Boundary setting is an integral part of every relationship and a detriment to our emotional and mental health. Without them, we can struggle with healthy self-esteem and feel devalued in all our relationships – friends, family, and business colleagues, as well as our significant others.
While some of us have a clear set of personal boundaries and are not afraid to communicate them, establishing boundaries isn’t always easy for others to do.
The Importance of Boundaries
When you know your energetic limits, you exude self-love and self-respect. It can be as small as telling your boss you won’t work on weekends or communicating to a friend who texts you too frequently that you need to slow down the communication. When we can speak our personal, emotional, and sexual boundaries with kindness, we create a space between ourselves and others where respect and support can grow. We are no longer concerned with people-pleasing because we understand that we please people best when we feel comfortable in our own skin.
So, how do you manage other people’s expectations of you? First, you need to recognize when you feel drained. This is often a clear indicator that you are giving more energy to a situation than you have. When we do this, we can become burnt out, resentful, and even aggressive. We may not be aware that this is due to our lack of self-awareness regarding our boundaries.
Establishing Boundaries vs. Being Controlling
When it comes to our intimate relationships, this is where boundary setting matters most. Our partner is the person most likely to trigger our insecurities and teach us where our limits might be. This can lead to uncomfortable conversations as we learn to manage one another’s expectations and work harmoniously as a team.
Boundaries are not to be confused with control. Sometimes, when we demand things are done a certain way or bombard our partners with “rules,” we can come off as controlling. Rigidity is not a boundary, it’s needing to feel in control of another person’s actions. For example, if you set a rule that your partner is not allowed to speak to a specific friend whom you don’t like, you are being controlling. If you set a boundary that you don’t want to be present when your partner interacts with that friend, that is a healthy way to protect your own emotional and mental health without controlling your partner’s behavior.
The golden rule of happy relationships is that you shouldn’t assume your partner shares the same expectations as you. Ensure that when you set a boundary with your partner, you hold space for them to communicate how they feel and ask them if they have anything they want to discuss with you.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Relationships
Here are a few ways you can set emotional and physical boundaries in a relationship without being controlling.
Be Transparent and Honest
Transparency is the key ingredient to any relationship. Regardless of how well you and your partner know each other, don’t assume they can read your needs 24/7. Be transparent and speak up about what you want and need from your partner. Give them the safe space to reciprocate so you can work together to accommodate one another.
If speaking about your needs makes you a little uncomfortable, try writing them down first. This can help you be clear about your expectations.
This is an important boundary to have with your partner. If you’re not sure how they would feel about a certain behavior or action, you should always ask permission. When you ask, this helps your partner to feel seen, heard, and considered. It strengthens trust and understanding. When it comes to a healthy relationship, you should ask permission, not forgiveness.
Communicate When You Need Space
Quality time with your partner is just as important as time alone. The amount of space we need varies from partner to partner. This is why it’s important to let them know when you need some alone time. It can prevent arguments or your partner from feeling confused and neglected.
Communicate with Respect
Relationships will have their ups and downs – a certain level of conflict is expected and healthy. Navigate this conflict by making sure you both give each other some space when things get heated, consider taking a 30-minute walk to collect your thoughts about what is bothering you and return when you are both ready to sit and talk about your issues in a calm and empathetic manner.
Be direct about what you need. Actively listen to your partner, don’t make assumptions, and don’t take things personally. These are all key conflict resolution skills in relationships.
Manners are important. Don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you” when your partner does things for you. Let your partner know that you appreciate them. A little gratitude can go a long way – it makes them feel seen, heard, and valued.
This is a big one. We are not perfect people; we all make mistakes. If you violate your partner’s boundaries by accident, let them know how sorry you are and work hard to course correct. Owning up to your part in your relationship will strengthen the bond between the two of you and ultimately build trust.
When you are faced with a problem, try adopting a “both of you vs. the problem” attitude. This shifts the blame from both of you and helps you work together as a team to solve the problem.
Not all relationships are built to last. If your partner disregards or challenges your limits when you express yourself, it might mean that they do not respect you. If you have to tip-toe around your partner or over-give to a situation to make them happy, you are taking part in a toxic relationship.
Breaking up can be painful, but learning how to self-soothe after a breakup can help you grow in self-love and attract a partner that honors your boundaries. For more information on how to construct healthy relationships, read our love advice blog at KEEN.