Many of the couples whom I see for Relationship Coaching assume that since they are now committed or married couples, that they have the right to mind each other’s business and dictate how their partner should be living their lives. This leads to a lot of power struggles, unhappiness and resentment, and often the breakdown of the relationship.
This can usually be avoided, but the best thing is to be aware of your personal boundaries when you first get into a relationship with someone. Most people are not aware of the concept of Boundaries and how it’s critical that you set boundaries so that both you, and your new partner, are aware of where the lines are drawn.
Failure to set boundaries can’t help but lead to a failed relationship – or at least a relationship that’s built on a shaky foundation of insecurity.
Boundaries are usually thought of as being there to restrict us from doing things. They have a negative reputation. However, this isn’t always the case. Yes, they do restrict us from going somewhere we shouldn’t, but they also allow us to see how far we are allowed to go! If we don’t know how far off the boundary is, we tend to play safe by not venturing too far from home and so miss out on adventures!
When you start your relationship, think about the kind of boundaries you need. How close do you want this person to get physically with you? Do you want to limit them or are you comfortable with them being intimately close? How about emotionally? Do you want them to know how you really feel about things, or do you prefer to keep an air of mystery around yourself? What about your personal things? Do you like to share, or do you prefer it if other people leave your stuff alone? Do you want your new partner to be involved in your life outside the relationship – perhaps in respect of family activities or socializing with your friends?
When you are considering this, also consider how you want to be in your partner’s life. If you don’t want your partner touching your personal stuff for example, does that mean you have no interest in touching theirs? Do you hope to be included in your partner’s family events, but want to keep them away from yours? Be careful not to set up a double standard!
Once you know where you want your boundaries to be, you need to have a serious talk with your partner. Explain to them what it is you expect from the relationship, and what limitations you have. You may need to reassure them that it’s not because of them that you don’t want them to interact with your family, but rather that your family will be hearing wedding bells rather than your partner’s name if you take them home! You should then discuss what boundaries your partner has – you may not be the only one who isn’t in a hurry to introduce a partner to their family.
Don’t think about boundaries as being there to restrict your relationship. Think of them as being there to ensure that you make the most of the relationship without having to hold back in case your partner mightn’t like you doing/saying something. Boundaries are rules in a game and the game is relationships. Learn your personal relationship rules, explain them to your partner, and your relationship will be built on a secure foundation where each of you knows where the other draws the line.
Should your relationship develop into a fully committed life partnership or marriage remember, this does not confer the right to breach your partners boundaries, or indeed have your boundaries breached.
In order for intimacy to deepen you both need to increasingly share aspects of your hitherto private world. To do this you each need to feel safe, that this sharing will be treated respectfully and not become the topic of an after dinner conversation with friends or acquaintances.
Anytime you feel uncomfortable or uneasy, stop to consider if your boundaries have been breached in any way, and if so then address the issue. If you sweep it under the carpet, you are setting yourself up to be a Victim. Your partner is not a mind reader and may not be aware that s/he breached your boundaries. You need to flag it up with a clear request that this is not repeated in future. This is much more grown up and constructive than becoming hurt and resentful.
Often people are completely unaware of how they breach boundaries or allow theirs to be breached. This is invariably because they grew up in an environment where this happened routinely. Relationship Coaching can help to clarify these issues.
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