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Setting Emotional Boundaries: Road To A Healthy Relationship

Have you ever been in a relationship where you love every single thing that your partner does for you, but then later down the road you find that same person a little annoying? Do you ever wonder that the same person you once had good connections with, now things have turned opposite? Here’s why.

When we overdo something, we eventually get fed up at some point. When you focus or give attention to one particular person way too much, dedicate your mental and physical energy completely to them, you start to lose “the spark”. This is exactly where boundaries play an essential role in romantic relationships.

What Are Relationship Boundaries?

Relationship

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Boundaries describe where one thing ends and another begins. Similarly, relationship boundaries help each person figure out where one person ends and the other begins. In short, boundaries help you define what you are comfortable with and how you would like to be treated by others. Boundaries can also be described as how emotionally or physically close you let people get to you.

Before getting into how you can fix these boundaries, let’s understand some of the common signs you might have boundary issues in your relationship:

• You feel like your partner is too involved in your business.
• You often find yourself sucked into pointless fighting or debating regularly.
• When in trouble, you have to save them and fix their problems for them.
• You find each other far more invested or attracted to each other than you should.
• And the most common sign that people notice at the very end is you feel suffocated.

Why Is It Important To Set Boundaries?

Relationship

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One of the major factors that ruin a relationship is excessive closeness. When people attach way too much, they don’t realise when they enter each other’s personal space and cross the boundary. This leads to clinginess and over possessiveness, eventually leading to the loss of the relationship. You might be comfortable sharing your location with your partner but not your passwords, or you might want to take off some time of your day for yourself and that’s absolutely okay. By doing so, you are creating a space for yourself and setting the boundaries which are honestly, the right thing to do. Keep in mind that boundaries will look different from person to person though. One person’s needs may look a lot different than someone else’s, and that’s okay too.

How Do You Set Boundaries?

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The key to any relationship is to set boundaries and respect each other’s personal space. For starters, understand and recognise your limits — to what extent are you okay with your partner entering your space, and communicate them to your partner. You need to be very direct while having such a conversation. Let’s stop with the “dropping hints” game and get real on it. If your partner does something that you don’t like, telling them at that moment and establishing the boundary would be a great way to make yourself heard instead of waiting for “the right time” to say things.

A relationship should be a balance of giving and take, not take till there’s nothing left for someone to give. Make sure to discuss how far you’re willing to go toward being someone’s ‘fulfilment’ and how you would like, in turn, to be filled. You should always discuss what you expect out of someone, and what you expect to receive so that you both know where exactly to stop, which automatically sets a boundary. Only when your boundaries are known to you, will you be able to communicate them to your partner. When you need someone to understand and respect your boundaries, you need to listen and understand theirs too. Relationships are a two-way street, you need to listen to the boundaries they want to set and discuss those as well.

Setting boundaries can help improve your relationship, self-esteem, emotional peace, and most importantly, it not only benefits the relationship, but it also gives you the space to grow.

The 7 Types Of Boundaries You Need To Make Your Relationship Stronger

1. Physical boundaries

Physical boundaries are boundaries concerning your body, your personal space and your physical needs/ wants. Maybe you’re not big on cuddling, and you feel like you’re forced into it. Perhaps you need an hour to yourself after you wake up before you can hug and kiss your partner. Voicing your opinion on physical boundaries will clear misunderstandings and make sure you’re both on the same page.

Examples of physical boundaries in relationships could include you setting a limit on the PDA you partake in, or just wanting to be left alone in your room/personal space for a while. If your partner were to burst into your room during your personal time, it would be a breach of your physical boundaries.

In every relationship, a bit of personal space is required for it to thrive. You get to know yourself better, and only through knowing yourself will you know what you want. In her book Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin, author Anne Katherine claims that “Intimacy comes from being known, and being known requires knowing yourself, having a self to know.”

