Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Setting boundaries is key to creating a loving relationship in which your needs are met, you feel respected and valued, you feel a strong sense of self-love, and you feel safe and secure with your partner. Boundaries inform others of what we’re ok with, what we’re not ok with, and what we need. When we don’t set the boundaries we need, our relationship with ourselves and the other is impacted in significant ways. First, without setting boundaries, we accept things we’re not ok with, which causes our self-esteem to plummet. Second, we give more than we have to give, which makes our relationships feel one-sided and painful, ultimately leading us to be depleted and resentful. Third, we feel disempowered and powerless, causing us not to trust ourselves or others.
As important as boundaries are, they are not easy to set or simple to navigate. Sometimes, you're not aware at first that you're compromising on your boundaries until you start to feel resentful or taken advantage of. Sometimes you are aware that you need to set better boundaries, but you fear hurting someone, being disappointed, or even being abandoned if you do it. Other times, you may manage to communicate what your boundaries are, but when someone pushes back on them you're not sure what to do, other than try to avoid having needs or setting boundaries.
Compromising your boundaries is one of the most disempowering self-defeating things we can do. So why do we do it? Because in those moments, it feels ok or just easier than it would if we were firm. And because we want to please people and make them happy. And because they push us to compromise. And because respecting our boundaries wasn't modeled for us when we were growing up--our parents didn't respect our boundaries, didn't set their own boundaries, and didn't expect you to respect theirs. And because we're not taught to say no. And many other reasons.
Regardless of why we don't set healthy boundaries, we can learn how to start doing so and we can get better at it. Each time we set boundaries and ensure they are respected, we heal and strengthen our relationship with ourselves. Each time we set boundaries and we're met with understanding and respect, we strengthen trust in a relationship, allowing it to grow stronger and deeper. Setting boundaries is a practice and like most practices; the more you do it the easier it gets.
The following tips will help you shift your mindset so that setting boundaries is easier:
1. Don’t make things bigger than they are. If your partner is upset or annoyed at you for having certain boundaries, it’s not the end of the world. They can handle being upset or annoyed. They won't break. It’s ok for them to be inconvenienced. You’re probably not setting a boundary that requires them to sacrifice their right arm, so make sure you don’t act like you’re asking for something that’s a big deal if it’s really not. It's not your job to protect them from their feelings, it's your job to make sure you're telling them what you need in order to feel good in a relationship with them.
2. Don't negotiate your boundaries. Your boundaries are core needs that you set to ensure you feel good about yourself and that you feel a sense of trust and safety in a relationship. These are almost always non-negotiable. When someone pushes back against your boundaries, you don't have to engage in that conversation. You can repeat your boundary, or you can choose not to engage or respond at all. As soon as you engage in negotiations, you're opening the door to accept less than you're ok with.
3. Know your boundaries are important. When someone pushes back against your boundaries, they're more interested in what they want than what you need. When you then compromise on what you're ok with, you are agreeing with them that what they want is more important than what you need. Instead of feeling bad that they're not happy with your boundaries, shift your focus to feeling MAD that they're not respecting your boundaries. Learn to be ok with someone disliking your boundaries without feeling the need to change them.