How to Set Healthier Boundaries in Relationships
By Ravin Joseph
Boundaries are expectations that are shared in a relationship. They are a blueprint on how to navigate healthy relationships. These expectations are developed based on what you know about yourself, how past relationships have played out, your goals for the future, and what you want to make available for yourself. As a participant of this relationship, you too should honor the expectations of those with whom you interact with. As each relationship is unique, each relationship has different boundaries that are right for two people to interact in friendship, dating, romantic relationships, marriage/partnership…etc. Boundaries help keep people safe within relationships. By establishing clear boundaries that are right for all parties involved, you will be promoting authenticity in the relationship.
Healthy relationships look like:
- Being heard. Being able to share without being judged or manipulated.
- Feeling fulfilled after spending time with someone or having a conversation
- Feeling supported equally. The same energy you put into the relationship is reciprocated.
- Being able to have friends outside of this relationship.
- Making decisions for yourself without having to feel that it has to be cosigned by the other person.
Here are some tips on how to set healthy boundaries:
1. Review your past relationships
Codependency can have a serious impact on our lives. No matter how old you are, if your worldview was shaped by growing up in an unhealthy environment, your codependent patterns play out in your romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, and other social connections. This can leave you stuck in one-sided relationships that aren't fulfilling or reciprocated.
Identifying patterns of behavior is step one in changing them. Review your childhood relationships. Think about how they may be repeating or magnifying some unhealthy patterns. To better understand what's underneath those patterns, think about where and why they may have begun.
2. Determine your needs: Be True to You
It's important to be clear about your needs, wants, and values. Those that are important to you change throughout your life, This is normal. As you learn and grow you develop new ideas. It's important to understand what is really important to you now. This will help you make choices, decide which boundaries you need to put in place and determine which ones need to be adjusted or let go all together.
3. Share your expectations and limits
The best relationships are based on trust, communication, and honesty. Being honest in relationships is important, but talking about it can be difficult. Healthy two-way communication with a friend is a significant factor in effective boundary setting, as is keeping expectations realistic and fair. Your friends need to know where the boundaries of friendship lie and they need to understand your expectations and limits. If you struggle with communicating your expectations for your relationship try the following activity.
Write a script and practice it with a friend or in front of a mirror. Make sure that when you share your limits and expectations you explain why you are choosing these. This will help them respect your decisions in the future.
4. Honor those boundaries
Keep the lines of communication open. You may experience fear, uncertainty or other challenging emotions when you first recognize that someone is violating your boundaries. Deep breathing exercises can help you to become grounded so that you can decide what next steps to take in the relationship. It is important to clearly communicate that the boundary has been crossed and how it’s made you feel. A supportive friend will hear you and be mindful of how their actions affect you. If the behavior continues, you have the power to make the decision to walk away from the situation.
Boundaries are an excellent tool for helping us to cultivate supportive, lasting relationships. We need a certain amount of space to be independent and self-governing if a relationship is going to last. The people we spend time with need to know that they can count on you, but also that there are some areas where they have the responsibility to handle things on their own. Setting boundaries with friends who are unhealthy is hard, but it is also more necessary than ever. When you set clear boundaries, you show others that you are self-aware and confident. This will help you to weed out the relationships that are no longer meant for you.
It is likely that your boundaries will change over time. This is OK! You should actually make time to check in with how a relationship makes you feel. Simply notice the need to make changes and make them. Never be afraid to express how you want to be treated. You may not be able to control the actions of others but you certainly have the power to control what you allow.