Setting & Maintaining Boundaries
Setting and respecting boundaries of all types – physical, digital, emotional – are central to a healthy relationship. It can be uncomfortable to say no, but remember, the most important relationship you have is the one with yourself. And you owe it to yourself to articulate what you’re OK or not OK with!
Here are a few steps you can take to establish a boundary with someone else.
IDENTIFY THE BOUNDARY
Do you get knots in your stomach when they check your phone without permission? Do you feel disrespected by something they’ve said over the phone or texted you? Or were you okay with sharing your passwords with your partner, but now you feel different about it? Take note of how you feel about what’s making you feel uncomfortable. Ask yourself if this is important to you and for your relationship to set this boundary. Don’t be afraid to set new boundaries or change the ones you’ve had in place. People and relationships change, so take that time for yourself to explore how you feel and what you want to do about it.
HAVE THE CONVERSATION
Be honest with your partner about the behavior you want to see changed and why this is affecting you. Prioritize “I” statements and your feelings. Lead with something like, “I feel uncomfortable when I have to share my password with you. I know we’ve been okay about in the past, but having that privacy is important to me.” Or, “I feel claustrophobic when you blow up my phone nonstop, could you hold off until I’m done with class?” You have a right to communicate how you feel, and in a healthy relationship, the other person will listen and understand.
STICK TO THE BOUNDARY
You may have to communicate your boundary with your partner more than once. Remember that your boundaries are worth advocating for and your comfort is important, even if having the reminders can be nerve wracking. It can be hard to set a boundary and stick to it, because we worry about losing the relationship. But if someone makes you feel guilty over setting a boundary, or pressures you to change your mind, that’s a red flag!
DEFINE THE CONSEQUENCES
If the pattern continues and your partner consistently ignores your boundary, it’s time for a more serious conversation. Take the time to assess how important this boundary is for you. You do not have to compromise your boundaries to continue a relationship, but it’s important to have a conversation with yourself about what will happen if the breach of boundaries continues. You might have to decide if you’d like to continue with this relationship or if it’s the best fit for you. This can be the hardest part, but you deserve privacy and the space you want in your relationships.