It can be easy to lose sight of logic when being head over heels in love. It is normal to crave that closeness and intimacy, the feeling of being so connected with someone else. But you should never forget that at the end of the day, no matter how serious, a relationship always consists of separate people, who have their identities that deserve to be treated with respect.
Respect is much more important than love in a healthy relationship. Without respect, a person cannot truly treat someone else in the way they deserve.
Setting boundaries in romantic relationships is a concept that is often misunderstood. People tend to feel that boundaries end up being burdens which create distance between people. But actually, all healthy relationships have boundaries, because some space is needed to see the other person as an individual.
Distance doesn’t make love deplete. In fact, distance actually helps in understanding each other better. Thus, we must know the necessity of setting boundaries in a relationship, so we can both receive and give fair and kind treatment to each other.
What is setting boundaries in romantic relationships?
Setting boundaries in a relationship means maintaining your sense of independence even when you are romantically committed to someone. Setting boundaries gives each partner an agency over themselves and helps in establishing limits that should not be crossed, no matter how much you love each other. It can mean something as simple as not going through your partner’s phone to wanting to not do certain things because of one’s culture, religion or opinions.
Emotional boundaries as different than physical boundaries—they are flexible in nature. This means that over some time, you might reflect on your boundaries and adjust them according to your current mindset. Often, boundaries could be a way to keep people away because of past hurt. Thus, as we heal from that, it is good to adjust the boundary in a way that we still take care of ourselves while also letting people in at the same time.
Your idea of setting boundaries in a relationship can change with time and is completely fine. Identity is fluid and thus, as we grow, we need different boundaries for us to take space in without being caged.
Importance of boundaries in romantic relationships
The importance of boundaries in romantic relationships often goes ignored. When in a relationship, having boundaries ensures that your partner knows what you are comfortable with and what are lines they should never cross. Expressing your boundaries to each other means that you are heard and respected.
Without having boundaries, the relationship could quickly turn toxic, where you are made to feel guilty for exercising your independence, just because it might make your partner feel insecure. This leads to one party being responsible for the other party’s emotions and having to mould themselves accordingly. For example: not spending time with your friends just because your significant other doesn’t like it.
Your partner should not get angry at your boundaries, but try to understand them, so they can take care of you.
Here are a few reasons why all healthy relationships have boundaries:
- Knowing how to set healthy boundaries helps you maintain your sense of privacy. Even while in a relationship, there are times when you need your own space. You are not obligated to share everything with your partner. Things like your belongings, your messages, etc. should only be shared if you feel comfortable. Your partner should not try to access these without your consent.
- They help you feel safe and secure in your relationship because knowing your partner is aware of your boundaries and respects them assures you that you will not be subjected to anything that makes you uncomfortable, at least on purpose. A relationship should always be a space where you can fully relax in your being and know that you are being taken care of.
- Setting boundaries in romantic relationships improve communication because each partner has to both convey their limits and listen to the other. To fully understand boundaries, you need to understand your partner and where they are coming from. To not have any misunderstandings or resentment, there should be constant discussion in a relationship about comforts and discomforts.
- They make the need for solid consent very apparent. This means that unless you have explicit consent from your partner, you should not assume that they are comfortable with something. This means that when your partner says no, it actually means no and it is not up for negotiations.
- Setting boundaries in a relationship builds an atmosphere of trust. This means that there are minimal miscommunications and misunderstandings. If your partner has other friends or close relationships, having boundaries means that you do not stop them from doing that, but instead respect their needs for having other friendships. Thus, you do not doubt them just because they are being friendly with someone else because you recognize that they are their own person and have the right to do so.
This is particularly essential if you are in an open relationship.
- They help in fulfilling the needs of each individual. When you learn how to set healthy boundaries, you also learn how to appreciate the different emotional capacities of different people. For example, you may be the type of person who sometimes needs time for themselves while your partner may be the kind to seek social contact to fulfil their emotional needs. You can only understand how to meet each other midway if you realise the importance of boundaries in romantic relationships and why each person’s needs must be respected even if they are very different from your own.
How to set healthy boundaries
Now that you know just why setting boundaries in romantic relationships is essential, the next step is to find out just how to set healthy boundaries. Chances are that some of us have a skewed perception of boundaries because of past, traumatising relationships. Thus, we should learn from that and figure just what is our definition of healthy boundaries. Here are a few basic pointers you could keep in mind:
- Talk, talk, talk! This is the fundamental step in starting any kind of healthy relationship. Our ability to communicate is perhaps our greatest gift as humans because it opens the doors for understanding. Talk to each other about your boundaries and how they make each of you feel. It is important to let your partner know if they are accidentally crossing any boundaries and making you feel uncomfortable.
- Love and respect yourself, first and foremost! Loving yourself is a journey which takes time but without loving yourself, you will not respect your boundaries. If you do not respect your boundaries, you will end up shrugging and making excuses for someone else when they break them too. Self-love, as hard as it is, makes you realise your own worth and just how you should be treated.
- Don’t put words and thoughts in the other person’s mouth. This mean, stop assuming how your partner is feeling about a certain situation and instead, ask them. Don’t assume off the bat that you know everything about your partner and their emotions. You do not get to decide that for them, so always ask first.
- Know that having boundaries doesn’t free you from responsibility. Rather, it puts you in charge of your own needs and you learn to not expect your partner to constantly please you by fulfilling them. Always reflect on a situation and see what part you played in it before blaming the other person right away.
- If someone is consistently crossing your boundaries even after repeated warnings, know that it is time to leave and go for a fresh route. Healthy relationships have boundaries because relationships become healthy because there are boundaries. If a relationship is without mutually respected boundaries, it may be time to move on for your own sake
- It is okay to change your mind about some boundaries with time but is important to let your partner know about the same. Setting boundaries in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in the same boundaries forever, especially if they make you uncomfortable. Each partner in the relationship grows over time individually and to grow together, you have to respect this growth and change as well.
Maintaining healthy relationships
Knowing how you deserve to be treated and not settling for anything less is not being selfish. Each person deserves a partner(s) that respects their individuality and doesn’t restrict it but instead, loves them for it. This also means we need to learn how to respect other people’s boundaries and needs too.
There will be times when you unintentionally overstep certain boundaries, but what matters is that you apologise and try your best to be careful from next time onwards. Boundaries are not just limited to romantic commitments but should be made effective in all kinds of personal connections.
Setting boundaries in a relationship is what ultimately makes love work because, without constant effort and understanding, just feelings are never enough to keep things going. You are walking on this road as two different people holding hands and so you should know where one needs to stop and rest.