How to Set Healthy Boundaries | Healthy boundaries are crucial in a relationship, especially during the year of h*ll we have been all experiencing. With WFH, transitions, and constant stress, it is imperative that we learn to communicate our needs. We often fear asking for what we need because we don't want to hurt our partners. Often times, we also struggle with the idea of being perceived as selfish, so we just tuck away our desires and push through. Other times, we may not even know what we need and are too exhausted to even fathom more concepts.
If we don't set boundaries, we burn out. We become exhausted and often shut down our partner's bids of connection. When we don't set healthy boundaries for ourselves, everything suffers, including our relationships. In addition to prioritizing your date nights and connection, it's equally important to work on yourself!
How to set healthy boundaries:
Tip #1 Understand Your Own Needs
When you don't know what you need, it is pretty impossible to advocate for it. Try reflecting on what your top values are in life. Identify how your current life is set up and if you are denying of yourself of making these priorities. If you are, what needs do you have in order to make these values a priority? (Example, if you value alone time but your schedule is consistently jammed packed with work and social events, maybe this isn't the wisest way to set up your schedule).
Decide what things need to be taken off your plate. Are there certain events or people that make you feel uncomfortable, but you force yourself to go and interact with anyway? Why?
It is also helpful to explore why you feel you have these needs. Are they coming from a place of needing self care or possibly from a need to control or a need to feel accepted by others? This will be helpful in identifying whether or not your requests are coming from a healthy place.
Tip #2 Identify What Healthy Looks Like
Once you have identified your needs, it is important to understand what "healthy" means. "Healthy boundaries" can consist of anything that you are requesting that gives you the ability to decompress and take care of your mind/body/spirit. Some examples are: Requesting alone time every day, requesting time to exercise/meditate/pray/journal, kindly requesting space to process feelings during/after an argument).
*Be cautious of demanding your partner to do something as a "boundary", (example, don't talk to your ex girlfriend, or you can't have more than 3 drinks when you're out with your friends), as these types of requests need to be mutually agreed upon and discussed in order to feel mutually respected and honored. Healthy boundaries within a partnership are very important to explore and these boundaries should be discussed together first. Because boundaries are often constructed from values, it is helpful to discuss together specifics around loyalty, fidelity, family/friend influences, sex, etc, to be sure you are both on the same page about what specific boundary and/or boundary violations you are agreeing to.
Tip #3 Exercise Bravery
It's important to exercise bravery as you are setting healthy boundaries for yourself. Maybe you struggle with the fear of coming across selfish or rude; maybe you struggle with the possibility of hurting your partner's feelings. Either way, be brave, be facing your insecurities and fears, and confronting the conversation. There is a healthy way to set boundaries without being hurtful. If your request(s) comes from a place of vulnerability and a de-escalated/non triggered stance, it is way more likely that they will hear you and respect why you are requesting this boundary. (Example, "I'm nervous to express this because I don't want to hurt you; but I have really been struggling with my own mental health lately and I realize what can be helpful for me is to have an hour or so alone every day to be with myself and work through some feelings. I'm happy to discuss more about my feelings with you once I have the space to process them; verses "I need space! Can you go to the office every Tuesday so I can be alone?")
Tip #4 Be Consistent
Consistency will help you recreate your new normal and help others be reminded of your boundary request(s).
Tip #5 Make Self Care a Priority
We will ALL benefit from this. The more you make yourself a priority, the more you are able to show up for others, especially your partner. You will less likely pick fights with them, play tit for tat, or blow up with resentment. Making self care a priority, means you make YOURSELF a priority. It means you may come first some days. If you treated yourself the same way you treated others you prioritize, what would your day look like? Making self care a priority is more than just working out because you don't want to gain weight; self care is about turning off your phone, not answer emails after a certain time, going for solo walks and catching yourself before you burnout. Self care is all about losing your to-do's and responsibilities and getting connected to the present moment with yourself.
What do you do to set healthy boundaries?