Without boundaries in a romantic relationship, you’ll constantly be upsetting each other. Is it okay to have dinner with an ex? Is it okay to plan a trip to Mexico without consulting your partner? Some relationships would be fine with this, but others definitely wouldn’t.
Think of boundaries as a set of rules for a relationship. Each couple has to find a way to accommodate the preferences of both parties. This isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary for a relationship to thrive.
Create boundaries that enhance your relationship:
Financial issues can strain any relationship. It’s important to discuss your preferences. Would you loan money to your neighbor? Friend? Sister? Romantic partner? Who pays for dates? Do you prefer separate bank accounts? How much can one of you spend without consulting the other?
- Financial issues are a regular cause of divorce. Create acceptable financial boundaries and hold each other to them. Prevent any financial disagreements before they happen.
2. The past
You’ve both dated others. Are the details of those past relationships off-limits, or do you both want to examine the other’s past? What do you consider worthy of conversation, and what do you think should be left in the past? Each couple has a different opinion on this matter.
Does your serious boyfriend have a right to know where you were Saturday night? Should a woman have access to her husband’s journal? How much privacy is acceptable? Some people want to know every detail, while others prefer more privacy.
4. Anything else that matters to either of you
You can develop boundaries around sex, communication do’s and don’ts, or pet names you call each other in public. It’s up to each couple to decide.
What types of boundaries do you need in your relationship to feel comfortable? What can you tolerate? What are you unwilling to tolerate? Your relationship is unique. Think about what you need and why.
Be careful not to weaken your boundaries with these behaviors:
1. A lack of willingness to state your preferences
You’re undermining the whole purpose of having boundaries when you refuse to let your opinions be known. Ask yourself why you’re unwilling to let your partner know what you want.
2. Accepting poor treatment or behavior from your partner
There’s a saying, “You get what you tolerate.” When you tolerate mistreatment, you’ll get more of the same in the future. When you’re willing to accept poor behavior, your partner will assume that any boundaries you agreed upon are optional.
There are times your partner may be frustrated by the boundaries. That’s not cause for guilt. Perhaps the boundaries can be revisited, but avoid feeling guilty for something you both agreed upon.
There’s no point in setting boundaries, only to turn around and sabotage them. Belittling your boundaries like this is likely to cause resentment.
What boundaries do you need in your relationship? Each relationship is unique. Some require a lot of boundaries for both parties to feel happy and secure. Other couples would feel smothered with too many “rules” to follow.
Sit down with your partner and talk about what you both expect from your relationship. Cover what you are willing and unwilling to tolerate. Then, it’s important to uphold the boundaries.
Set boundaries that will strengthen your relationship and stick to them. These agreed upon guidelines can prevent a lot of relationship stress and make room for more joy.
*DISCLAIMER: This is general advice and not directed at any specific situation.