Examples of physical boundaries

This is undoubtedly one of the most important types of personal boundaries that no one appreciates being violated. But how do you convey your physical boundaries to your partner without hurting their feelings or coming across as distant? Here are a few examples that will give you a sense of how to communicate personal boundaries without causing offense:

  • “I don’t like being touched/held this way”
  • “I feel tired, I need a break”
  • “I’m hungry, I will grab a bite now”
  • “I can’t have XYZ in my living space, I’m allergic to it”
  • “Please knock before walking into my room”
  • “I don’t appreciate being disturbed when I’m in the shower”
  • “Don’t bang on the door, loud knocks make me anxious”

2. Sexual boundaries

Sexual boundaries in relationships
Set sexual boundaries so you don’t end up feeling violated

At the beginning of every relationship, sex is often not talked about before it actually happens. It’s led up to, fearing that any conversation about it would ruin its authenticity. Like a conversation about it would ruin the thrill and it’ll then feel like an inevitable formality. But ask yourself, is it more important to have fake authenticity or to make sure you don’t get violated in bed?

Through sexual boundaries, you’ll be able to make sure both of you know exactly where you stand on sex. Whether you want to have sex, how you’d like to have sex, what kinks will be entertained and which kinks are just straight-up weird.

Dr. Bhonsle says, “Partners should share their fantasies and desires with one another openly and without hesitation or judgment. However, it’s equally important to respect a partner’s reluctance to partake in some of those fantasies and desires. That’s essentially what setting sexual boundaries boils down to.” 

Your partner may not have a sexual drive as active as yours or might have had bad experiences with sex in the past. Before you go jumping into bed, with 0 signs of foreplay (that’s how they do it in the movies, right?), make sure you have a conversation about sex first. 

Examples of sexual boundaries in a relationship

Sex can turn out to be a touchy topic between partners, especially when it comes to voicing fantasies and kinks and/or turning them down. Here are a few examples of sexual boundaries in a relationship that will help you learn how to say no without bruising your partner’s self-esteem:

  • “I’m not enjoying this. Let’s try something different”
  • “Do you want to have sex right now?”
  • “Would you like to try a new position/experiment with a new technique?”
  • “I don’t want to have sex right now. Can we cuddle instead?”
  • “I’m not okay with unproctected sex”
  • “This hurts/is uncomfortable. Stop”

3. Financial boundaries

A request along the lines of “Hey, can I borrow some money from you? You know I’ll pay you back as soon as I can” shouldn’t leave you incapable of saying no. You should only lend out your money if you want to, not if you’re fearing retaliation that sounds like “Oh so you don’t trust me? Is that how little you care about me?”

Financial boundaries about money, your assets like your car, house, personal belongings should all be addressed. Drawing a line in the sand about hard-earned money and other assets is among the most normal boundaries in a relationship and shouldn’t be frowned upon at all.

Having a conversation about money might not be the easiest thing ever, but it’ll improve communication in your relationship. It doesn’t sound very romantic but if your partner takes your car out for a while and comes back with a bunch of dents in it, you’ll wish you had this talk sooner. Being able to talk about finances without getting defensive or touchy is a rare quality that more couples should aspire to imbibe.

Examples of financial boundaries

Setting material boundaries in relationships, especially the ones involving money, can be hard. Here are some examples to help you figure out how to broach the topic of money without it turning into an issue and ace setting one of the trickiest of different types of boundaries between partners:

  • “I can’t lend you my car since your name is not on the insurance”
  • “I’d appreciate if you get the car serviced after the road trip”
  • “Let’s go over the credit card bill and divide who owes what”
  • “We can’t give out more money to X. Let’s find another way to help out”
  • “We should go over the details of the mortgage and decide who pays for what”
  • “I’d like to keep my personal account active and not have my salary credited in our joint account”

4. Intellectual boundaries

Examples of boundaries in a relationship aren’t limited to just physical/monetary aspects. If your political views couldn’t be further apart, a civil discussion about the same can quickly turn into a heated argument. We urge you two to realize it’s probably best if you avoid dodgy topics that may cause distress.

It doesn’t even have to be something as serious as your political views. A seemingly nonchalant yet condescending remark on your ideas may be enough to trigger an argument. But labeling certain topics as a no-go zone can lead to an undercurrent of tension in your dynamic. It’s important to understand how to set intellectual boundaries tactfully.

