Boundaries in relationships define limits, in
regards to social and personal behaviour and roles. More often than not
these are not discussed in any depth, because we assume our partners have
the same boundaries as we do. As a relationship matures, non-verbal and
verbal boundaries are put into place; which occurs as part of the growth
of the relationship.
Most upsets and arguments arise within a
relationship when our own personal boundaries are breached, when our
expectations have been dashed or when we have breached the other persons
boundaries or failed to meet their expectations.
Our expectations and boundaries are based on many personal
factors. These personal factors are mostly based on our own upbringing,
the way we treat people and the way we expect others to treat us, self beliefs, self worth and self respect.
When someone close to us fails to meet our
expectations we feel offended. We take it personally. We feel as though
that person doesn't care about us, or doesn't understand us, value us or
even that they don't like us any more.
When someone else upsets us, it is because they
have overstepped our own personal boundaries. They have taken us out of
our comfort zone into an area where we feel we are losing or have lost
control of our position in their lives. We have tendencies to feel
disappointed with them, in them and to feel hurt, mistrustful and
In summary, when someone (knowingly or
unknowingly) oversteps our boundaries we take it very personally.
Our own personal boundaries are very important.
They help us to understand who we are, they help us to take ownership of
our emotions and they help us to communicate clearly to others.
We set boundaries with our children to protect
them. Likewise setting and acknowledging our own personal boundaries is
When we fail to understand our own limits or
boundaries, we can not truly expect anyone else to understand them. When
we DO understand our own limits, again we can not truly expect anyone else
to understand them if we have not clearly communicated them.
Having clearly communicated your boundaries to
another person, requires then a level of trust that they will respect your
boundaries. If you fear that you can not trust them, then it would be wise
to reassess your role in their life.
Trust between two people is true
respect between two people and acceptance for each other.
Communicating our personal
Having our own personal boundaries, means we must
be able to clearly communicate our boundaries to others. This must be done
without need to control others.
There is a distinct difference between setting a
boundary to give understanding, and setting boundaries to control or
manipulate. This difference comes down to outcome. When we have set desire
or outcome, our boundaries which are in place are, even in a sub-conscious
way, used to manipulate others.
Talking to your partner and explaining WHY you
need a boundary line in place, for YOUR benefit will help them to
understand and get closer to you.
For example; If you don't want to show affection
in public, and your partner kisses you in the street. You will instantly
take up a defensive role and either push them away, or feel violated.
Saying 'Don't do that in public, I don't like it." Is an order or a
demand. You have set your boundary without any explanation and your
partner may take it that you are embarrassed to be with them or ashamed of
them. To clearly communicate, you should explain how public displays of
affection make YOU feel. If you partner's boundaries NEED them to show
affection in public, communication and mutual understanding could find
some middle ground.
The fundamental requirement in communicating your
personal boundaries is honest explanation of how you feel when they are in
place, and how you feel when they are overstepped. If you are unable to be
completely honest with your partner about how you feel, then it will cause
a rift in the relationship which could tear the relationship apart in the
When our boundaries are breached
We have, as individuals, every right to feel what
we feel. We have every right to express, not repress, our emotions. We
have every right to set our own boundaries, but no right to set boundaries
on others. No right to force our boundaries on others.
In a relationship, if you partner has done
something which offends or upsets you; Clear and honest communication -
without blame is paramount.
If someone is behaving in a way which is
unacceptable to you, you should explain to them WHY you find it
Do not say 'It is unacceptable', Say 'I find it unacceptable
Replace the words 'You made me feel' with the words 'When you did that, I
No one makes you feel the way you feel, you feel
it BECAUSE your boundaries have been compromised.
Your partner (or friend), then should assess their
role, but telling them to do this isn't the answer! it has to be their
choice. If they do not change or reassess their role; you should consider
whether this action or person is truly enhancing you. For when someone
constantly takes us out of our comfort zone, or steps over our boundaries
it is detrimental to our own state of mind.
It may be, that it is YOU that needs to change,
but if this doesn't feel right - then there is no need. You have every
right to do as you feel is right for you, however arrogance and denial can
easily step in. It may simply be that you were not aware of your partners
boundaries - which exceed your own. In which case, compromise on your
behalf could well solve the issue.
Being tied to someone else's
More often than not, when we realise that we are
tied to someone else's boundaries; we have placed ourselves in a situation
over time. We have agreed to things beyond our comfort zone to please, to
keep the peace, or for the sake of something.
Breaking free from someone else's boundaries is a
difficult process. We don't want to offend them, upset them nor rock the
boat. But the dis-ease that we feel inside isn't something which we want
to live with for any length of time.
Sudden change is not always the best policy. But
good clear communication is always beneficial. Explain to them WHY you
allowed yourself to adhere to their boundaries, how it makes you feel and
what you want to change.
For your own reasoning; it is well worth looking
back into your relationship (be that with a partner, a friend or family
member) and look to where you first stepped down from your true self.
It may be that it is simply you whom has changed over time, if this is the
case; it is worth trying to pin point why.
We do have the right to choose how we allow other
people treat us. We do not have to adhere to our partners boundaries if
they compromise who we truly are.
You have every right to be
You have every right to be yourself, to do the
things YOU want to do, to live by your own values and to live by your own
If you agree to live by someone else's boundaries
you are likely to ignite a deep resentment in the future. It is also likely to cause ongoing
arguments and disputes.
Not everything is possible to resolve with
everyone, if you decide to try to resolve matters, you should also
understand that changing the dynamics of a relationship can have a huge
effect on it. Any defiance or
change in your behaviour, so that you can live within your own boundaries
and not your partners, will cause offence if your partner feels that you no longer
meeting their expectations.
If your relationship or friendship is strong
enough, there WILL be understanding, but this does come down to that
fundamental issue of GOOD communication and honesty.
So, in the same way as we feel offence when people
fail to meet our expectations, others will feel offence when you fail to
meet theirs. It is well worth keeping that at the forefront of your mind
when you approach the subject.
Setting Boundaries in
In regards to adults, it is questionable as to
whether or not boundaries are acceptable. However, when you look at the
reality; boundaries are incredibly important.
In the same way as it is important to set our own
boundaries, in order to protect ourselves. Having boundaries within a
relationship also serve to protect the relationship.
It is far easier to set boundaries with our
children, and much harder to assert or ask for boundaries in a
relationship. This is because we fear that asking or setting boundaries
will damage the relationship. We fear that if we set boundaries, our
partner will resent them and leave.
The key in this is that the boundaries should be
mutually agreeable. This then takes away any sense of selfishness and
control. Boundaries in relationships are there to serve BOTH of you, not
just one of you.
Working out the boundaries within a relationship
is not the sole responsibility of one person. Nor is it the sole
responsibility of one person to make all the compromises.
Remember: In a healthy relationship, both people
should be able to communicate honestly and clearly with each other. If you
feel uncomfortable or unable to communicate clearly with your partner it
is reflecting the boundaries which have been established over the time