In every relationship we develop we set boundaries, usually without even realizing it. For example:
- Your relationship with your co-workers may be “strictly professional.” You may choose to be friendly and work cooperatively during work hours but choose not to get together socially with the people at work.
- You may be friendly with your neighbors, feeling at ease making small talk and chatting about your children while standing outside but you don’t reveal much about your personal life.
- You share different details of your life with different people, not divulging much personal information with acquaintances but talking about more personal aspects with close friends.
- You draw the line between being a parent and being a friend, understanding that no matter how well you get along with your child, you still need to set and enforce rules.
All of these are examples of setting boundaries. We all do this naturally in many relationships in our life, but sometimes, the lines become blurry when it comes to the most important relationship in our life. Sometimes, we allow our partner to step over the lines we have drawn because we are afraid of losing him or her.
Knowing Your Boundaries
Boundaries explain to your partner how you expect to be treated; they protect you from emotional hurt. While there is a certain set of boundaries that should be in place in every relationship, for example, physical abuse should never be tolerated, each person may have their own unique set of behaviors they can and cannot accept within their relationship.
Look back at previous relationships. What worked? What didn’t? What types of behaviors made you feel loved and respected? What types of behaviors made you feel disrespected, used or uncomfortable? Write down what behaviors make you feel good about yourself. Make a list of those behaviors you find undesirable and those that you don’t want to accept within a relationship. This is the beginning of your list of boundaries. The following are some examples:
- I expect privacy. I do not want anyone going through my personal belongings without my permission.
- I expect my partner to help around the house.
- I do not like when my partner yells or screams at me.
- I have the right to go out with my friends, alone, and without an interrogation about my time away from the relationship.
- I want someone who is understanding and will listen, without judgment, when I have a problem.
- I feel uncomfortable when someone tells jokes that make fun of a certain set of people or are insulting or degrading of other people.
- I expect honesty and openness in a relationship.
Remember, you have a right to demand respect within a relationship. You are important, your needs are important. You deserve to be treated in a way that makes you feel good. This may be different for each person, so it is important to make a list of what you feel is respectful.
Talking to Your Partner