Boundaries are an essential component to any healthy relationship, whether it is romantic or not. Although boundaries are a popular topic in many mainstreams right now, not many fully understand what healthy boundaries are, how to build them, or why they are so important. As our team works with domestic violence and teen dating violence survivors we are often called to teach about boundaries and give practical ways to form them in relationships. Based on this work that we do, here are 5 tips that we give for having healthy boundaries in your relationships.
1. Learn to Agree to Disagree.
In relationships, it is okay to have differing opinions on a number of topics. We often feel the need to defend ourselves and our opinions, and this can often lead to feeling the need to defend our boundaries. Learning to agree that it is okay to disagree with one another within a relationship can not only promote healthier communication, but healthy boundary development as well. Sometimes allowing your beliefs to simply exist without the need for a defense can be a boundary in it of itself.
2. Know When You Are Taking On Someone Else's Issues.
Emotional boundaries often involve practicing self-awareness. Many of us, especially those who are empaths and/or working in helping fields, will notice ourselves taking on the responsibility of other people's emotional struggles. Sometimes this can look like mirroring their negative emotions or literally feeling their pain with them. Other times this can look like having tough conversations or listening to a friend vent when you don't have the emotional capacity to be there for both them and yourself in that moment. Practicing acknowledging when these boundaries are getting crossed can help you build healthier relationships.
3. Be Aware of Your Social, Mental, Emotional, and Physical Battery.
We all have batteries that are either charging, or depleting throughout the day depending on who we are with and what we are doing. These batteries can be social, mental, emotional, or physical, and it is important to ensure that we intentionally partake in activities that charge these boundaries. It is also important to build boundaries when your batteries are depleting. For example, if you have had a tough week physically at work and you are exhausted, you might need to say no to that friend hike this weekend. If you are having a tough week emotionally, you might need to express this to your partner when you get home before they unload their stresses on you.
4. Don't Take Other People's Boundaries as a Personal Attack.
Sometimes, boundaries can feel like a personal attack. When other people set boundaries they might seem firm or out of nowhere, and it might confuse us at first; often times we do not see them coming because we are unaware of the internal struggle that person might be facing. It is important to understand that boundaries do not require an explanation or a reason, and that as long as the boundary is respectful and not harming anyone it should be respected as asked. A person's need for a boundary is not your fault or responsibility, so don't take that on!
5. Hold Yourself Accountable.
If you set a boundary, then respect yourself enough to stick with it. This doesn't mean that you are unable to outgrow boundaries or alter them based on your mental and emotional needs, but it does mean that you should not allow external factors to pressure you into moving your boundaries. Whether these outside pressures are coming from family and friends or complete strangers, hold yourself accountable to respecting your personal boundaries.