Why Boundaries are Vital to a Healthy Relationship and How to Set Them

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By Adelina Treitli

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

You may want that loving relationship in which you get the love and the connection you yearn for.  A healthy relationship in which you can be separate from your partner, yet together in love – an interdependent relationship. And one of the most important ingredients in an interdependent relationship is having boundaries. Boundaries are essential  from the dating process in which you get to know someone, to the committed relationship. (Read about the 13 ingredients of a thriving relationship here).

I used to be completely unaware of boundaries in my past relationships. I did everything to please the person I was with for a number of reasons: I wanted to be liked and loved — so that for me meant agreeing with them on everything, even if it went completely against how I felt deep down.  Also, I never wanted to rock the boat because I didn’t want to upset them and then push them away. So I never stood up for what I thought, what I believed in, what I liked, what I needed and what I wanted. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.

What Does It Mean to Have Boundaries?

Having boundaries in a relationship means knowing where you start and where you end, and where your partner starts and ends. Imagine there is a sphere around you that allows you to be comfortable, to breathe easily, to move easily and be safe and whole. If you allow someone to squish your sphere, you will no longer be comfortable and you’ll have a hard time moving around or, you’ll blend into the other person and lose yourself.

When you are boundaried, you maintain the integrity of your well-being, your energy, your time, your preferences and possessions by drawing a line that your partner cannot cross. You may wonder, “But if I’m in a close, intimate relationship with a man, shouldn’t all the barriers between us fall?” Definitely. Boundaries are not barriers to intimacy, though. Boundaries are held in place in order to maintain your well-being and autonomy, while allowing intimacy, love and connection to pass through.

Why is It Important to Have Boundaries in Your Relationship?

Boundaries in a relationship:

  • allow you to stay true to who you authentically are, what you want, need and like and not lose yourself in your partner
  • promote healthy and thriving love
  • allow you to maintain your autonomy and create an emotionally healthy relationship
  • increase your self-esteem and your sense of self-worth
  • encourage respect from your partner
  • can prevent conflicts from arising or escalating
  • help you share your best version of yourself in the relationship

How to set boundaries:

  • Be honest to yourself about what you like and what you dislike, what you want and what you don’t, what you expect and what you need and state it clearly: “I don’t like having to wait when we meet. Please be on time or give me a call if you’re running late.”
  • Speak up about what you will or with not do while reaffirming the affection you have for your partner: “I love you and I care about your family, but I will not lie about X in front of your mother so that she doesn’t get upset.”
  • Be clear and specific about what you want, will accept and will not accept: “If you’d like me to handle the cooking, I need you to get involved and bring home the groceries by 7 pm.”
  • Do not generalize using “you always”, “you never”. Instead use “when”; “When we were are the party, you made critical remarks about me in front of our friends and it hurt. I need to know that this won’t happen again. If there’s something bothering you, we can sort it out between us.”
  • Speak from a place of personal responsibility, using “I”; “I’d like for us to go on dates more often and flirt with each other. I’d love it if you could pick the place and surprise me.”
  • Come from a place on non-reaction – ideally give yourself a time-out to remove the emotional charge and then set the boundary when you’re feeling calm and centered;
  • Strive to set boundaries with grace, without using blame and without projecting your emotions onto your partner.

It’s important to keep an eye on these 3 common traps that make things worse: mistaking boundaries for threats, using boundaries from a place of manipulation and using a rejecting attitude.

But What Happens When You Experience Blocks to Setting Boundaries? 

Usually, when we are afraid to set boundaries, we are afraid of the consequences of “disrupting the peace”.

What often happens with many of us (especially women), is that we have been so schooled into being nice to people, hence to our partners, to the point we lose who we truly are. We give up staying true to how we feel deep down, what we would like or dislike – essentially, not being authentic to ourselves.  So then we blend into the men in our lives to the point we don’t know who we are anymore.

We try to please and not speak up for ourselves out of fear that we will upset them and get rejected, or worse, be abandoned.  Or, we may feel like mothering them, by protecting them and not hurt their feelings, without realizing that our partners are responsible for taking care of their own needs and emotions, while we must take care of our own.

Maybe we were never allowed to speak up about our needs as children and speaking up might have resulted in frowns, yelling, lectures, or even a slap and other physical abuse.  We have learned these behaviours early on in our lives and now they are programs running on auto-pilot, like movies that keep playing in the back of our mind without us even realizing it.

It’s important to pay attention and be aware of the dynamics that control us from the shadows of our past conditioning and refuse to perpetuate the legacy of dysfunction.

One method you can use is to practice mindfulness. That means witnessing your need to resist setting a boundary or the fear and anxiety that may come up for you, and not step into it.

EFT(Emotional Freedom Techniques), also known as Tapping is en effective tool that can remove the emotional intensity you may experience when setting boundaries and cut the chords of the past that keep us in reactivity mode.

With each action we take to please our partner and not rock the boat, we become more and more estranged from our authentic voice and underneath that, a lot of resentment can pile up. Later, this can come out in bursts of anger and blaming. All of these dynamics eat away at the health, love and connection we can experience in our relationships.

The beautiful thing about becoming a boundaried person is that once you learn how to set boundaries, you will notice a difference in how you feel about yourself. Having boundaries means showing respect to yourself and that can improve your self-image. You may then notice becoming less “nice” to people in order to please them, and more loving and centered, while acting according to your inner voice.

About the Author:

Adelina Treitli Author Bio PictureAdelina Treitli is an EFT Practitioner & Coach and works with women who are looking to change negative relationship patterns, shed childhood wounds and increase their self-worth and confidence, using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT Tapping) via Skype. Having been on a journey to healing her own dysfunctional relationship patterns. She is now dedicated to guiding women on their path to emotional healing. She runs a growing Facebook community of women on their journey to conscious awakening in their relationships. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking and practicing meditation. You can get her free guide on changing your relationship pattern and tap into your radiance, at her website: www.adelinatreitli.com.

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