It's simple: If you want a good relationship with yourself and with others, then you need good boundaries. Unfortunately for me, figuring out how to set boundaries in a relationship was something I never learned growing up. My parents were (are) very codependent with one another, and I practically slept in their bed until I was a teen because I was afraid of a ghost I thought lived in my bedroom. Let's just say boundaries were never really my family's thing.
So when it came to relationships as an adult, I had no real idea where it was appropriate to draw the line with my partners. It was the same with friends and in business, too. I was the queen of oversharing, which led me into dangerous waters of people pleasing and being a perpetual doormat. If you grow up without any kind of rules or regulations, it's hard to enforce them as an adult. However, I believe that people will treat you how you treat yourself, and proper boundaries are indicative of good self-esteem and self-respect.
Boundaries don't have to be huge either. In fact, they can just be small reminders that show someone how you expect to be treated. For example, a guy I am currently seeing keeps confirming our dates too late in the day. When we are supposed to hang out, he will text me at 7 p.m., asking, "How's 9?" Dude, you should have confirmed with me this morning.
Anyway, the last time he did that, I told him that since I hadn't heard from him, I made other plans. When I set that boundary with him, he got the hint that he needed to set plans earlier. While I was bummed I didn't get to see him that night (I really wanted to), I couldn't keep waiting around for him and showing him that our relationship revolved around his schedule.
By setting boundaries with our partners, we stand up for ourselves and exhibit self-respect and self-esteem. Like magic, your crush will step up and treat you accordingly, how you've always wanted to be treated, at least in my experience. For a little guidance, I asked Heather Kristian Strang, spiritual guide and matchmaker, about some ways to set boundaries in a relationship so you can get what you want.
Because you and your relationship deserve the best.
1. Figure Out The Boundaries You Have For Yourself
In order to have boundaries with someone else, you have to know the boundaries you have with yourself first. What standards do you expect from yourself and from others? What do you want to give someone, and what do you want them to give you?
"When we are talking about boundaries, the first place we have to start is with ourselves," says Strang. "Check in with yourself — do you have clear boundaries about what's appropriate for you when it comes to relationships? Do you know what uplifts you and what depletes you?"
Strang has a method for how to clearly and explicitly figure out what boundaries work for you. "Write [them] down, review it regularly, get clear about why your boundaries are important to you and are worth upholding. Self-inquiry and self-knowledge about what is true for you is the first step to healthy boundaries," she says. "Often we get 'into trouble' in relationships because we have not clearly defined these boundaries within ourselves. And so we will attract partners who highlight this lack of boundaries within us, and while often painful, this is a very good thing because it forces us to do the inner work and create strong and healthy boundaries about partnership."
Surprisingly, pain and failed relationships are actually good for us because they allow us to work on the issues inside of us that still need to be healed. Every codependent, overly attached relationship I've been in was a lesson in learning boundaries and developing standards for myself and in my partners. You can learn and grow a lot through your mistakes.
2. Use Boundaries To Foster Intimacy
Boundaries don't separate you from your partner; they can actually bring you closer together. Creating boundaries and figuring out what to do when they have been crossed is a fantastic way to practice communication and conflict resolution as a couple.
Strang says, "Often, when boundary concerns come up in a partnership, it opens the space for greater communication and understanding of one another, and the opportunity to grow deeper into love and respect and intimacy by honoring these boundaries."
So, for example, you might have a partner who wants to hang out every single day, while you are someone who values private time. That does not mean you don't love your partner less than they adore you, but it indicates a personality difference where you require a little bit more time for self-care. There are two ways to handle this: You can say nothing and end up feeling smothered and resentful of your partner, or you can set a boundary, and tell your significant other that you require at least one to two nights of the week alone. My guess is the boundary will work better.
When we clearly delineate our needs and wants in relationships, instead of stifling our own voice, it can work wonders for gaining respect from our partner and driving a relationship forward.
3. Put Yourself First
As with all things, in order to have a healthy relationship with something or someone else, you first need to have a healthy relationship with yourself.
"It's important to release any expectation that, to 'get' what you 'want,' you have to have all of these rules and boundaries," says Strang. "To allow anything into your life that you truly desire requires making your relationship with yourself and who you truly are your [first] priority and to allow yourself to work with life so that you can experience more of what you desire, rather than fighting against or trying to control the outcomes."
By putting yourself first and having standards, you avoid boundary-less relationship hurdles, like people pleasing, being a doormat, codependence, and attachment. If you live a full, healthy, and active life, then a partner becomes an addition to your life, and not your entire life, once you start dating. Boundaries don't begin when you start dating someone else; they actually begin within yourself.
"It's also important to note that in any relationship, boundary concerns will arise. It's part of getting to know [one] another and connecting at a deeper level," Strang concludes. "So it's not so much about ending things with someone the minute a boundary is crossed. (Although, in some instances, this may be totally appropriate.) It's more about how you navigate it when it occurs."
Boundaries might not make or break a relationship, but they certainly will improve it, as will navigating any boundary breaches as they arise. Creating standards for yourself and standards for your relationships will teach other people how you expect to be treated. And when it comes to dating, it's integral for getting the partner that you deserve.
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