The B Word
By Fayad Raphique
“You’ve got to set clear boundaries with him”
“Know where your boundaries are early on”
“She’s got serious boundary issues”
We all hear the B word thrown around a lot when discussing dating, but what ARE boundaries? Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships.
The first step to healthy boundaries in a relationship is exploring and clarifying what’s acceptable to you. When you have healthy boundaries, you will be comfortable saying no to others while being comfortable with opening up in your relationship. When thinking about your boundaries in any situation, it’s best to be very specific about what’s acceptable for you, and what’s not. If you are not specific, it will be very easy to give in more and more and allow others to cross the line of what’s acceptable.
You should also think about your values; what’s most important to you? Once this is clear to you, it can be easier to protect it. For example, if you value time with your friends, you can discuss your boundaries around how much time you dedicate to your partner vs. time you set aside for being with your friends.
If your boundaries are being pushed or crossed, you will know it. Feelings of anger, sadness and resentment toward your partner could be signs that your boundaries are not being respected. While it is important for your partner to respect your boundaries, it is even more important to respect yourself. We often put others before ourselves and give our friends and loved ones more respect than we allow ourselves. Ask yourself; “ Am I respecting myself and my boundaries as much as I am respecting my partner’s?”
That being said, relationships are about give and take. You will need to compromise with your partner sometimes in order to maintain a healthy balance. It’s important to zoom out and take the long view of your relationship. Sometimes you will give in more, other times, your partner will. Consider it a red flag if you are always the one giving in.
The above guidelines can be really helpful in setting healthy boundaries in your relationship, though it is still a difficult task to take on by yourself. A therapist can help you in exploring your boundaries and come up with effective ways to express them to your partner. You can work together to assess issues with boundary setting, identifying where it’s going wrong, and work on how to move toward healthier boundaries, and healthier relationships.