Setting boundaries in relationships is crucial in maintaining a healthy social rapport with others. In the world today, we’re constantly interacting with people, physically or digitally. It is vital that you set boundaries in your relationship as it helps regulate the behaviour of others towards you.
Boundaries are like limits. Think of it as a house with a fence around it. You can have neighbours around you but your fence limits the extent to which strangers can trespass on your property. It safeguards you from intruders whilst maintaining your safe space.
Due to our interactive nature as humans, we find ourselves in different forms of relationships. In the working environment, we establish professional relationships with our colleagues. With our partners, we engage in romantic relationships. However, whatever form of relationship you’re in, setting boundaries in such a relationship is the key to sustaining its longevity.
Let’s get right into the importance of setting boundaries in a relationship.
5 Reasons Why Setting Boundaries in a Relationship is Important
1. Build Healthy Relationships
A popular misconception about setting boundaries is that it keeps people apart. Wrong! On the other hand, setting boundaries keep toxicity out of your relationships.
I had a friend who was always using my things without returning or replacing them appropriately. I like meticulousness. Unable to condone my things always getting missing, I demanded that if he would not return my things, he could as well forget about using them. Within months, he was conscious of returning my things appropriately and on time.
When you set limits to what you can and cannot condone in a relationship, you are building the foundation for a healthy relationship. As long as you do not communicate what is right and wrong for you, you’d have to put up with people constantly trespassing on your boundaries, leading to constant arguments and unhealthy relationships.
2. Encourages Respect
Mutual respect for one another is one benefit of setting boundaries in a relationship.
Respect is built when partners understand what they should and shouldn’t do and adhere to these clearly stated boundaries. Most relationships collapse because people do not clearly state what they like or dislike, leaving them open to all forms of manipulation and exploitation.
During my first year in the university, I was naive to the strict traditions of my northern peers. Once I attempted to hold a female friend of mine, she immediately rebuked my action, politely. She explained that while holding hands may be normal to others, she was conscious of physical touch with her male friends. This was a personal boundary she had set, which if she hadn’t communicated clearly to me, I would have broken in the future. My respect for her surged like an electrical current.
When your partner keeps breaking the limits you set in your relationship, it simply means they lack respect for you and your principles. Respectful partners are those who understand each other’s boundaries and work together in preserving them.
3. Boundaries Build Responsibility
Setting boundaries in your relationship help cultivate a sense of responsibility to each other.
Boundaries stipulate what we are comfortable with and what makes us uncomfortable. When you and your partner set what behaviour is acceptable and what is not in your relationship, you are both shaping each other’s responsibility in making the relationship work.
Say your partner is a very busy person, a banker maybe. You know calling or chatting at midnight is a “no-no” because they’d most probably be resting. If you do pester them with calls or texts at midnight, it only speaks of how irresponsible you are.
Responsibility stems from the knowledge of the boundaries set in the relationship. If your partner knows your boundaries, it is their responsibility to not ‘cross the line’ and the same goes for you. A relationship without boundaries is prone to all sorts of irresponsibility.
4. Improves Self-Awareness
Outlining your boundaries in a relationship is one way of improving your self-awareness.
Considering that boundaries are your do’s and don’ts, it takes an awareness of who one is to be able to set clear-cut boundaries. Also, it helps regulate how people behave around you and increases your self-esteem.
Recently, I visited a friend of mine who lived off-campus. Entering his room, I noticed a list of do’s and don’ts on the wall and it got me curious. Being so inquisitive, I read through the list and I was amazed. One instruction read “do not press the toothpaste from the middle”. This way, I understood what my host could condone and what he wouldn’t.
Setting limits requires you to be aware of what is the right behaviour for you/with you. It enables you to be conscious of who you are and what you stand for. It establishes you as a person of principle and increases your self-esteem.
5. Boundaries Build Trust
If you don’t have a partner you can trust, then your relationship needs some retrospection.
As partners in a relationship, understanding each other’s boundaries fosters trust. This is because you’re both aware of what behaviour you both term acceptable and what is not. Therefore, you can both trust each other to behave in a way that aligns with your boundaries.
If your partner does not like their things used without permission, you can trust that they won’t condone stealing. If your partner knows you like being prompt on date nights, you can trust them to be early for you.
A partner who continuously breaks boundaries is not worthy of trust. These are potential red flags that must not be overlooked before or during a relationship.
You are the boundaries you set.
Remember that boundaries are a set of actions or behaviours that you condone with limits. Like the house with a fence, your boundaries protect you from being manipulated and hurt.
You might find yourself with few friends but those who stick with you are those whose boundaries you respect and who respect yours too. Before you further any relationship, ensure you set boundaries that are communicated and understood.
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