Getting into a new relationship is an exciting time, filled with anticipation, hope, and butterflies. You probably feel like you want to spend as much time with your new person as possible and share all aspects of your life together. But when you’re getting swept up in the excitement of a new relationship, or even a relationship you’ve been in for a while, it’s important to remember to set some boundaries for you and your partner.
Boundaries are there to protect us. On the road, they stop us from going somewhere we shouldn’t, like a potentially hazardous area, and it’s the same for boundaries that you set in your relationship. Setting boundaries in relationships help to keep them strong and healthy and are designed to protect both your and your partner’s well-being. They help you both to understand what is expected of each of you, and how to respect each other’s personal and emotional space and comfort zone.
There is no shame in setting boundaries with your partner, and it’s best to set them early on in the relationship if you can. They are designed to respect your needs in the relationship and let your other half know when they have overstepped or what makes you uncomfortable. Without clear guidelines, resentment can build up and start to cause problems in the relationship.
What does healthy boundaries look like?
Boundaries are a form of self-care and are implemented to stop us from feeling drained, used, or overwhelmed in certain situations with our significant others. You can place these borders around any aspect of your life and need no explanation, if it makes you feel comfortable or listened to then it’s totally valid!
You can set boundaries around anything to protect your mental health, physical health, your time, or your finances for example. There are five types of boundaries within a relationship:
- Emotional boundaries
- Physical boundaries
- Intellectual boundaries
- Financial boundaries
- Sexual boundaries
Within these different boundaries is your comfort zone, you may not feel the need to set boundaries for all of these or alternatively you may need a few boundaries to feel respected and comfortable. Here are a few examples of healthy boundaries within a relationship:
- Expecting your partner to communicate disagreements with maturity
- Asking for peace and quiet when you’re working
- Being able to voice your concerns and have a discussion
- Mutual respect for each other’s morals and values
- Prioritising personal time for self-care
- Ownership over your own finances
- The ability to change your mind
Whilst your boundaries aren’t as blatant as a warning sign or a red light, your partner should still respect them. They are they to protect your mindset and mental health and empower you to take control of your life. Remember that boundaries are a two-way street, and you should respect your partner’s own boundaries too.
Ways to set boundaries in relationships
Learning to set boundaries in relationships is something that should come naturally. You have autonomy over how you feel and want to be treated, so the first trick to set clear boundaries is knowing yourself. Now you know what you need from your other half, it’s time to start setting boundaries. The main thing to keep in mind is to be clear, remember ‘clear is kind, unclear is unkind’. If you don’t convey your boundaries openly so your partner understands them, then you can’t expect them to uphold them.
Take the initiative
Whether you’re getting into a new relationship with someone, or you’ve been seeing them for a while now, if neither of you has started to implement some boundaries then make sure you take the initiative and start putting a few in place. Once your other half sees you make the effort to create boundaries, they should follow suit. Setting boundaries early on is easier if you’re entering into a new relationship, however, there is no reason why you can’t start putting up some healthy boundaries with someone you’ve been with for a while. At the end of the day, if they don’t respect your needs then they’re probably not the person for you in the long run!
Visualise and name your limits
The key to setting boundaries is to know where your comfort zone lies. At first, it can be quite hard to visualise your limits as they are not tangible objects you can see, rather they’re something abstract that you feel. Before you can openly communicate them with your partner, you’ve first got to understand them yourself. By writing down your boundaries and seeing them as a physical words on a piece of paper, it will become much easier to visualise your limitations and start understanding what it is that makes you feel safe or uncomfortable.
Before you begin, take a little time to ask yourself a few questions:
- What is causing me unnecessary discomfort?
- What gives me energy and what drains my energy?
- What makes me feel safe and supported?
- What do I look forward to each day and what do I dread?
Now, take a piece of paper and draw a big circle. Inside the circle, write down everything that makes you feel stress-free and safe, such as your daily routine, words of affirmation from your other half, and physical contact, for example. On the outside of the circle, write down anything that does not serve you or causes extra stress or anxiety. This circle now represents a physical manifestation of your limits, and anything outside of the circle is something you should create a boundary around. Now that you can visibly see your comfort zone, it will be much easier to build those boundaries to protect your inner peace.
Learn from mistakes
Just because you’re establishing boundaries it doesn’t mean you will never fight within your relationship. When arguments or disagreements do arise, take it as an opportunity to learn and perhaps set a new boundary. Take the time to discuss with your partner and make sure to listen to their side of the story so that they feel heard and respected too. This is the perfect opportunity to get vulnerable with each other and share your needs. From here, you can both establish a new boundary that should hopefully prevent the same disagreement from arising again and leave you both feeling supported and respected by your significant other.
Take time for yourself
When you’re in a relationship with someone, taking some much-needed alone time can feel selfish, and quite a task if you’re living together too. But taking time to practice some self-care has in fact been linked to increased self-confidence and greater emotional intelligence, making it easier for you to build boundaries and stick to them, as well as supporting your partner too. When you don’t make enough time to take care of yourself, you put yourself at risk of burnout (yes, burnout can happen in relationships as well as work!) which will ultimately put strain on your relationship and your mental health.
Make sure to block out some time just for you and do your favourite things. Whether that’s binge watch your favourite show, taking a long, relaxing bubble bath, reading your book in peace and quiet, go to the park for a walk, anything that you do for yourself constitutes self-care!
Spending some time with yourself and your thoughts allows you to process your emotions and reflect on how you’re feeling. When you treat yourself to some self-care, make sure you take a moment to check in with how you’re feeling and ensure that your boundaries are being respected.
Listen to your partner
One of the best ways to ensure your boundaries are upheld is to respect your partner’s boundaries too. In a mutually respectful and supportive relationship, this should already be a given, but sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of our own needs that we forget other people have them too. Take the time to listen to your partner and wait until they’ve said everything they need to say before responding. Your partner will be much more inclined to respect your boundaries and needs if they feel like they are also heard and supported, so make sure you’re giving them enough time and energy. It’s important to also remember that it’s often not what you say but how you say it, so be mindful of how you’re speaking to each other when you’re laying down boundaries or engaged in a discussion.
No matter how much you love your partner, relationships can be tough and require work from both of you to keep them healthy and alive. Sometimes, you need a little self-esteem boost to keep your mental health in check, and that’s where Morale steps in. Send and receive anonymous daily affirmations from your closest friends and family and remember that you’re worthy of love and respect. If the going gets tough, don’t let your mindset slip or your mental health take a hit. Using the power of affirmations, you can support your own mental health as well as your partner’s and those around you.
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