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Setting Boundaries in a Relationship
How do you set boundaries in relationships? You can clearly see a boundary when a homeowner puts up a fence around his home. However, in any relationship there sometimes is confusion about responsibility and ownership, which can create problems. Boundaries are tough for those who have difficulty saying no, and most people don’t like conflict either.
Think of your personal boundaries just like the homeowner’s fence. It is very clear with the fence where his home begins and ends. The goal for you is to be able to define your boundaries clearly, which is tougher as they are invisible, yet ever-present. It often comes down to how well you know yourself, and what is most important to you. Feelings play a major role in this process, and it is important that you “own” your feelings and be aware of them.
"We obviously have responsibilities to others and to ourselves. When you can work out these responsibilities with a partner you have a much healthier relationship."
Boundaries define “what is me” and “what is not me.” In a marriage relationship, it sometimes becomes confusing as to where I end and where does the other person begin. You experience a sense of freedom when you know which part is you. If you do not have control in your life, then your choices become very confining and limited. If you are over-controlling your partner will usually show signs of stress or unhappiness.
We obviously have responsibilities to others and to ourselves. When you can work out these responsibilities with a partner you have a much healthier relationship. However, if you are carrying more than half the load, then resentments and anger build, which affect the relationship in a negative way.
Couples counseling or some type of relationship therapy may be helpful if you are unable to resolve issues. Goal setting is a good way to measure progress in a relationship.
Recognizing a Need for Help
Boundaries help us keep nurturing the things inside and keep the harmful things out. If you find you are holding onto pain or guilt, it is important to open up to someone and talk about the situation. Remember, your beliefs are anything you accept as truth. Recognizing, plus acknowledging your own feelings is important.
Once you recognize what is making you feel drained, overwhelmed or even just bad, it is important to decide what you want to say to the other person in your relationship. This is an important step in setting boundaries.
If you need help, It could come from a counselor, pastor, or a friend you trust implicitly, but it is probably best to sort this out with someone that is not emotionally vested in your life; so excludes husbands, mothers, sisters, etc. Mothers that respond, “Oh, my poor baby’ aren’t going to be objective.
These talks are really a type of confession, which is good for the soul. It will be like a burden lifted just by discussing those feelings. This is a great time to set goals for you.
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Boundaries can also become a big issue if you can’t say no. If you are continually asked to do things for other people that ultimately shouldn’t be your responsibility, but you say yes anyway, then, that is an area you need to assess and improve.
Ask yourself, why do I do that? It’s important to look at yourself honestly. Is it to be liked? Is it to avoid confrontation? Is it to feel good about yourself because you get some pleasure in doing more than anyone else?
Figure it out and think for a few minutes before answering the question next time, and decide whether you really want to take on this new task. You can also buy yourself some time and say, “Let me get back to you on that.” Then, you have time to think about it, and you will be ready to say, “No, I’m sorry but I can’t help with that right now”. No further explanation is required.
The basic boundary-setting word is obviously “no”. You are letting others know you are apart from them and in control of your life. Be clear in your thinking, for example, “I like this and I do not like that.” Also, it’s always best to stick to the truth, as people can usually spot a lie, and it is okay to just say no.
With some persistent people it can be helpful to avoid those for a while; just consider taking some time off to let yourself regroup. Emotional distance on a temporary basis sometimes works to allow your heart to feel safe for a short period of time, again giving yourself some time to sort out your priorities.
Make Safe, Healthy Choices
If you are living in an unhealthy situation where you are subject to another person’s addictions, control or abuse, get some help. This situation won’t improve without serious intervention or getting away from this person.
Your safety is always number 1!
Behaviors have consequences, and always rescuing someone so they don’t reap those consequences is unhealthy for both of you.
You are the only one that can make choices for you. Obviously, you will be happier if you are making healthy choices that nurture you and if you have the freedom to comfortably say yes or no. When you have set your own internal limits you will feel more comfortable when confronted with someone who is trying to get you to volunteer or force you into doing something that you would rather not do.
"Your safety is always number 1! Behaviors have consequences, and always rescuing someone so they don’t reap those consequences is unhealthy for both of you."
Owning Your Thoughts, Growing Your Mind, and Clarifying Unhealthy Thinking
Boundaries setting involves three things:
- You must own your own thoughts. Listen to others, but make your own decision.
- You must grow in knowledge and expand your mind.
- You must clarify any unhealthy thinking. As we improve in this area with new boundaries, we will feel better and be able to communicate more effectively.
Setting boundaries is a healthy thing for anyone to consider as self-assessment is a healthy thing to do occasionally, even if you are not having any major problems.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.