how to have healthy boundaries in relationships

No boundaries? Here’s how to have healthy boundaries in relationships

If you read self-improvement books and blogs, you’ve probably heard about “boundaries”.

Boundaries are basically the things we will and won’t accept in our lives. Or as Natalie Lue from Baggage Reclaim says, think of your boundaries as your personal electric fence.

Some of us have very strong boundaries, while others, often people pleasers, have very low boundaries. People with high boundaries tend to be considered more high value, while people with low boundaries are more likely to end up feeling used and even dumped.

If you’re one of those people who has no boundaries, you might feel like you’re constantly doing what your partner wants to do instead of what YOU want to do.

In an attempt to be liked and not rejected, you bend over backwards but in turn this has the opposite effect: making yourself seem less and less desirable.

Slowly, over time, you become resentful, anxious and insecure because you’re feeling unfulfilled.

Feel like you’re one of those people who has no boundaries? Here’s how to get some:

Discover what your boundaries are

Take out a pen and paper and write down the things you will and won’t tolerate. These could be simple things like:

I won’t tolerate controlling behavior

I am OK with texting a couple of times a day but I do not want to text all day

I am not OK with sharing passwords

I need to hang out with my friends solo once in a while

I enjoy sex but I won’t to have sex on the first date, I prefer to wait until I know the person a bit better

There are differences between healthy boundaries and unhealthy boundaries though. An unhealthy boundary might look like:

I am not OK with my partner talking to other men/women, it makes me jealous.

Guys, I can’t go out tonight, my boyfriend/girlfriend gets jealous when I go out without him/her.

There’s one key difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries: with unhealthy boundaries you’re placing the responsibility on your partner for how you feel.

Communicate

Many dating experts say the woman must be “chill”, non-reactive, easy going, make the man feel amazing.

Personally I don’t agree with this. Yes, there’s no need to cause drama 24/7, but if someone isn’t respecting your boundaries then it’s OK to speak up.

No-one wants to date a pushover and no-one wants to date some perfect Stepford wife. Imagine having a robot for a partner who was perfectly predictable. It would be…well…boring.

If your partner’s behavior is bothering you, talk about it. Avoid accusations but do use statements like “I feel”.

Your actions must match your words

If you keep saying, “I don’t want to be a booty call” but then you keep having sex with someone at 2am, you’re asserting verbal boundaries but not actually standing by them with your actions.

Similarly if someone says they don’t want a relationship and you say “fine, it’s over” but then you keep hopping into bed with them whenever they call, you have no-one to blame but yourself.

Whatever your boundaries are, you have to put them into practice. Write them down and then stick to them, no matter how hard the other person is pushing you.

Know when to walk away

I once had a boyfriend who always used to tickle me and I found it to be absolute torture. I would yell at him and tell him “please stop!”. He continued because he thought it was funny and “cute” to see me wriggling around, until I would cry or knee him in the balls. It was the thing I disliked the most about him, but I stayed with him for two and a half years.

After dating men who never tickled me, I realized that tickling (and not listening to my pleas when I say “no”) is an absolute deal breaker for me. I would never go back to him.

So when I started dating a new guy who tickled me once and wouldn’t stop, I simply said “Please don’t do that. I will have no problem leaving if you do it again.” He listened and that was the only time he it.

The key is not to make empty threats. You have to actually be prepared to act on them. If someone keeps overstepping your boundaries and you don’t walk, the person will realize their actions don’t really have consequences.

Boundaries protect your happiness

Boundaries are actually there to protect your little bubble of joy and protect your own happiness.

You’re taking control of your life, instead of letting someone else’s thoughts and feelings run your own.

Say, for example, a guy is always disappearing and reappearing. When he gets back in touch, you make yourself available, and then when he disappears you feel anxious.

That’s because you’re letting him control when he sees you. You’re not being true to your feelings. Everything is on his terms and you’re basically saying it’s OK.

If you have a boundary that says you won’t accept flaky behavior, you can either speak up (and see what he has to say), or you can simply choose not to see him.

You are making the choices and taking control of your own life in order to protect your own happiness.

A lot of the time we feel scared to set boundaries because we are afraid of losing the person. But sometimes saying “no” can actually bring you closer than if you keep saying “yes” to things that you’re not happy with.

So listen to your feelings and listen to your intuition before you do anything. Ask yourself, “do I want to do this?”, “do I want to be with him?”. Don’t go along with things just to be agreeable.

There’s an art to setting boundaries

There’s a way to assert boundaries that doesn’t sound like you’re nagging or angry. The best way to assert boundaries is by being calm, collected and polite. A simple “no” will sometimes suffice – you don’t always need to give a reason or explanation for everything.

You can even assert them in a flirty way. As an example, next time you get a “booty call” you could say something like, “I’m afraid it’s past my bedtime. I could grab lunch on Sunday though.” You’re expressing that you won’t take a booty call, but you’re not scolding him for doing so.

Can boundaries be too high?

It’s important to strike a balance between “Diva” and “pushover”. While people-pleasers need to have more boundaries, there are also some people who set their boundaries so high that they actually find themselves disconnected. If you find yourself being overly selfish, isolated and not connecting with others, your boundaries could be set too high.

Boundaries can sometimes be flexible. In life there are going to be times where we have to go above and beyond for a partner, friend and family member. But these should be odd occasions, as opposed to continuous repeat occurrences. For example, perhaps one time you need to lend your partner some money. But if you find yourself always lending money and they never pay you back, it could be time to start setting some boundaries.

Do you find it difficult to assert boundaries? Have you asserted your boundaries and found it works? Leave a comment below!

Victoria
vbrewood@gmail.com

Hi, I’m Victoria. I’m not a psychologist or a therapist, instead my relationship advice comes from real life dating experience and lessons learnt by trial and error. All the guys I’ve dated have been very different but I certainly came across my fare share of “Mr Unavailable” types, so if you find yourself in a situation with a guy who won’t commit, hopefully these stories will help.

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