By Jasbina Ahluwalia
Ever wondered what “boundaries” are in a relationship, and why they’re so important?
Here’s the deal:
With good boundaries, intimate partners enjoy respect, honesty, and open communication. Each partner feels a healthy sense of independence and wholeness that is separate from their loved one.
On the other hand, relationships with no or poor boundaries tend to have these qualities: jealousy, manipulation, dependency, miscommunication, feelings of incompleteness, and difficulties in letting go.
In other words: being in an “unhealthy” relationship is often a sign that boundaries have not been respected nor established.
So, good boundaries are essential. But how do you set them? Here are three key ways:
- Express yourself, don’t assume.
It’s not possible to know everything your partner is thinking or feeling unless you ask. Likewise, it’s not fair to expect your partner to know what you think or feel unless you tell them. So:
- Be honest when communicating your needs.
- Create a safe and respectful environment to share these needs.
- Practice “active listening,” which includes making eye contact, remaining quiet, and paying attention.
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Follow through.
A boundary can be small, like “I want you to stay out of the bathroom when I’m showering” or “I don’t want you to use my laptop without asking.” Boundaries can also be large and somewhat more abstract, such as, “I don’t want to be told what to do or wear” or “I want my relationship to be monogamous.”
No matter how small or large a boundary is, it should be honored by both partners. If you make exceptions for your own boundaries, this subconsciously tells your mate that you don’t take your needs seriously and that you’re willing to compromise them.
Likewise, if you fail to honor your partner’s boundaries, this will make it difficult for him or her to feel safe, loved, and respected. Eventually, this over-stepping can lead to resentment and contempt.
This doesn’t mean boundaries can’t change. But they should be discussed in the same respectful way that they were originally conceived.
- Take responsibility for you (only you).
Even partners with healthy boundaries have conflict—but these partners also tend to take responsibility for their own happiness as well as their own frustration, anger, and other “negative” feelings. So, be willing to reflect on your own actions (or inactions) to see how you contributed to an issue.
You also need to realize that you are not responsible for your partner’s feelings or behaviors. If your partner is unable or unwilling to respect your boundaries, ending the relationship may be necessary for your own well-being. In this case, be ready to take what you’ve learned to any future intimacies.
(About Matchmaker & Dating Coach: Jasbina Ahluwalia: Ahluwalia adds a unique contribution to the Matchmaking industry – she has pioneered an approach to matchmaking, which blends the best of The East and West. She is an Indian-American Attorney-turned-Entrepreneur, Relationship Expert, Radio Show Host and Matchmaker/Dating Coach.
She is the Founder & President of Intersections Match by Jasbina, the only Premier Matchmaking & Dating Coaching Firm for Indian Singles in the US, Canada & the UK. A finalist in OPRAH’S search for a TV Host, she’s also been featured in the New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post & Entrepreneur Magazine. She has also moderated/participated on panels at Harvard Business School, Wharton, Northwestern & Columbia.)