how to communicate and listen effectively.
Calmerry lets you get access to a range of licensed therapists, so you can be matched with a therapist and talk about the issues bothering you online.
This also provides you and your partner a safe space where you can express yourself, set healthy boundaries, and openly talk about issues or problems in your relationship.
Setting healthy boundaries plays a big role in creating a sustainable relationship that lets you be true to who you are. Don’t hesitate to consider online therapy if you’re struggling with defining your boundaries or communicating them clearly.