“Boundaries.” 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):
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.
The break up. 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.
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.