How to Facilitate Conversations About Relationship Boundaries
Boundaries are an important aspect that should be respected and acknowledged in every relationship you develop. Boundaries are intended to serve as the guidelines of what principles of the relationship are valued and what each person is comfortable or not comfortable with. Setting boundaries is necessary for any healthy relationship, whether it is within a friendship, romantic, familial, or work relationship.
1. Be honest and understanding with yourself.
What do you expect to gain out of the relationship? Is it love, support, or recognition that you strive to achieve? Relationships require mutual efforts from both individuals. Think deeply about how much you wish to invest in the relationship and set your limits as to what behaviors or words would be unacceptable for you. Respect yourself in a way that does not devalue the relationship or yourself in the relationship by overextending yourself to please the other person.
2. Communicate your expectations - Initiate boundary setting.
Find an appropriate time and place, such as a private, undistracted area allocated for you and the other individual in the relationship to converse. Using “I” statements, to avoid using an accusatory directive, explain your expectations and limitations in the relationship. Be sure to communicate both the major topics, such as your availability, values, beliefs, and minor topics, such as your likes/dislikes and preferences. Being upfront and respectful about what you intend to put into the relationship will influence the other individual in the relationship to share their honest expectations are for you as well.
Addressing boundaries ahead of time, especially at the beginning of the relationship and throughout the duration of the relationship, encourages honesty, loyalty, and the reduction of unhealthy behavior techniques, such as manipulation, unequal dependency and power, miscommunication, and jealousy.
3. Revisit expectations as needed and reconcile your differences
Maintaining a healthy relationship requires mutual respect and open communication. Boundaries provide a foundation to build upon trust, co-dependency while valuing each other’s independent choices, support, and relational assurance. When revisiting boundaries, be honest about the issues or changes you’ve noticed that may negatively impact the boundaries you’ve initially set with the other person. For example, if you value quality time but have noticed that your friend seems preoccupied with other distractions during your time together, ask them if they have something that’s been on their mind and what you can do to alleviate the situation. Avoid jumping to accusations and instead focus on asking them to explain the context of the issue as well as reflect on the possible solutions.
Learn to identify the signs of a healthy vs. unhealthy relationship and know when it is time for you to leave, especially if red flags are prevalent.
Unhealthy relationship signs may include (some or all of the following):
Overstepping personal boundaries = feelings of uncomfortableness, disrespect
Verbal, emotional, or physical abuse
Manipulation and jealousy = feelings of guilt or self-blame
Lack of support or extreme levels of dependency
Unable to express your honest emotions or concerns or pressure to overshare your personal information
Poor communication or frequent miscommunication = feelings of inadequacy and doubt
Unresolved conflicts or confrontation is avoided
Healthy relationship signs may include:
Feeling supported and secure
Shared interests, values, beliefs = compatible personalities
Open, clear communication without fear of judgment
Reciprocity of kindness & support
Sharing responsibilities and making up for one’s mistakes
Conflict resolutions include active listening, adjustments, and empathy
Showing appreciation and encouragement
Relationships are not a one-way street. Know your intentions and expectations going into the relationship and do not settle in giving more than you receive. A relationship takes dedicated mutual effort and support from each partner in the relationship. In order to grow and maintain a healthy relationship, both individuals must be committed to building the other person up by respecting the beliefs, values, and personal boundaries.