Ever wondered what “boundaries” are in a relationship, and why they’re so important?
With good boundaries, intimate partners enjoy respect, honesty, and open communication. Each partner feels a healthy sense of independence and wholeness that is separate from their loved one. On the other hand, relationships with no or poor boundaries tend to have these qualities: jealousy, manipulation, dependency, miscommunication, feelings of incompleteness, and difficulties in letting go.
Good boundaries are essential. Here are three key ways to set them:
1. Express Yourself, Don’t Assume
It’s not possible to know everything your partner is thinking or feeling unless you ask. Likewise, it’s not fair to expect your partner to know what you think or feel unless you tell them. So:
Be honest when communicating your needs
Create a safe and respectful environment to share these needs
Practice “active listening,” which includes making eye contact, remaining quiet, and paying attention
Ask clarifying questions
2. Follow Through
A boundary can be small, like “I want you to stay out of the bathroom when I’m showering” or “I don’t want you to use my laptop without asking.” Boundaries can also be large and somewhat more abstract, such as, “I don’t want to be told what to do or wear” or “I want to be monogamous.”
Boundaries should be honored by both partners. If you fail to honor your partner’s boundaries, this will make it difficult to feel safe, loved, and respected. Eventually, this over-stepping can lead to resentment and contempt.
3. Take Responsibility for You (Only You).
Even partners with healthy boundaries have conflict—but these partners also tend to take responsibility for their own happiness as well as their own frustration, anger, and other “negative” feelings. If your partner is unwilling to respect your boundaries, ending the relationship may be necessary for your own well-being.