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How to establish healthy boundaries in relationships

A boundary is a limit or space between you and the other person. In simpler terms, it’s about what you are willing to give and what you are willing to take from others.

The purpose of setting a boundary is to ensure that both of you have a healthy relationship anchored on mutual understanding and respect.

Boundaries are very important in any kind of relationship. The relationship could be romantic, work, parental, or even friendship.

Setting boundaries and controlling someone are not the same thing. If you feel that your partner is putting boundaries in a controlling manner then there’s a problem with communication around boundaries being established. Boundaries can help you retain a sense of identity and personal space, and they’re easy to create and maintain.

Examples of boundaries you can set

  • Saying no. This ensures that you set the pace for what you can take and what you are willing to give.  Remember that NO is a complete answer. It does not need an explanation.
  • Having an identity outside of the relationship: This means being independent and avoiding codependency as each human should have an identity outside of the relationship.
  • Enjoying space and time alone. This can be, for example, informing your partner that you’d like to enjoy one night alone each week alone, as opposed to seeing each other daily.
  • Sexual boundaries. This is all about setting boundaries on what you are comfortable with sexually. These can be around things such as unwanted sexual acts.  
  • Showing respect for differences in opinion, perspective, and feelings. This also includes speaking up for yourself if your partner says mean or unacceptable things.
  • In a teacher-student relationship, a teacher might set healthy boundaries by choosing to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives by not telling their students too much about their private lives.
  • Money. Be clear on finances whether it’s about saving together or who provides for what
  • Communicating uneasiness. If someone feels their partner is really uncomfortable about a situation, for example, a bad joke, they can openly express their discomfort. They should set boundaries such that this does not become a habit.
  • Privacy. The fact that you are in a relationship with someone does not mean that they should tell you everything. Setting boundaries such that some things can only be shared at your discretion.

How do you establish boundaries?

A healthy relationship has boundaries. It is important to establish the boundaries at the onset of the relationship.  Do not wait until you are in a conflict to define what your boundaries are.

Secondly, communication is important. Establishing boundaries and communicating about them are two different things altogether. We encourage you to start talking about things even when they make you feel uncomfortable.

Be clear where you draw the line and explain your expectations. This will help you figure out whether you are compatible or not. 

Give clear on consequences

What happens when the other person violates set boundaries? It is important to come up with consequences of positive and negative behaviors.  This will ensure that both of you are accountable.

Note: It will be a challenge to establish boundaries if you are not self-ware. Get to know yourself better including your values so that you don’t find yourself in toxic cycles.

Have you established boundaries in your relationship?

Did you learn something new?

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