Whether your relationship is years or days old, it is never too late to establish a clear set of boundaries.
Boundaries are guidelines that help determine what will and will not be permitted in a relationship. They allow you to maintain your personal identity while functioning in a healthy, happy relationship. These guidelines are not meant to divide you and your partner, rather create a unified understanding of what is acceptable in the relationship.
Not only does this entail honesty towards your partner, it also entails being honest with yourself.
Lying is not always motivated by an intent to harm or deceive another individual for personal gain. By withholding the truth, and mirroring a partner’s perceived desires, individuals hope that they will please their partner.
However, lying about your limits of comfortability in order to gain acceptance from your partner will only cause further discomfort in your own mind. Admitting you have contrasting opinions can be difficult, however any healthy relationship is not only aware of each other’s differences, but can respect these diverging viewpoints.
Cover Every Base
Although it may seem inconvenient to nit pick at every aspect of your relationship, breaking the discussion into segments can help guide the conversation, resulting in full transparency. Types of boundaries that should be discussed are (but not limited to):
Emotional: These boundaries help maintain a healthy sense of self, while functioning in a relationship. Emotional boundaries dictate a level of respect and do not tolerate manipulating another person’s well being.
Physical: Each person has a different opinion regarding what degree of physical closeness is appropriate. Respecting each other’s personal space is necessary for both partners to feel safe at all times.
Virtual: Respecting each other’s privacy on laptops, phones, and social media accounts is imperative for maintaining trust. Breaching these boundaries can be viewed as a major violation of privacy.
Social: How the two of you act one on one will differ from how you behave in an social environment. Make sure each person is satisfied with the differences, and feels comfortable engaging with each other’s social circles.
Reinforce the consequence
Setting consequences for overstepping boundaries is not meant to threaten your partner, rather help him or her understand the importance of respecting each other’s limits. If a boundary is crossed, reinforce the consequence, whether this be taking time apart or telling them how they made you feel. Use “I” statements to help them understand the extent of your emotions, instead of accusatory statements that start with “you”. Make sure each person gets to talk without interruption.
For instance, “I feel hurt and betrayed when you went through my phone without permission. I want this to work, but if you continue to cross this boundary, I will not be able to stay with a person who does not trust me or respect my privacy.”
Revisit The Conversation
Establishing boundaries is not going to be a one time conversation. As you enter different stages of life and your relationship, what you deem acceptable vs. unacceptable will change. For instance, your physical boundaries when you first start dating a person will be incredibly different to you the boundaries you set after a year of dating. Revisit the conversation often, whether or not you think you have anything new to add. Frequent and open discussions will encourage a trusting relationship, where both partners feel comfortable to voice their opinions without the fear of being judged or ignored