Many relationships fail due to lack of boundaries. In a nutshell, when boundaries are blurred people are free to do what they want. But just like with anything else, when things lack structure, the chances of things working the way that they should decline significantly. Boundaries are useful because they help establish structure for relationships. However, many people either don’t know how to implement boundaries or are afraid that if they implement boundaries they will turn the other partner off and therefore boundaries will go unestablished.
Another problem that many couples face is that boundaries were not established in the beginning and therefore it’s harder to establish boundaries later on because people are used to coexisting without them.
Whatever your position is and wherever you stand with boundaries in your relationship now, the following tips should help you set firmer ones.
- Communicate. Let your partner know what you want. Don’t hold back for fear of disappointing your partner, because if your partner continues to do things that violate your boundaries, this will cause problems in the long run. Furthermore, supporting your partners needs at your own expense is not fair to you or your relationship because it will prevent you from being the best person that you can be. It’s important to remember that boundaries, no matter how challenging they are to establish them at first, almost always work to improve any situation.
- Don’t assume. One of the biggest reasons that boundaries are hard to enforce is because people assume things about their spouse that may or may not be true. Whether you are neighbors who grew up down the street from each other or people who met overseas, the reality is that the chances of you growing up in very different ways is common. And even if you grew up the same way, things like temperament, genetics, and family cultures influence the way that you approach different things. You cannot expect your partner to think like you or behave like you, even if they grew up in an environment similar to yours. In case you haven’t heard the colloquialism: to assume makes an ASS out of U and ME.
- Follow through. The last thing you want to do is set a boundary about something that you’re not willing to enforce. This makes your boundaries meaningful as not only for the particular boundary that is being set, but in future efforts to establish boundaries. I can’t tell you how many clients I have had who have been in relationships where they informed their spouse that if they cheated again they would leave, only to have a spouse cheat again and they stayed. When this happens, partners almost always continue to be unfaithful because they know that you will not stand your ground. In cases like this, it is better not to set a boundary at all then to set one that you’re not willing to enforce.
- Take responsibility for your actions. It’s important to remember that boundaries go both ways. Sometimes you might need to establish boundaries, other times your partner might need to establish boundaries. If you want your partner to except your boundaries, then you have to be willing to except your partners boundaries too. In order to do this, you have to take responsibility for your own actions and be open to your partners feedback. Not only will this make you a better partner to your significant other, but it gives you the practice that you will need to practice establishing boundaries for yourself.
If you need help establishing boundaries, we invite you to