Facebook post by Richard Keith Latman

In romantic relationships we often think of boundaries as a bad thing or simply unnecessary. Isn’t our partner supposed to anticipate our wants and needs? Isn’t that part of being in love? Aren’t boundaries callous? Don’t they interfere with the romance and spontaneity of a relationship? Many of people assume that having boundaries means not having loving feelings toward their partner. But it’s actually the opposite. All healthy relationships have boundaries. I define a boundary as “the line where I end and someone else begins.” You know? When the boundary is clearly defined and respected, you don’t need walls or electric fences. People can even cross the boundary occasionally when there’s a mutual understanding, however, when the boundary is violated in order to do harm or take advantage, then you’ll likely need walls, gates and guards. In healthy relationships partners ask permission, take one another’s feelings into account, show gratitude and respect differences in opinion, perspective and feelings. In less healthy relationships, partners assume their partner feels the same way they do (e.g., “I like this, so you must, too”). They ignore the effects of violating their partner’s boundary (e.g., “They’ll get over it”). This is why communicating your boundaries clearly is key. But what does — and doesn’t — this look like? Below, you’ll find insights on boundaries that don’t work and tips for setting boundaries that do. Boundaries that Don’t Work Boundaries that often fail are those that include the words ‘always,’ ‘never’ or any absolute language. Such boundaries are usually unrealistic and don’t last! Never say things like “You can never” or “You must always.” Other poor boundaries alienate you from your partner, have a double standard or try to manipulate an outcome. So like “If you aren’t home by 7 p.m. every night, I will not kiss you,” “If you don’t do X, I will be really mad” or “You are not allowed to do X, but I can do it when I please.” Many partners don’t even talk about their boundaries. They expect their partner to just know them. For instance, you want your partner to recognize your accomplishments. Instead of expressing this need, you hint at it, play a game of “I’ll lavishly affirm you if you’ll return the favor” or mope around when it doesn’t happen. Yeah, like a hot dog without the mustard... not fair. Not only is this ineffective, but it creates confusion and can hurt your relationship. Setting Healthy Boundaries Healthy boundaries include everything from speaking up when you think you’re being disrespected to advocating for yourself to have time for your own interests. Be self-aware. The first step in setting any boundary is self-knowledge. You need to know what you like and dislike, what you’re comfortable with versus what scares you, and how you want to be treated in given situations. Be clear about your needs. After you know what your needs are, tell your partner. I've found that many boundary violations stem from misunderstandings. One partner has a problem with certain behaviors, but they never let their partner know. Often this is because they worry it’ll trigger an argument. However, “it’s OK to have preferences, and it’s OK to let your lover know.” For instance, if you want to be treated as an equal with financial issues, tell your partner. Be specific and direct about anything you need; for example: “I want to hear about your day. I’ll be available to give you my full attention in 10 minutes.” “If you put your dirty clothes in the hamper by 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, I’ll be happy to wash them for you.” “I love you but am not willing to call in sick for you when you’ve been drinking.” “Do not hack my phone. I feel violated when my privacy is disrespected.” Be clear about your love, while being clear about your boundaries. Communicate to your partner how much you care about them. If they’ve overstepped a boundary, mention this. “Say that you want them to respect the boundary, and explain the importance of this to you.” “I need you to know that I love you and have every intention of us working through whatever issues come up. But I am not OK with you being verbally abusive when you get angry. If you want to talk about how it upset you that I ran into my old girlfriend, we can do that, but only if you don’t attack me.” Use “I” statements. “I” statements help you own your own feelings and allow your partner to feel more at ease and less defensive. Rather than saying, “You need to do this,” or “You should always,” use such phrases as: “I feel,” or “I would appreciate,” or “I would like it if…” Try the sandwich approach. This consists of a compliment, criticism, compliment. Starting with a compliment prevents your partner from getting defensive. This primes them for a little criticism, they feel connected and comfortable enough to take it, and then it closes with a compliment. While there’s no guarantee this will always work, people tend to be more receptive to criticism when they first feel heard and understood. Ultimately, healthy relationships require clear-cut parameters. For instance, most couples agree that cheating is a boundary violation, but what does cheating mean? Is it physical contact, going to lunch, sharing secrets with a colleague, fantasizing about someone or watching certain movies? When couples are clear about the boundaries for their own relationship, what the rules, goals, and expectations are, the relationship can be stable. Isn't that what we all want? Peace and Love...