The Complete Guide to Setting Boundaries in Relationships

Are you part of the 64 percent of people in the U.S. who are “very happy” with their relationship? Or, could it use a little work?

If you’re not sure exactly what the issue is with your relationship, you may want to take a closer look at how much time you’re spending apart.

Many people are surprised to learn that a major sign of a healthy, happy relationship is the ability of both partners to spend time alone.

Read on to learn more about the importance of setting boundaries in relationships, as well as some tips on how you and your partner can create boundaries that work for you.

What are Boundaries?

Before we get into the specifics of why boundaries matter, it’s important to clarify exactly what boundaries are.

A boundary is any kind of rule or guideline that you put in place to show others how you want to be treated. Boundaries are necessary for all kinds of relationships — with family, friends, coworkers, etc. — but they’re especially crucial for romantic relationships.

When we set clear boundaries (and allow our romantic partner to do the same), we show respect for ourselves and others.

When clear boundaries are set, expectations are clear, and relationships can be more harmonious and less stressful.

Why is Setting Boundaries in Relationships Important?

Several benefits come with setting boundaries in relationships. The following are some of the most important ones:

Needs are Met

It’s perhaps the most obvious benefit that comes with setting boundaries, but it bears mentioning nonetheless. When you set clear boundaries in your romantic relationship, you get your needs met. Your partner is not a mind-reader — when you let them know what you need, you’re more likely to get those things!

More Compassion

According to Dr. Brene Brown, people who set clear, healthy boundaries tend to be more compassionate than those who do not.

This might seem confusing at first since setting boundaries can sometimes come across as being unfair or rude.

In reality, though, when you let your partner know what is and isn’t okay in your relationship, your sending the message that you love and respect yourself. And, when you love and respect yourself, you’re better able to show love and respect to others.

Fewer Feelings of Anger and Resentment

When you’re always saying yes, even when it’s not convenient or healthy, you’re most likely going to end up feeling resentful and angry toward your partner. When this resentment builds up over months or years, it’s common for a relationship to go south.

Establishing boundaries shows that you value your relationship and want it to last.

Increased Feelings of Peace and Safety

Setting boundaries also can help prevent unnecessary emotions, such as stress, anxiety, and feelings of obligation. You’ll feel safe in your relationship — as will your partner — because you’ve both agreed on what is and is not acceptable.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries in a Relationship

Setting boundaries in a relationship isn’t always easy to do. These tips can help you and your partner communicate effectively and work together to set boundaries that work for both of you.

Be Self-Aware

When it comes to setting boundaries, one of the first things you and your partner should do is reflect and figure out exactly what you each need.

What do you like and dislike? What are you comfortable and uncomfortable with? How do you want to be treated in specific situations?

It’s usually best to do this alone. That way, you don’t feel any pressure from the other person while crafting your list.

Be Clear

Once you and your partner have both nailed down your specific needs, it’s time to sit down and share them.

This can be hard or even scary to do. Before you share your needs, agree with your partner that you each will be open to what the other has to say and will withhold judgment.

Make it clear that this is a safe place and that it’s okay for them to share what they’ve written down or thought of.

Be Specific

When you’re sharing your needs with your partner, it’s important to be as specific as possible. This can help eliminate confusion and will ensure that your partner knows exactly what you need from them (and vice versa). Remember, they can’t help you if they don’t know what you want and why you want it.

Express Love

Make sure your partner knows that you’re speaking from a place of love when you bring up things that aren’t working in your relationship.

Emphasize how much your care for them and explain that you’re bringing up these issues so that you can work through them and establish a stronger, longer-lasting bond.

Use “I” Statements

It’s easy to feel attacked or victimized when you hear the words “you.” When explaining what you need from your partner, focus on using “I” statements.

Instead of saying “you never help me clean up the house,” say “I need more help with the housework.”

This helps you own your own feelings and helps prevent your partner from getting defensive.

Monitor Progress

Setting boundaries can take time. It’s easy to slip into old habits or catch yourself feeling resentful.

When these issues arise, take note of them and figure out what went wrong? Which boundary is not being respected? Or, do you need to be more clear about a boundary to prevent confusion?

Practice

Finally, remember that repetition is essential for making something a habit. If you’ve spent decades of your life saying yes to everything, saying “no” can feel very foreign.

Practice saying it — even when no one is around — so that when your partner (or anyone else) asks for something you can’t or won’t do, you can feel confident saying no.

Want to Learn More?

You now know more about the importance of setting boundaries in relationships, and you have some actionable steps to follow to make that happen for you and your partner.

But, are you in need of additional relationship advice? If so, be sure to check out our other relationship articles today. This one on keeping a relationship alive is a great place to start.

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