Let’s talk about boundaries.
Boundaries show where one thing ends and another begins. They are lines that mark limits. In relationships, they help each person know what to expect, where one person ends and another begins.
Boundaries in Dating
Whether you are just starting out in a new relationship, or if you have already been in a relationship for a while now, think of setting boundaries as an act of respect, love and hope for the well-being of everyone involved. Healthy boundaries help us define what we are comfortable with and what we are not. Boundaries also show others how we would like to be treated. And this is done with love and respect. Because we believe that we, as much as anyone else, deserve to share with others the limits that promote our wellbeing. Healthy boundaries give us a sense of self. Who am I? What do I need to feel safe? What’s my role in a relationship? What are my limits? Your partner is not a mind reader, so it is important to practice healthy communication and ask for exactly what you need in your relationship. Setting boundaries in dating/relationships can sound like:
- I love our time together but I also need time to myself.
- I am not ready to __, can we discuss this at a later time?
- I am not comfortable with __.
- I don’t think this is the best time for this conversation.
- I need to know where we stand.
Setting boundaries in your relationship can seem scary, but remember, healthy boundaries are always an act of love for you and your partner.
Healthy vs Unhealthy Boundaries:
Healthy boundaries are flexible, connected and feel safe. Unhealthy boundaries are pointless attempts to be loved or to protect oneself. With healthy boundaries, you are able to keep yourself safe by recognizing when someone is trying to be abusive, manipulative or selfish. You have a balanced give and take in relationships, and as conflicts arise, you are able to calmly discuss your needs and wishes. Boundaries are a problem if they are too close (letting people in too much, too soon and too often. Not being able to say “no”), or too distant (detached, not letting people get close). Both ends of the spectrum can stem back to childhood trauma. These are misdirected attempts to feel loved (“I will give you my all so you can accept and love me”) or to protect oneself (keeping people away). Life is about maintaining balance. Think of healthy boundaries as the perfect balanced point of give and take, protecting yourself while getting close to others, having alone time and connecting through togetherness.
When we first start to work on setting boundaries, we often confuse a boundary with a cut-off and/or being rigid. That’s not the same as having healthy boundaries. The goal of boundaries is to protect yourself AND stay connected in your relationship at the same time (with the exception of some cases where no contact is the safest step for you). A cut-off is not the same as setting a boundary. When you cut someone off you may feel that it’s working since you just rid yourself of a problem. However, quickly cutting someone off or being rigid prevents you from developing the skills needed for healthy boundaries- communicating without the extremes, stating your needs and boundaries in a respectful and grounded manner AND staying connected at the same time.
For Information and Support
Setting boundaries is a must for dealing with conflict in relationships. Communicating your needs in a relationship, as well as listening to the needs of your partner, is essential for a healthy relationship. If you find yourself struggling to set boundaries in your relationship, therapy for dating and couples therapy are always a beneficial choice.