Boundaries are vital in our relationships, but what do they really mean and how do we develop healthy ones?
In my past, I didn’t realise how overly-flexible my boundaries had been when it came to what I would and wouldn’t tolerate from potential partners. Maybe you have also experienced feelings of wanting to guide, fix, or help a partner when they do things that don’t sit well with you in the early stages of relationships. As tempting as this might be, and whilst it’s more than OK to give someone a few chances in the dating game, if we don’t know and are not firm with our boundaries from day one, we might get swayed by someone’s flattery if we’re not in a strong enough place within ourselves first and wind up worse off.
Our boundaries are essentially our values, and what each of us values in a relationship will differ from person to person. When we’re not respecting ourselves and standing firm in what we want, and sometimes if we’ve lost our confidence, other people will overstep the mark unless we tell them a boundary has been crossed and that’s where our interactions can get messy. We can get drawn into dynamics with the wrong people and end up hurt, confused, or shut-down.
The best way to be strong and certain in our boundaries and develop a healthy outlook if we’re looking for a long term relationship is to do this work when we are single. That way we can know with certainty whether or not the next potential partner is right for us.
Here are some of the ways we can decide how and when we let people get closer to us:
Knowing What We Want
If we don’t know what we want or how we want to be treated, we’ll attract other people who are just as uncertain as us. Take it from an ex-commitment-phobe who unconsciously attracted a string of emotionally unavailable men and wound up disappointed! Until we know what we really want from a partner, it’s best to spend time on our own looking at why we might be scared of commitment, or why we’ve tried to push people away. Often it’s because we just haven’t taken enough time to be honest with ourselves about what our true values are and WHY we even want a relationship to begin with.
Making Sure We Have Developed Trust With This Person
Personal boundaries are about feeling safe and secure. We should only really let in and open up with people we can really trust, otherwise we risk making ourselves far too vulnerable and open to pain in the early stages of meeting someone. Frequently, things like great sex and interesting conversation can be mistaken for a deeper and more lasting connection. Don’t let your head over-rule your heart. Ask yourself if this is someone you can trust before you move through the stages of a relationship too quickly.
Taking our Time
And leading on from the above point, a healthy and conscious person won’t rush us into a relationship, and we won’t allow them to rush us into anything either. Having patience in a new relationship allows us to get to know someone, give them a chance, and allows us to observe as to whether this person’s actions line up with their words. Take the time to see how this person is making you feel, rather than being too in your head about someone and rushing into an unhealthy dynamic. Someone who respects us will respect our boundaries, and our need for time and space.
I hope these pointers allow you to begin thinking about creating new and healthy relationship patterns, as well as inspiring you to take more time in getting to know yourself before you enter into your next relationship.