Setting boundaries on how to go about conversations of your ideas and beliefs will make the dialogue beneficial. However, you have to be cautious with the level of boundary you set. Completely discouraging conversations about intellectual topics like prejudices, beliefs and opinions may hamper communication. Go about this one carefully, you don’t want it to seem like you’re limiting the things you two can talk about.

Examples of intellectual boundaries in a relationship

Intellectual boundaries help you navigate the minefield of differences of opinions skillfully, without letting them take a toll on your relationship. Here are some examples of how to set intellectual boundaries:

  • “I know we disagree on this topic, but it doesn’t make it okay for you to belittle me”
  • “We never get anywhere in our discussions on this issue. Let’s shelve it for now”
  • “Yes, we surely need to talk about this but the dinner table isn’t the best place for it”
  • “Let’s agree to disagree”
  • “To each their own”

Related reading: 10 Must-Follow Healthy Relationship Boundaries

5. Emotional boundaries

Everyone has a different way of dealing with their emotions. If you rant about your problems to your partner and they immediately take it upon themselves to fix all of them, there could be a mismatch. Maybe you just wanted to be heard, instead of having it seem like you’re incapable of dealing with your own problems.

If you’re upset and your partner reacts in the wrong way, healthy boundaries in your relationship will make sure that never happens again. Imagine this: you’re swamped with work and your partner has started talking about issues they’re facing, expecting you to listen regardless of how busy you are.

“Being emotionally vulnerable with each other is an integral aspect of any romantic partnership, which is why this is among the most crucial boundaries to set in a relationship. The notions of vulnerability can be very different for different people and you need your partner to be a collaborator and not a challenger of your understanding of emotional intimacy and vulnerability. Clearly defined emotional boundaries can facilitate the right kind of collaboration,” says Dr Bhonsle.

You could gently tell them that this isn’t the best time for you to discuss these things and set a healthy boundary on how you two deal with your emotions in the process. Your emotional baggage is not your partner’s responsibility!

Examples of emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries are all about validating each other’s feelings and handling any emotional information with respect and care. Here are a few examples of emotional boundaries in a relationship:

  • “My feelings being criticized make me want to shut down”
  • “I can share my feelings with you only when they’re received with respect”
  • “I really need to talk some things out right now. Are you in a place to listen?”
  • “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time, but I’m not in a place to listen right now”
  • “This conversation is making me uneasy. Can we revisit it another time?”

6. Time boundaries

Since we’ve established it’s healthy to have a life outside of your relationship, you won’t be able to devote 100% of your time to your partner. As you shouldn’t be expected to, either. Violation of time boundaries can be easily spotted if your partner gets angry at you when you tell them you wouldn’t be able to spend time with them.

Examples of boundaries in a relationship can be as simple as sending a text, saying “I’m busy, so I won’t be able to come to that event”. When there’s respect for you and the time you spend outside of the relationship, setting these boundaries won’t be a problem. However, a constant violation of these will leave you feeling suffocated.

At the same time, time boundaries in relationships must also focus on ensuring that a couple gets to spend some quality time together consistently. Dr. Bhonsle says, “When couples come in for therapy on account of one or both partners not being able to make time for the relationship, I usually use a ‘zero hour’ assignment. The idea is simple: making an effort to take time out for one’s partner. However, this simple act also conveys love, respect, dignity, compassion.”

Examples of time boundaries in relationships

  • “I can’t accompany you to that event this weekend”
  • “I have plans with my friends”
  • “Do you have the time to talk?”
  • “Let’s plan weekly date nights”
  • “Turning the TV off after dinner will give us time to connect with each other. How do you feel about it?”

Sources:

https://www.femina.in/relationships/love-sex/setting-emotiona-road-to-a-healthy-relationship-203535.html

https://www.thepositivepsychologypeople.com/6-signs-need-stronger-emotional-boundaries/

https://wellnesscenter.uic.edu/news-stories/boundaries-what-are-they-and-how-to-create-them/

https://www.bonobology.com/types-boundaries-relationships/

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