Setting Boundaries are more important than you will ever know.
Last week we talked about sex the second time around but just as important is the relationship and setting boundaries. Setting boundaries in your relationships defines how we allow others to treat us. Healthy boundaries allow trust and security and protect us from abuse.
Unhealthy boundaries open us up to being used and at its worst being abused.
Some of us find setting boundaries easy. Chances are we grew up in a reasonably functional family unit where it was safe to express likes and dislikes. This allows us to be treated with respect and dignity and shows that there are some things that will be tolerated whilst there are other things that will not.
Some find setting boundaries difficult, if not impossible to set and keep boundaries. This is often due to an over- willingness to please. They lack a sense of identity and self worth and become a doormat in every relationship. They cannot speak up for themselves and they lose their ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings.
Others to treat them badly and they seldom speak out to protect themselves. A large percentage of who they are in their relationship is given up as a result depression can follow.
Kate is a 33 year old, mother of two children. She has a history of physical abuse by her husband who was killed in a motor accident 5 years ago. She now has a new partner but tells me that she is fearful that this relationship is going to be the same nightmare as before. There is every likelihood, that it will unless she learns to set boundaries.
Kate needs to communicate to her boyfriend her values and limits. She needs to set rigid boundaries. It is never OK to be violent with me or my children. It is not acceptable to cheat on me and it is not acceptable to swear at me or call me bad names.
You can set these boundaries by saying,
“If you do….. then, I will respond by……” and then you need to stick to it.
I know it’s hard but you need to be prepared to defend the boundary by following through with the consequences. If you allow the boundary to be crossed and he gets away with it – all the hard work and self esteem is out of the window.
There are also flexible boundaries that can be reached through negotiation. For example: it is okay for your partner to go out once a week to be with friends but you need to be home before 11pm and you cannot drive under the influence of alcohol?
We learnt from the BDSM community about soft and hard limits. I won’t do this but I might do that. Setting boundaries is not a threat.
Communicating clearly what your limits are and the consequences that will arise if the boundary is broken is incredibly important.
Children who have clear boundaries are far happier than those who have no idea where the line is. You’ll often find that they are fearful of breaking some unseen rule. It’s exactly the same with adults. It is so much easier when you know where you stand.
We all need to know our boundaries, what is acceptable and what is not. This is true in any relationship even those with our friends, family, children and at work. If it’s important to you – communicate because your partner cannot guess or read your mind and don’t tell me he should have known. It doesn’t work like that.
Personal boundaries communicate to the other person that we have worth and if you are fearful to communicate them then you are probably trying to hard and are with the wrong person. A sense of self respect allows us to make our own decisions and have our own thoughts and feelings. Healthy boundaries make for trust and security and allow each person to live to their full potential. If you respect one another, you don’t have to control the other person and visa-versa.
Often couples need help in negotiating boundaries.
Many young couples find the pre-marital counseling to be extremely valuable. In these sessions, they often give you each a questionnaire which you complete and this helps to highlight your values, beliefs and limits. You then have the opportunity to discuss the various differences and come to agreement before problems arise. Maybe older couples should be following the same process. It may not keep you together forever but the cracks are highlighted early on.
Boundaries help you to set limits on your time, your money, your physical body and your emotions.
For example, if you have set boundaries for yourself at work, you will have a clear set of what is right and wrong in the business environment. This will help define who you are and what you are prepared to do.
If you have difficulty setting you own personal boundaries and/or allowing people to treat you badly, perhaps you should seek some help. We often compromise because we are so very afraid to be alone, we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Only you can stop the cycle of your own abuse.
I am a firm believer that what you don’t change – you choose.