So what are relationship boundaries and why are they important? I speak with people all the time about boundaries, and I often get responses such as, “I guess I don’t have boundaries, “I never took the time to talk about boundaries, or “I never thought about it.” For the sake of this blog, I’ll define boundaries as rules, limits, or directions that a person sets for themselves to provide clarity for relating to others. An easy way to think of boundaries could be how we allow others to treat us. Boundaries exist in all of our relationships, whether professional or personal, platonic, or romantic.
What is a Boundary or Relationship Boundaries?
There is a cliché, “We teach people how to treat us.” There is truth to the cliché. We base this on what boundaries we have communicated with others (this is both spoken and unspoken communication). So what are some examples of boundaries?
This could include limitations for allowing people into our personal space. Such as the closeness or proximity of others when we are communicating. Stepping into the personal space of another person’s boundary may be seen as an immediate physical threat. This could result in them responding defensively. The pandemic rules for safety, served as an excellent example of the 6 foot rule for respecting others’ personal space.
Communication or conversational boundaries:
These are spoken and unspoken rules for communication. These could look like topics that are seen as unacceptable for discussion in public situations. This includes talking about abortion, religion, politics, or sex. Communication boundaries in romantic relationships include defining disrespect, deciding what to share about past relationships, and sharing future dreams/goals.
Do you Know and Communicate Your Relationship Boundaries?
Articulating boundaries is so important; however, we often hold people accountable to boundaries that we have not communicated. How many times have you thought to yourself, “If he loved me he would know that is unacceptable?” or “A real friend would know that I don’t like that, I shouldn’t have to say it!” These are examples of holding someone accountable for an unspoken boundary. I can remember feeling emotionally violated by others for things that they said or did. However, not taking the time or having the courage to express what they did as a violated boundary. To make matters worse, I would hold the boundary violation inside allowing them to repeat the violation many times. This ultimately lead to me blowing up in anger. Not only was this a trigger for anger, but it spoke to my low self-esteem, this is another blog.
It’s Important to Communicate Relationship Boundaries To Begin With
Communicating boundaries upfront can prevent a lot of misunderstanding. However, even when boundaries are well communicated there is no guarantee that others will not violate our boundaries. This step is important especially in existing relationships where you may be introducing new relationship boundaries. People may not like your new boundaries. In fact, they may not be new at all. However, you may have recently found the courage to speak them. If you have not been used to communicating relationship boundaries chances are that they will be resistant to your boundaries. You should be prepared to enforce your boundaries with others by being consistent. Consistency, includes allowing yourself to be compassionate with yourself during the transition process. To go from blurred boundaries or absence of communicated boundaries is a huge step in the right direction. However, not everyone will be excited about your boundaries.
So How Do You Get Started Setting Boundaries?
Begin with your values. Assess what is most important to you. One example of a value that many people develop boundaries around is honesty. If you are a person who values honesty then chances are your boundaries would probably include little tolerance for those who:
- constantly lie
- those who blur the truth
- or those who hold truth as relative depending on the situation
Now, wait a minute before you begin judging, your boundaries are personal, customized. Plus, they are all about what behavior you will tolerate from others. It is not about controlling anyone or getting them to comply with your wishes. It is about behavior that is acceptable or unacceptable while relating to you. Another example is respect, if you place a high value on respect, then you would probably value boundaries. Especially when you focus on not being disrespected. I recommend sitting down with pen and paper and writing down five to ten values that are most important to you.
Evaluate What You Will Not Deal with?
Second, evaluate the opposite of your value to help you define your boundary. Let’s look at disrespect. For example, there are many forms of disrespect. This includes interrupting a person consistently while communicating, to the use of profane words. However, some people don’t find this disrespectful at all, and there are a myriad of forms of disrespect in between. Only you can determine which boundary is worth adopting as your own. And, it is up to you which relationship boundaries are worth you articulating to others. In part two we will examine expectations for relationships and the connection between boundaries and expectations.
What is holding you back from beginning online therapy for relationships in Detroit, MI?
Setting boundaries is an important part to instilling change. However, it can be hard when you experience pushback from others. Our therapists are here to serve you. At our online counseling practice in Detroit, MI, you will work with a skilled relationship therapist who specializes in relationship boundaries for family, friends, and significant others via online therapy in Detroit, MI. To begin your counseling journey, follow these simple steps: