The Expert-Backed Way To Set Boundaries In A Relationship

Enforcing boundaries in relationships is not easy

There is a word that can cause more anxietyworry and uneasiness in a relationship than a surprise visit from the in-laws on your honeymoon. Can you guess what it is?

If you guessed “No”, pat yourself on the back.

It can be challenging to set boundaries in a relationship. When we get close to someone, we learn to be vulnerable and open up. We throw caution to the wind and step up as our true selves. And, it can be unnerving to give up control over our happiness to another human being.

Why It’s Hard To Set Boundaries in a Relationship

When we have so much at stake, it’s easy to get into the mindset of doing everything to please our partner to avoid creating conflict. Yet, this can result in resentment and stress in ourselves and put great strain on the relationship in the long term. 

The real reason many of us are bad at setting boundaries is fear:

  • Fear of rejection.
  • Fear of instability
  • Fear of letting our partner down

These fears slowly chip away at our self esteem and can result in miscommunicationlack of trust and codependency. They can trigger indecisiveness and make us question our own judgement.

Great – you say. But how do I get better at enforcing my psychological, emotional and physical boundaries?

The Effective Way To Set Boundaries

Knowing how to set boundaries in a relationship starts with a keen sense of self-awareness and solid communication skills. You can learn these skills by following this simple 5-step process from a relationship expert

1. Identify your needs. 

Take some time to reflect on your needs before you enter a new relationship. Know what you’re willing to give and what you expect in return. Also, be willing to be flexible when needed. Relationships are about give and take.

Pay attention to how you feel at different moments in the relationship. If something feels “wrong”, it’s likely your boundaries are being crossed. Trust your gut and avoid suppressing your feelings.

2. Communication is key. 

When your boundaries are crossed, communicate your feelings honestly. If you have trouble keeping your cool, take the time to process your emotions first. Create a non-confrontational environment where both of you can openly express yourselves. Communicate mindfully and use “I feel” statements to express your emotions without casting blame on your partner.

3. Timing is important. 

Communicate things at the right time. Bigger boundaries may need to be communicated earlier in the relationship. More specific boundaries can be communicated as they come up and should be done when emotions aren’t flying high.

4. It’s not a one-and-done deal.

People change over time and so do their boundaries. So, be sure to revisit these discussions on a regular basis and keep the lines of communication open. Avoid treating conversations about boundaries as an indicator of trouble in the relationships. Instead, think of it as an investment into the future growth of your relationship.

5. Enforce your boundaries. 

Setting boundaries in a relationship is only half the job. You also need to enforce them. This may be the trickiest part, but boundaries should be enforced in a firm and compassionate way. If you find that your boundaries are being crossed, take a pause to address the issue. If you fail to do this, you will encourage your partner to ignore your boundaries.

Setting boundaries is an ongoing process and you get better the more you do it. Be sure to approach this process with openness and humility. Use the tips above for guidance and customize them to fit your own communication style and needs.

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