Healthy boundaries in relationships are highly recommended and are an essential part of effective communication in couples.
What are boundaries
We often only think of boundaries in terms of physical objects or territories. For example, boundaries are found on the football pitches or cricket grounds, or perhaps in land ownership. These are symbolised by a white line, fence, hedge, flower bed or perhaps even a “Do not enter sign” sign. We do not think of emotional boundaries with our intimate partners.
Boundaries are parameters within which the relationship exists. These boundaries can be sexual, emotional, physical, financial or any other. These are used to identify what is acceptable in the relationship with that person. For example, you may not want to discuss personal matters with work colleagues. It varies from relationship to relationship, but the parameters exist in every relationship – including the intimate ones.
Boundaries dont just apply to couples but every relationship. To parents, friends, siblings, children, business colleagues and acquaintances.
Explicit or Implicit
Sometimes these boundaries are explicitly expressed and understood. They are identified, communicated to the other person in the relationship and is accepted as a part of that relationship. At other times, it is implicit, and both partners agree to the rules of the relationship without having to say them out loud. The danger with implicit is that it carries the risk of misinterpretation. Being explicit allows you and your partner to be clear and direct.
Healthy boundaries allow a person to assert and maintain their sense of self while also engaging at an intimate level with the other. Unhealthy boundaries on the other hand can feel invasive, can be damaging to the self-esteem, can give rise to feelings like resentment and anger.
Examples of boundaries in relationships
Some examples of healthy boundaries:
- Having friendships outside the relationship
- Who pays what bills
- Agreeing the kind of sex life you want
Some examples of unhealthy boundaries:
- Inability to give space
- Not being able to share your thoughts and opinions
- Not taking responsibility for your needs
What roles do boundaries play
Boundaries play an important role in telling someone how you want to be treated in a relationship and prevent you from getting used. This is why communication of boundaries needs to be clear and unambiguous. Whether explicit or implicit, boundaries should be clear between partners.
Repetitive breaches of the boundaries can then help you identify an unhealthy relationship.
What can you do
For a healthier and happier relationship follow these simple steps:
- Know yourself – Know where you want to set boundaries.
- Take responsibility for your needs.
- Communicate – Communicate your boundaries to each other.
- Listen to each other – Respect their needs and boundaries and ask them to respect yours.
In my Counselling practice in London Waterloo and Hampton, I work with couples to help them communicate and establish healthy boundaries that make the relationship stronger and more able to meet their needs – both individually and as a couple.
Get in touch if you would like to build a stronger and healthier relationship.