I’m sure you’ll all agree that it’s so exciting that lockdown 3.0 is finally starting to come to an end. That, coupled with the arrival of Spring, the warmer days and the longer nights, and I don’t know about you, but recently I’ve been feeling quite exhilarated.
For me that exhilaration has translated into wanting to spend more time outdoors, making social plans with my family and friends and feeling motivated to dive, head first, back into the dating pool.
Now I must confess, throughout the past year I’d lost my mojo, and sadly the thought of ‘putting myself out there’ and meeting and getting to know new people with the prospect of injecting some romance back into my life felt more like a chore than a fun thing to do. So it’s with a newfound sense of positivity and elation I’m happy to share that I’ve managed to discover the fun of dating once again.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the year I’ve entered a very reflective period of my life and given my recent re-motivation I’ve been thinking a lot about my past dating experiences and some of the areas I can look to grow and improve to ensure my future dating endeavours are less catastrophic.
And now confession number two, one of the things I could do better is setting boundaries early on with potential love interests. It’s not until recently that I realised that due to an extreme dislike of confrontation I’ve let things slide that have bothered me. Frustratingly, rather than confront them head on I’d let resentment build or I’d just withdraw myself from the offending individual. While I don’t believe in having regrets, as I ultimately trust that all things happen for a reason, had I been equipped to better communicate what I was and wasn’t willing to accept, perhaps my past trysts would have had a different outcome.
Setting boundaries is a form of self care and ensures that you honour yourself by recognising your wants and needs which can lead to you feeling more fulfilment and less stress due to resentment and anger. Drawing boundaries is essential for ensuring relationships remain solid. Setting your own limits and clearly communicating them to your partner is necessary to protect your inner peace but also helps your partner to better understand your expectations and how to make you happy. Equally understanding and respecting your partners boundaries in return will support your relationship to flourish. Anyone who doesn’t want or doesn’t possess the ability to honour your boundaries, is someone you know you need to walk away from to protect your mental and emotional wellbeing, it’s also very important that any boundaries you set have consequences if blatantly ignored.
Since starting to date again thinking about and communicating my own limits has empowered me to slickly naviagte those who are and those who aren’t right for me. Ultimately finding out how much respect someone will afford you by the way they honour your clearly communicated boundaries in the early days can save you some hurt later on down the line.
The consequences of not setting and maintaining healthy boundaries can lead to you feeling like, your loved one is taking advantage of you or using you. Or building feelings of resentment because you perceive that you’re always there for them but don’t receive the same support in return. Feeling far more invested in their well-being or caring more for them than they are/do for you. It may also mean that you are constantly having the same conversation or argument over and over again. Or even feeling as though you don’t have time or space for yourself or to pursue your own interests.
N.B while this post is specifically about boundaries in romantic relationships you may recognise that you also experience boundary issues with your friends, families and colleagues and it’s important to think about and draw boundaries within these relationships also.
How do you establish effective boundaries?
Reflecting on what is important to you and understanding and defining your own values is an integral first step for being able to set boundaries. Identifying your needs and determining what your deal breakers are will help you to identify which limits you need to set with potential partners. Ultimately setting boundaries is about having respect for yourself and knowing what you can and can’t tolerate. Having respect and showing up for yourself encourages others to show you the respect you deserve.
We all know that communication is one of the most important factors in any healthy relationship. Once you’ve determined what your boundaries are it’s important to communicate them in a respectful but firm way. Those close to us aren’t always aware of our personal deal breakers and if you don’t successfully communicate them, loved ones can cross lines without realising it. As well as communicating what your boundary is it’s also helpful if you can articulate why this particular boundary is important to you.
Set and follow through on consequences
It can be ineffective to decide on and communicate our boundaries if we don’t also set and disclose the consequences for crossing our boundaries. Its important that any consequences you set are natural and proportionate to the trespass. Equally they need to be actions you are willing to follow through with. If you’re unwilling or unable to follow through with a consequence, it communicates to the other person that this boundary isn’t that important to you, or even worse that it’s OK to disrespect all of your boundaries.
Practice makes perfect
Putting boundaries in place is not easy especially when establishing new boundaries in long-term relationships. Those who’ve known you for a long time may not easily adapt to the new uncompromising you. Particularly if they are people who naturally take advantage of others. But I’d advise starting small and while you don’t need to make excuses it can sometimes make it easier to tell others why this boundary is important to you now, even if it wasn’t before. It can be uncomfortable but the more you define, set and communicate your boundaries and the consequences for breaking them the easier it will become and the more healthy your relationships will be.
* * *
Drawing healthy and rational boundaries will help you to feel respected loved and valued in all of your relationships whether they be romantic, familial, or friendly.