The idea of setting boundaries in a relationship can sound overwhelming to some people. It’s easy to associate boundaries with disconnection, but that’s not the case.
In fact, relationships with boundaries are often much healthier than those without. They help to minimize conflict; they let you and your partner know each other’s needs, and they allow you both to maintain your identities and thrive in and out of the relationship.
Once you’ve accepted that boundaries are healthy and that they can actually strengthen your relationship, how can you make sure you’re setting the right ones? More importantly, how can you stick to them?
Let’s cover a few tips to set healthy, effective boundaries that will last.
Open Up About Your Needs
As you start to set boundaries with your partner, the first thing you should do is consider what you really want. What are your needs? What are you looking for from them, and in your relationship?
Boundaries aren’t about creating a wish list of the things you want. Rather, they’re about being transparent. Talk to your partner about things you’re comfortable with and things you want to avoid.
Not only does being honest about your needs set a precedent for healthy boundaries, but it can improve intimacy and closeness in your relationship.
It’s just as important to be an active listener. Relationships aren’t one-sided. You can’t expect to share your needs and boundaries and walk away. Don’t just hear your partner, really listen to them and make sure they know you understand their needs. When you’re both willing to open up and be active listeners, you’ll eventually be comfortable with more vulnerability.
It’s Okay to Have Alone Time
There’s a common misconception that needing time apart is a bad thing in relationships. If you need some time alone to do your own thing, express that to your partner. Make sure they understand why, and encourage them to enjoy some alone time, too.
You might be surprised to find that doing things on your own sometimes actually brings you closer together.
By spending time by yourself once in a while, you’ll also have a deeper understanding of the things you want. You’ll maintain your identity and find a sense of freedom in knowing who you are. That, too, can strengthen your relationship and help you set even more boundaries in the future.
Develop a Baseline of Respect
One of the reasons why boundaries are often misunderstood is that people make them with the wrong tone and the wrong mindset.
You can’t expect your partner to follow a list of your needs and wants if you aren’t showing them the respect they deserve (and vice versa). Healthy relationships require respect from both parties.
Talk to your partner with compassion. Try to understand where they’re coming from, even if it’s not easy for you. When you go into every conversation with an undertone of respect, things are likely to run smoothly, and you’re more likely to agree to each other’s boundaries without feeling hurt, disappointed, or caught off guard.
It’s not always easy to open up and set boundaries. It’s also something you and your partner need to agree on before you start talking about your relationship needs.
But, if you’re willing to share those needs with honesty and respect, and offer the same to your partner, your relationship can thrive with healthy boundaries. You’re also more likely to stick to those boundaries if you both understand what they mean and why they’re important.
If you’re having trouble opening up with your partner about your needs, don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Feel free to contact Valued Living Therapy for more information or to set up an appointment.