by Abbie Ridgway
When embarking on a romantic relationship many of us tend to dive in ‘heart first’. Wrapped up in love we sometimes forget that we were once a person who had a separate identity outside of that relationship. That relationship becomes our identity, changing ourselves as a person to meet the needs of a romantic partner, things that we didn’t agree with before we now may let slip as we don’t want to upset our partners and want to avoid an argument. That’s why it’s so important to set boundaries, not ending up in a situation where you become lost and aren’t sure who you are anymore.
Boundaries can prevent relationships becoming entangled, leading to a mutual respect and trust that will continue to grow. A good place to start is knowing what boundaries you want/need to create. These could be emotional, sexual or outside relationship boundaries (what crosses the line for you in terms of how your partner interacts with others). These boundaries can help you feel safe in a potentially vulnerable position, although this might not be the case for everyone.
In a new relationship it can sometimes be scary opening up and often the idea of revealing your emotions can be a daunting prospect. Clarify these boundaries with yourself first to ensure that you can communicate them with your partner effectively. Expressing your opinion shouldn’t be frowned upon in a relationship. If something upsets you, you have the right to say to express your feelings.
Some examples of healthy boundaries might be:
- I don’t want to share passwords
- I want to go out with my friends at the weekend
- I’m ok with texting but I don’t want to be texting multiple times a day
- I’m not comfortable with doing (blank) during sex
If you’re having trouble knowing what boundaries to set, look at how you feel in certain situations, and how you reacted in the past. What is an action or behaviour that is a dealbreaker for you?
It’s important to consider whether boundaries from both sides of relationships are healthy or not. An unhealthy boundary would be a form of control or a boundary that is intent on causing harm.
Some examples of unhealthy boundaries include:
- Relying on your partner to make you happy
- Being unable to say how you feel
- Being manipulative and/or playing games
- Controlling who your partner hangs out with or what they wear
As the relationship grows (and you evolve as a person) it’s natural for boundaries to change. You also have the right to change your boundaries at any time, and it’s important to ensure that you’re changing these boundaries because you want/need to, and not because you’re being pressured to by your partner.
Communicating your new boundaries with your partner is crucial so that they can understand how you feel and are not left in the dark.
You deserve to set your own standards and be able to stick to them. Don’t lose track of what truly matters in a relationship: to be there to support each other.
Keep your family and friends close, try not to distance yourself too much or become so consumed by your relationship that you lose contact with others. Try to maintain a social balance, even if at the beginning it feels like you don’t want to hang out with anybody else.
If you ever feel like your partner is crossing your boundaries, or you begin to feel unheard or unsafe, speak up or seek help from internal parties or organisations (we have many links on our resources page on our website).
Relationships can sometimes be a minefield and it can be hard to navigate what’s right and what’s wrong when feelings are involved. And though it may seem extreme to mention, it’s an idea to educate yourself on the warning signs of domestic abuse and coercive control.
For the vast majority of people, boundaries can play a key factor in maintaining a healthy relationship and ensuring that you maintain your own personal wellbeing.