Too often we are put in situations that make us feel uncomfortable, this can be someone standing too close to you on the train, or you can feel like someone is asking too much of you at work. Being able to assert ourselves in a positive way, without causing offence can be challenging and therefore we can tend to let something go. However, if this happens too often, where you feel like you need to ‘put up with being squashed’ or ‘say yes to everything’ this will start to influence how you feel about yourself.
Boundaries differ from person to person and are influenced by our personality, our cultural influences, our childhood experiences, and the social context that we live in. For example, if the person you are pressed up against on the train is someone you know it may be ok, whereas if they are a stranger this may not be ok. In this situation you have options to assert your boundary by politely asking the other person to move if you can see they have space, you can get off the train and wait for a less busy train, or perhaps you can stay and tell yourself its only for a short amount of time and it is manageable. In any of these scenarios, you have created a healthy boundary for yourself, and you still have choice.
In a relationship, having healthy boundaries is imperative for long term success and happiness. Healthy boundaries define what is deemed appropriate behaviour in our relationship, this is the type of behaviour that helps each person feel safe.
Some examples of what this might look like for both people in a healthy relationship include:
- Being honest
- Taking one another’s feelings into account
- Ask permission
- Communicate in a way that is understood and mutually respected
- Show gratitude
- Show respect for differences in beliefs, perspectives and opinions
- Give the other person freedom
- Take responsibility for our actions
For you to be able to set healthy boundaries means you need to understand yourself first, i.e you need to be self-aware. It is important to understand our own expectations of others and assess whether they are reasonable before looking at the other person. Once accomplished, it will be much easier for you to communicate with your partner and convey these expectations with assertiveness and clarity, and vice versa.
In the positive psychology research, there are 7 types of boundaries as shown in the below diagram:
Not maintaining healthy boundaries with romantic partners can lead to feelings of resentment, guilt or feeling emotionally drained, which is not good. Give yourself the acknowledgement that it is perfectly ok to state your limitations to a partner who may be making demands of your emotional resources. This is especially true if you grew up in an unhealthy household where boundaries were often impeded, or not respected, or you notoriously are ‘a people pleaser’ i.e. someone that struggles to say no.
If you find that you are in a relationship with someone who constantly pushes back on your boundaries or violates them, this may indicate that the relationship is problematic or off balance and not healthy. You never need to over-explain yourself or apologise for setting boundaries, so feel empowered to reiterate your boundary, and withdraw calmly. Equally, we should not confuse boundaries with control. If your partner feels that you are creating boundaries in a controlling way for example ‘these are my boundaries and this is what you must do’, then there is a huge issue between both partners about how boundaries are conveyed and understood. The key to having a healthy intimate relationship is clear communication between both partners about mutual needs and expectations for long term harmonious success.
Being able to successfully set healthy boundaries in a relationship is a skill and can take some time to master. Here at Maclynn, we help our clients develop these skills either individually through our coaching and matchmaking services, or as a couple with coaching. If you would like to know more about how we could work together get in touch today and book in a complimentary consultation to talk it through, and find out how we may be able to help.