Boundaries, while they may not sound very romantic, the romance of your relationship is guaranteed to die without them. Sam Curtis, an international life coach, talks about the importance of boundaries in a relationship and how to convey them to your partner politely.
“Boundaries are an important part of any relationship. Boundaries are a part of a healthy life; they are necessary, keep us in balance, and are part of self-care. Obviously, in a romantic relationship, we spend a lot of time together, so it’s even more key that we have boundaries,” Sam said.
She continued, “I define boundaries as the conscious and unconscious rules we set for ourselves and others. A conscious boundary for your kids can be that they should be in bed by 9 pm, but an unconscious boundary might be that they must hug you before they leave for school.”
“We can sometimes cross our own boundaries. It is like breaking a promise to yourself. So if you made a promise to yourself that I’ll get a good night’s sleep daily this week and you go to bed late at night, you are breaking that boundary.”
How can I communicate my boundaries to my partner without offending them?
Sam stated, “In relationships, we go through many honeymoon phases where we sort of merge ourselves into one being instead of two. And that is lovely for a period of time, but it is not sustainable. As I mentioned, boundaries are a part of self-care and help us maintain balance. And so when we move out of that honeymoon phase this is where we start to set some boundaries. Of course, this can get really uncomfortable for the other person. When this happens, remember you are a part of the problem. While setting the boundaries, you’ve had time to think about it, but your partner hasn’t. This is the first time they are hearing about it. Don’t assume they are going to understand right away, be prepared to explain it. Give them time to think about it, and encourage them also to think about their own needs and boundaries.
Relationships can’t fulfill all our needs. We need to get some from ourselves, some from family, and some from our job. We need to meet our needs in different ways, and our partner shouldn’t be responsible for fulfilling all of our needs. And therefore, boundaries need to be set.”
Here are some of the tips she gave to have a successful boundary talk with your partner;
1. It’s ‘I’ not ‘We.’
Another key thing to remember is using ‘I’ statements. Don’t make it about them. It’s not their problem; it is your boundary. So when you speak, use ‘I’ statements like ‘I’ will be doing this, ‘I’ need this.
2. Listen actively
Make sure you listen. Active listening is not something we all are good at. So listen to respond and listen to really understand their issues and questions about it. Because they might not really have any issues with it, they just want to understand it a bit more. Use non-defensive responses.
3. Flexibility is also important
You want to stay true to the boundaries and keep them flexible. It’s not like once they are set, they are forever. You can review them when needed.
4. Make Him Feel Safe With You
When you first bring up the topic of your boundaries, make sure you are in a space where you both are free to talk. If you just throw it on them when you are having dinner, going to bed, or rushing around, you are not connected. Bring it up when you both can focus on the conversation and to be polite; ask them in advance. For example, hey, I would like to talk to you about my boundaries, will tonight work for you? This gives them a chance to be prepared. When you get to that place, you would want to state your boundaries simply and directly. You need to have it clear in your mind what your boundary is. Answer any questions and explain the actions required of them in order to honor the boundary. It could be I’d rather you don’t offer me a drink on a Monday because I am trying to drink less alcohol. So then, they are clear on how they can help support this boundary.
5. Determine the consequences
You’ve also got to explain the consequences if they break the boundary. They need to understand why it is so important to you and what will happen if they don’t follow it. This doesn’t have to be extreme; it can be something simple. All of these things need to be figured out in advance.
6. Don’t overdo it.
You don’t need to over-explain it. Answer their questions but don’t over-justify your decision and needs. Say this is what I need. I am sorry if it doesn’t make sense to you. I’ll answer all your questions.