Setting clear personal boundaries is the key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, trustworthy and caring. Boundaries set the limits for acceptable behavior from those around you, determining whether they feel able to put you down, make fun, or take advantage of your good nature.
If you're often uncomfortable with other peoples' treatment of you, it's likely time to reset your boundaries. Weak boundaries leave you vulnerable and likely to be taken for granted. They also cause you to build resentful distance between you and the people you love most.
Common Boundary Violations
With that said, it can be difficult to identify when boundaries are an issue for you. Here are a few signals to look for if you want to see where boundary problems lie in your relationship:
- Saying “yes” to your partner, when in fact you’d rather say “no”
- Saying “no” when it might be perfectly appropriate to say “yes” – this is often done to keep a partner at arm’s length, or punish him or her.
Good boundaries require authenticity and honesty. Neither of these behaviors are honest ways to communicate. They leave huge gaps for misunderstanding and missing intimacy.
- Making your partner read your mind instead of saying specifically what you’re thinking or feeling
- Trying to control your partner’s thoughts or behavior through aggressive or subtle manipulation
Again, using indirect communication is a surefire way to create misunderstandings. Not saying what you really wants sets your partner up for failure- they're sure to let you down at some point. Not asking for what you want directly won't give your partner the opportunity to learn the best ways to love you.
Both of these kinds of manipulations will lead to conflict and hurt eventually. You can avoid the hurt by getting clear and being direct about what you want to see happen between you.
Here are some tips that can help you establish and maintain healthy boundaries:
- Communicate your thoughts and feeling honestly, with specificity and clearly. Whenever possible, be honest but respectful in sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Yes, this is a vulnerable action to take, but with careful communication vulnerability is the key to building trust in relationships.
- Ask your partner what they are feeling instead of trying to guess. Mind-reading is not your responsibility. And no matter how connected you are, it is impossible to know what your partner wants or is thinking in every situation. If each of you reflects on your own thoughts and feelings, and takes responsibility for putting them into words you will grow deeper understanding.
- Take responsibility for your actions. All relationship dynamics are co-created. Instead of blaming your partner for how you feel, ask yourself how your choices (intentional or otherwise) contributed to the situation.
Healthy boundaries take practice. Most of us were not trained to have these kinds of conversations in our families. But with practice you will be better able to identify where the boundary lines are between you.
As a result, trust and connection will only grow stronger and more secure between you over time.
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. I can help you:
- change communication & codependent relationship patterns
- reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
- rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity & manage intense emotions
- open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. And I've created a HUGE free relationship tool library available online for couples worldwide.
Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.