Relationships can be complicated and frustrating at times. Whether it be a romantic relationship, a platonic relationship, or a family bond, it is important to set healthy boundaries with anybody you interact with. When creating healthy boundaries in any type of relationship, you must be firm and openly communicate your needs.
Communicating your boundaries is the most important aspect of setting healthy boundaries in a relationship. It is common to feel uncomfortable when you are setting boundaries, but it is essential to push past this uncomfortable feeling if you want to have positive interactions with the person you are setting boundaries with. Here are some things to keep in mind when you decide to set boundaries with someone you care about.
- Communicate honestly. Don’t be afraid to lay it all on the table so that you can communicate exactly what you need and how it affects you when these boundaries are breached.
- Be respectful. When you are establishing healthy boundaries in any relationship, you should approach the subject respectfully. You do not need to go into it emotionally charged and saying rude things. This is a sure-fire way to cause an argument and not get your point across.
- Explain how you feel. When bringing up boundaries you want to establish with somebody, try using phrases like “I feel” or “I think”. Using statements like this is a good way to ensure the person you are setting boundaries with doesn’t feel like you are accusing or attacking them.
- Listen to the other person. Part of establishing healthy boundaries in a relationship is listening to what the person you care about is saying. Communication goes both ways, and both people need to be open to listening to the other person if healthy boundaries are going to be set. Visit “How to Be a Better Listener” for more info.
- Ask if they have any boundaries they want to establish. Part of setting healthy boundaries with someone is setting boundaries on both sides. Including the other person in the conversation about setting boundaries is a good way to let them know you care about how they feel too.
The way we communicate with the people around us sets the tone for how the communication is going to proceed. If you enter a conversation with accusations and anger, it is more likely that the other person will react emotionally and get defensive. This is not a good way to set healthy boundaries and can create animosity in your relationship.
Knowing the Difference between Setting Boundaries and Being Controlling
When creating new boundaries in a relationship, there are times when the line between setting boundaries and being controlling can get blurry. Controlling someone else’s behavior is not healthy and not productive for a positive relationship.
Examples of Controlling Behavior:
- Dictating what someone else wears and how they style their hair or makeup.
- Not allowing someone to make plans with other people that do not include you.
- Planning out the other person’s life schedule.
- Telling someone what they can or cannot consume.
- Telling the other person who they can and cannot associate with.
Setting healthy boundaries is not controlling how the other person spends their free time, who they talk to, what they wear, or what they eat. Infringing on someone else’s lifestyle choices when you are in a relationship with them is unhealthy and can lead to codependent behavior.
Examples of Setting Healthy Boundaries:
- Informing the other person when you need some alone time. Everyone needs time to themselves on occasion, and healthy relationships require alone time.
- Expressing what topics are comfortable for you to talk about with the other person and what topics make you uncomfortable. Setting boundaries on how people interact with you will lead to more positive interactions in the relationship.
- Setting touch boundaries. Whether it be sexually touching or platonic touching, it is common for people to have certain ways or areas on their body they do not want to be touched.
The difference between setting healthy boundaries with someone and controlling someone is that boundaries dictate your interactions with the other person, and control dictates what the other person is or isn’t allowed to do. Setting boundaries for a healthy relationship should never include controlling someone else’s general lifestyle.
Telling Someone you Need Alone Time.
One of the most common healthy boundaries people have trouble with is communicating with someone that you need some space. This doesn’t mean you are seeking a breakup or don’t enjoy spending time with the other person, but everyone needs space sometimes. There is nothing wrong with having alone time in your relationship or telling someone that you need some space to feel comfortable and happy with your relationship.
Spending Time with Other People
No matter how important your relationship is with someone, you should never cut out your other significant relationships in your life to appease someone. Some people feel jealousy when their partner or friend spends time with someone else and doesn’t invite them. It is essential to honor your other relationships and your partners’ other relationships.
Changing Boundaries Over Time
It is normal for certain boundaries to change throughout a relationship. Whenever you or your partner feel like readdressing and reestablishing any boundaries in your relationship, it is a good idea to have an open and honest conversation with them about it. Many boundaries can change with time. A few examples of boundaries that can change throughout a relationship are listed below.
- Physical boundaries. In both romantic and platonic relationships, it is common for physical boundaries to change over time. In a romantic relationship, you may feel like reestablishing or loosening some sexual boundaries over time. In a platonic relationship, you may be more open to receiving hugs or feel comfortable holding hands in some instances.
- Time boundaries. You may feel throughout your relationship that you need to have more time apart from someone than you did earlier on in the relationship. This is a common healthy boundary to set when people start sharing a living space.
- Emotional boundaries. You may feel that throughout a relationship, you are more comfortable with discussing emotional topics. You may also feel you are less comfortable discussing emotional topics with someone as your relationship progresses. You should re-establish your emotional boundaries with the other person and talk things out in both situations.
People and situations will change over time, and as things change in your life, your boundaries with the outside world may change too. There is nothing wrong with changing your healthy boundaries in a relationship as time progresses.
Be Honest with Yourself
Sometimes you may find yourself falling into the trap of lying to yourself about what makes you uncomfortable. If you want to set healthy boundaries with the people you care about, you need to be honest with yourself when you are uncomfortable with someone. If you are not honest with yourself and the people you have a relationship with about what makes you uncomfortable, then you will continue to have your silent boundaries broken, and you will begin to subconsciously harvest negative emotions toward the people you love.
The most important thing to remember when setting healthy boundaries in a relationship is allowing an open and honest dialog. You got this, girl.