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The word leaves icicles in the hearts of lovers.
We’re told love is supposed to be an unencumbered, wide-open field where unicorns and fairies create magnificent tapestries of our love with sugar and instant trust.
Truthfully, the more room there is to run unfettered, the more likely we are to trip and fall flat on our faces.
Boundaries are necessary, and there’s nothing about them that says they can’t change.
They shouldn’t be thought of as rigid constrictions designed to suffocate a relationship.
They should, can, and do change, which is why discussing them is so important.
Here are 12 types of boundary you should consider setting in your relationship.
1. Overall Expectations
First off, you should always discuss what you expect out of someone, and what you expect to receive.
“Expectations” get a bad rap in Romanceville, but if one thinks of expectations as standards of conduct, embracing the boundaries that come with it becomes easier.
A lot of people enter relationships putting the burden of healing/completing them onto someone else.
None of us, however, are anyone’s god, goddess, or totem of completion.
We’re us, we’re real, and we have needs; needs which are easy to overlook by someone else if that someone puts us on a pedestal.
A relationship should be a balance of give and take, not take till there’s nothing left for someone to give.
Make sure to discuss how far you’re willing to go toward being someone’s “fulfillment” and how you would like, in turn, to be filled.
Everyone has different physical pain thresholds.
Same goes for emotional.
Let a loved one know there are certain things you will not tolerate: being shouted at, lied to, silenced, or mistrusted – whatever it is, make it known that going past these boundaries is a journey they may not want to take.
3. Sexual Expression
Some people like sex every morning. Some people like it in odd locations. Some do it only on holidays. Some are wild, some slow and sensual.
If you and your lover don’t know where your sexual boundaries are, one or both of you might spend precious time unhappily faking sexual expression, which is a clear sign of trouble on any relationship’s horizon.
Let your needs and preferences be known, as well as how much wiggle room for experimentation exists within them.
Money is generally taken to be poison in matters of the heart, but money (for better or for worse; granted usually worse) is an inescapable part of human interactions whether you’re with someone or not.
There used to be a huge stigma associated with a division of “romantic” funds, but many married couples now openly maintain separate bank accounts.
It isn’t an issue of mistrust or an expectancy of a failed relationship; it’s a matter of convenience.
Discuss your financial boundaries early to avoid sticky entanglements later.
5. Past Lives
Simply put, your past is yours.
Many people incorrectly feel that it’s their right or duty to split open a lover’s past so that everything about the lover is laid bare like parts for examination.
You, however, are not an automobile; there is no title and registration in your back pocket to hand over to someone; you have no tires for kicking.
Let people know that what you choose to divulge – unless non-disclosure presents a direct health risk or is otherwise threatening – is at your discretion.
Communication is key in any relationship, but a relationship is not a therapist’s couch. Unless and until you’re comfortable doing so, you’re in no way obligated to make yourself an open book.
More relationship wisdom (article continues below):
- 4 Ways A Lack Of Empathy Will Destroy Your Relationships
- 7 Signs The Love You Feel Is NOT Unconditional (And What It Means For Your Relationship)
- 7 Signs You And Your Partner Are Incompatible
- How To Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships With Passive Aggression
Relationships often exist within the eyes of “Hurricane Familia,” which doesn’t necessarily mean terrible family interactions, but simply that the needs of both families will constantly swirl around the edges of your relationship.
Setting basic boundaries on how much each other’s family interaction impacts the relationship will prevent a lot of emergency restoration later.
Your lover will never like all of your friends, nor you theirs, but that doesn’t stop a lot of people from trying to determine who the other can and can’t have as friends.
Set mutual boundaries of respect that the other can make reasonable decisions as to who they allow to influence them and, by extension, who they allow to influence the relationship.
No one gets to tell us our dreams are worthless, even if they think they’re doing so kind-heartedly in our best interests.
Set a boundary: This is what I want to/am going to do; support is allowed, undermining is not.
Are you willing to bring children into the relationship? Pets?
These are generally hard and fast boundaries everyone brings to a relationship, but are unwilling to bring up unless they absolutely have to.
Adding to a relationship unit is a huge deal and shouldn’t be left to chance.
Talk about who and what you’re willing to allow past your boundaries into the relationship.
As with tolerances, a discussion early-on about what we will and will not do in the event things don’t work out might save loads of pain and drama at the end.
