Let’s face it: relationships can be challenging, especially with those closest to us. It’s important to set boundaries in your relationships to create a safe space for you and others and to feel comfortable with the amount of compromise. Setting healthy boundaries in your relationship will reduce frustration and resentment, improve communication, and help your relationship grow.
Boundaries define who we are and where we end. They’re personal limits that show our preferences, needs, wants, and desires — and our ability or inability to accommodate others’ needs. They also let people know what they can expect from us in certain situations and what they can’t expect.
Boundaries help keep our relationships healthy by creating clear expectations for all parties involved. When people understand where the other person stands, they can work together without stepping on each other’s toes or getting frustrated when things don’t go their way.
They have three primary functions:
- To define your personal space and protect it from invasion by others
- To define what is acceptable behavior in a relationship and what isn’t
- To protect yourself from feeling responsible for other people’s behavior
That said, relationship boundaries are the same as personal boundaries. The difference is that your relationship boundaries are set with another person and managed by you. To do this, you must be able to identify what your limits and red lines are for your relationship.
So, if you don’t know what to do or say when your boundaries have been crossed, then you’re not alone. What does it mean to set a boundary? How to set healthy ones? Let’s learn.
Types of Boundaries
Boundaries separate you from others and keep you from being emotionally involved with everyone else’s problems. Each person needs to have their own space, time, and energy to focus on themselves.
Many different types of boundaries exist. Some people prefer rigid boundaries, while others prefer soft boundaries. The type of boundary best for any situation depends on the individual and the circumstances involved. However, they can be broadly categorized into two:
Hard boundaries are concrete rules that cannot be violated by anyone or anything. Hard boundaries protect the integrity of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self by defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior in your life. If someone crosses your hard boundary, it can result in severe consequences, such as ending the relationship.
Soft boundaries are flexible rules that may bend under certain circumstances but will not break entirely under pressure from others or ourselves. Soft boundaries may be difficult or impossible to enforce because they allow for flexibility in how they are applied depending on the situation.
Based on the categories above, boundaries can be broken down into the following types.
Physical boundaries include not sharing personal space with someone else (you have a right to have your own space) and not touching or being touched by someone else without consent. These are important because they protect us from physical harm, like sexual assault or unwanted physical contact.
Emotional boundaries help us protect our emotions from being used against or drained away. People who don’t set emotional boundaries may feel guilty when saying no to others’ requests because they don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings or because they’re afraid of rejection for not complying with a request.
These are spiritual limits that protect your spiritual energy from being drained by others who may be taking advantage of it without regard for the consequences to your health or well-being. They are the limits you set for yourself—the things you will and won’t do, the things you’ll allow others to do to you, and the things you won’t allow yourself to do.
Sexual boundaries are the limits you place on your sexual behavior. They’re what you decide to do and what you decide not to do. They can be as simple as “I will never have sex with anyone who is not my partner and who I have not discussed having sex with” or as complex as “I will only perform in certain fetish scenarios that I have discussed with my partner.”
These limits prevent others from taking advantage of your generosity or spending money on things they shouldn’t be spending on (like gambling). Financial boundaries also include limiting how much money someone can spend on you (such as paying for dinner or drinks).
These are the limits we set on how much time we spend with others. Whether it’s social events or phone calls, we all have a limit on how much time we want to spend with others — and when that limit is reached, it’s time for us to do something else!
Examples of Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries are a way of protecting yourself from being taken advantage of. They can help you avoid feeling like you have to do everything for everyone else, avoid being taken advantage of, and allow you to feel like your needs matter.
People with healthy boundaries can set limits on themselves and other people without feeling guilty or anxious. Healthy boundaries also allow us to be more flexible in our lives as we don’t feel we have to do everything for everyone else.
Here are seven examples of healthy boundaries:
- Setting limits on someone who disrespects you.
- Not allowing someone to criticize you in front of others.
- Not tolerating someone else’s behavior that harms your emotional well-being.
- Not accepting help from a family member who asks for money as an excuse for not doing something they should do (i.e., chores or helping around the house).
- You are not allowing someone who has hurt you to continue being part of your life because of guilt or fear of losing them as a friend or family member.
- Let go of toxic relationships that bring negativity into your life and make room for better ones (i.e., friends who aren’t supportive and make fun of your dreams and significant others who don’t value self-care).
How to Set Boundaries in a Relationship?
Setting boundaries in a relationship is an important step, but it can be challenging to know where to start. Here are some tips:
Know what’s important to you — and what isn’t
Decide what’s important to you about this relationship, and then draw the line for when things aren’t going well. For instance, if your partner is always late but rarely apologizes, then it might be time to set a boundary on this behavior by saying something like, “I need more respect from you because it makes me feel like I’m not important enough.”
Be clear about what you need from your partner and what behaviors bother you most. Instead of saying something vague like “don’t ignore me,” say something specific like “It bothers me when we go days without speaking because I get worried that our relationship is falling apart.” This way, there’s no room for misinterpretation later on down the line when things go wrong in the future (and they definitely will).
Also, be honest about what works and doesn’t work for you as individuals, and encourage each other to do the same when setting boundaries. This is one of the best ways to determine if there are any significant differences between how each person works best regarding communication and emotional intimacy. If so, this can help both partners understand where they stand on specific issues and how they want things handled.
Practice saying “no.”
It’s hard to say no at first, but it gets easier with practice! Practice saying no when someone asks for favors or wants your help. When they ask again (and they will), remind them why you said no last time and offer an alternative way they can get what they need instead of asking for your help whenever something comes up.
Take care of yourself first
If your partner isn’t respecting your time, needs, or feelings, then it’s time for you to step back and take care of yourself first. For any relationship to work, both people need to be able to take care of themselves first — before they can take care of anyone else.
When you’re with your partner, sometimes it’s easy to forget this fact because we tend to focus on what our partners need instead of what we need ourselves. You mustn’t lose sight of this simple truth when setting boundaries in your relationship!
Set limits on how much time or money
The more time and energy you put into the relationship, the more critical it becomes — but only up to a point! You don’t need to spend every waking moment together; taking time apart can strengthen your bond by giving you space to do other things or spend time with friends and family.
And while it’s great if he wants to buy you things or take care of all the bills, there’s nothing wrong with saying no if he asks too often or expects too much from you financially (or vice versa).
There are several reasons why people find it hard to set boundaries. One is that they don’t know how to do it. Another is that they don’t believe they have the right to set those boundaries.
Setting boundaries in a relationship can be a tricky thing to do. It’s not always easy to tell someone you love them and then turn around and tell them what you won’t tolerate in your relationship. But, if you want healthy relationships, you must learn how to set boundaries and enforce them.
Remember that by setting boundaries, you are not being negative—you are simply taking an active role in improving your life. And that is certainly something worth celebrating. So go ahead, and let your loved ones know where you draw the line.
It may not be easy at first—but it will get easier as you progress. Remember, we are all in this world together, and it is our job to make the most of it. It’s time to start leading a happier and healthier life—and now you have some helpful tips for doing so!
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