3 powerful rules for setting healthy boundaries in a relationship
Boundaries are important in any relationship because they define how you want things to be in a relationship. You know you have a healthy relationship when it’s one of mutual respect and when you both communicate with empathy and understanding of the need for boundaries.
Boundaries are often misunderstood, but the truth is that they are a prerequisite for healthy relationships.
Why are they important?
They create the structure upon which you can build a healthy relationship and bring your whole, authentic self into the relationship.
Let’s start by outlining some signs that you might not have healthy boundaries. This can look like this:
- You don’t say anything when it’s important.
- You’re wasting your time by saying yes when you should be saying no.
- You hold grudges and bitterness because you expect others to read your mind and know.
- You relate to people who take advantage of you or try to dominate or control you, which can even make you feel like a victim.
- You feel drained from all your commitments.
Obviously it’s not a good scene.
For some of my clients who have trouble setting boundaries, we usually find that they have limiting, false beliefs about boundaries that don’t help them.
Here are a few misconceptions that I’ve found to be very common:
1. A boundary is actually a strain on the relationship.
In this case, you feel like a boundary is a burden that you bring with you, creating the negative energy that your partner suddenly has to carry.
2. A boundary is a selfish act and has nothing to do with relationship.
The clients I have dealt with feel that setting limits or demanding what they want is selfish. You might ask yourself, “Who am I to ask this other person to change their behavior towards me? What gives me the right to do that?”
3. Boundaries get in the way of love and acceptance.
Another common belief: “If I set a boundary, how does that support love and acceptance in a relationship?” Shouldn’t I allow my partner to be who they are and love and accept them for who they are?”
4. Setting boundaries is an act of violence or self-defense.
You can also believe that a boundary is a wall or an act of self-protection. You feel that boundaries can drive the people you care about out of your life.
Do any of these points apply to you?
Taken together, these beliefs make up a perfect system that can prevent you from raising your voice, stepping into your power, and establishing an authentic relationship with another human being.
What happens instead is that you hold yourself back, walk on eggshells, and stop yourself from expressing your full emotional truths or what you really want.
How about if we open up and look at borders differently?
What if you viewed boundaries as an investment in the relationship that would bring out the best versions of you and your partner?
The truth is, boundaries are the tools you can use to empower your relationship.
Let’s redefine that with some new beliefs:
1. Boundaries are like a container that provides your partner with a roadmap to love you.
A boundary creates a clear playing field that sets the structure and frequency you want to bring to the relationship. When your partner knows what you’re saying “yes” to and what you’re saying “no” to, they have the card to love you. This means that in a relationship that matters to you, they should be cooperative and generous in order to make it successful.
If you’re not willing to set boundaries, you won’t be able to clearly commit to what you and your partner want to create. For example, if you agree that your relationship should be monogamous, that’s a limit; it is a shared, agreed upon reality that provides structure and protects the relationship from outside forces.
2. Setting a boundary is a powerful investment in your relationship.
If I set a limit with someone, it’s only because I care about you, so it’s not selfish. Yes, I can have a role myself, but a boundary shows me what I’m committed to in the relationship so I can be at my best within those boundaries.
If I have a boundary that says I can’t swear when I have a dispute, then I commit to creating a space where we can disagree without personal attacks. When I commit to how often we commit to being fully in a relationship, I commit to investing a certain amount of my time in a relationship.
It also creates a structure for you to do the same.
I don’t usually set boundaries with people I don’t care about or want to be in a relationship with unless it’s absolutely necessary to protect myself.
3. Setting a boundary is an act of authenticity.
If we accept that they are a container that forms the basis for the frequency in your relationships, then boundaries give you the freedom to bring your whole self into the relationship.
When you state your boundaries around how you want to be spoken to or treated, you bring yourself into the relationship to fully express what is important to you and give your partner permission to do the same.
If you are not willing to fight for your boundaries, you are not being yourself in your relationship.
I invite you to see setting boundaries as an act of service.
When you do this, you give your partner the freedom to do the same because then you can be open and honest about what you want in the relationship instead of tiptoeing or thinking you’re pigeonholing yourself must in order to have a relationship with the other person.
Many of my clients believe that if they bring their whole selves into the relationship, the other will leave them. In fact, if you set boundaries and stay true to yourself, the wrong people will fall out of your life, while the right person will fall deeper into you.
This makes boundaries a powerful ally and a way to test the person in front of you to see if they want the same things you want.
I hope this has helped you overcome negative beliefs about boundaries and empowered you to be more authentic in relationships instead of viewing them as a selfish acts.