This could encompass cooling off periods, second chances, living arrangements, all the way to the “let’s stay friends… with benefits” option.
Whatever it is, if a loved one knows where we stand, we can both end the relationship on quieter, less shouty terms.
Time, even among lovers, is finite, so the questions become:
What are your time boundaries?
At what point do you feel smothered?
How long do you need to recharge?
These are all things a lover will need to know – and will want to know – so that both of you not only feel comfortable in your own skins, but around each other.
12. Digital Presence
In the age of iPhones and social media, it’s necessary to discuss how much access a lover has to your digital presence.
Communication apps, tracking apps, calendar apps, Facebook friending (and friending of friends): all of this is boundary-laden territory.
Love may not always last, but social media, while not forever, is, exceedingly difficult to untangle.
How To Set Boundaries In Relationships
Now that you know some of the key types of boundary you may wish to set in your relationship, how do you go about it?
It should come as no surprise to learn that open and honest communication is the key to unlocking successful boundary setting and the respecting of those boundaries.
It’s as simple as following these steps.
Step 1 – Know Your Boundaries
Perhaps you have found inspiration in the above and have some idea of what boundaries you’d like to set.
But even so, it’s worth taking the time to really identify where you stand on the range of issues spoken about, and to think about other areas where you have red lines a partner must stick to.
Only when your boundaries are known to you, will you be able to communicate them to your partner.
Step 2 – Choose When To Discuss Them
Some things need to be discussed fairly early on in a relationship because they may play a big role in yours and your partner’s happiness and the overall health of your union.
When you feel the time has come to discuss a particular boundary, make sure to do so when you are free from distractions and when you are both relaxed and open to each other’s point of view.
Other things can wait until they actually need to be raised.
It’s not necessary, for instance, to state categorically that you will not tolerate being shouted at until/unless you find yourself in that situation.
Even then, it is best to wait for things to calm down so that you and your partner are able to talk with less emotional energy to confuse things.
Step 3 – Make Them Clear
If you want your partner to abide by your boundaries, you must make them clear and easily understood.
There is little room for ambiguity and gray areas if these things really mean a lot to you.
Get your partner to repeat back what they think your boundary is. This will allow you to be sure that they have understood.
When expressing your boundaries, use “I” statements rather that “you” statements.
“I would prefer it if your Mother phoned first before coming round.”
“You need to tell your mother to phone before she comes round.”
Step 4 – Allow For Some Minor Infractions
Nobody is perfect.
People make mistakes.
While there are some deal breakers that you simply will not accept, you have to give your partner some leeway if they cross over some of your boundaries…
…especially when you have first communicated them.
Perhaps they ignore your wish to be alone so that you may rest and recharge. It’s an innocent mistake to make, and they do it because they don’t understand your needs.
It’s certainly not something to create a huge fuss about… unless they continue to disregard your feelings time and again.
Keep reminding them of your preferences and they should eventually come to respect and honor them.
Step 5 – Know When And How To Be Forceful
There may come a point when one of your strict boundaries has been crossed…
…or your partner may keep making smaller mistakes around things that are slightly less important to you.
Either way, there will come a time when you need to show that there are consequences to their actions.
If you don’t, they will continue to ignore your boundaries.
For some things, your partner needs to know the consequences before the first infraction.
If, for example, you simply cannot accept any form of cheating whatsoever, you have to make it clear from the get-go that you will end the relationship should this occur.
Other times, you may need to discuss the consequences of a repeated violation of a less important boundary.
So if they stay out late with friends without even consulting you, you can make it clear that if they do so again, they should expect to spend more time with your family as a result.
Don’t Be Afraid To Revisit Discussions
People change. Relationships change. Boundaries change.
Clearly-communicated, healthy boundaries bring couples together in the knowledge that they can talk without fear of recrimination or unfair judgment.
When we’re able to see that setting boundaries within a relationship doesn’t limit it but actually strengthens it, the juvenile fantasy that someone has to be open and completely ours gives way to the more adult appreciation of our loved one’s as individuals.
Asking and respecting are key components in any relationship, and the reality is we all have boundaries, we simply don’t always resolve to state them or, sometimes, even examine them.
Discussing boundaries shouldn’t be seen as a forecast of trouble, but rather putting trust and faith in reality lasting longer than unbounded fantasy.
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