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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 misunderstood.

In summary, when someone (knowingly or unknowingly) oversteps our boundaries we take it very personally.

Personal Boundaries

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 protecting ourselves.

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 boundaries

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 future.

When our boundaries are breached by others

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 unacceptable.
Do not say 'It is unacceptable', Say 'I find it unacceptable because......"
Replace the words 'You made me feel' with the words 'When you did that, I felt'..

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 boundaries.

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 yourself.

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 beliefs.

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 Relationships

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 already passed.

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