“What are your boundaries?” My partner asked me this question on our first date. I was shocked by how upfront he was, but also so pleasantly surprised that he actually cared enough to ask about and respect the boundaries that I had set for myself a long time ago. We’ve been working ever since then to create a healthy and loving environment that adheres to both our needs and respects both of our boundaries.
Everyone has boundaries. Actually, let me rephrase that — everyone needs boundaries. We aren’t supposed to go through life blurting out everything about our lives and crossing lines in relationships that we can’t come back from. You might have boundaries that you don’t even know about. They keep relationships healthy and good for both parties. But what are the best boundaries for you to have in your life?
Boundaries in Romantic Relationships
These are perhaps the most talked about boundaries, and for good reason. There are different levels of romantic relationships, so there are different levels of boundaries. Many people save certain intimate acts for marriage, such as sex or spending the night at their partner’s house. Some of my friends won’t even kiss before marriage. Physical intimacy is all about you and your personal convictions and what you’re comfortable with.
Setting boundaries on how much time you spend with your significant other is crucial. If you’re just dating the person, you might want to only see them a few days out of the week instead of every day. Likewise, if you’re married and you have grown accustomed to always being with them, make some time just for you two — no kids, no work talk, just you and your partner.
You could also include how much you share with your partner. Keep them updated on your mental health, but also know when to draw the line between what they should know and help you with and what a licensed professional should. If you start leaning on your partner a bit too much in the mental health realm, they might start to feel worn out and they most likely won’t give you as good advice as a real therapist.
When it comes to sharing, also look at who you’re sharing information with. More than likely, you tell your partner everything and you don’t want them to tell all that to their friends and family. Have honest conversations about what is between you and them and what is free information. This also applies to you if you have friends who like to talk or complain about their husbands and you feel like that would disrespect him and the sacredness of your relationship.
The most important thing to remember about boundaries is they are meant to serve you. If you’re open about what you need in a relationship and what your boundaries are, you need to find a partner that respects those boundaries. It’s unlikely that your partner’s and your own boundaries will be exactly the same, so that’s why you need to sit down and talk about what boundaries you need to have specifically for each other.
Boundaries in a Friendship
Boundaries with friends are just as important as those in boundaries in marriage or other romantic relationships. More than likely, you have more friends than romantic interests. While this balance is good, make sure to keep your boundary lines in your friendships very clear.
Set up an inner circle. You probably have a number of people you interact with every day. They probably ask you how you’re doing and you most likely just say ‘fine’. That’s a boundary. But it’s also helpful to have an inner circle of people who you can really tell how you’re doing. The same thing goes here as in romantic relationships — make sure you’re not forcing your friends to become your therapist, but try to be honest with a small group of friends about how you’re really doing.
You may go a step further and have two or three really close friends. You might get together with these people once a week and really talk about your lives and how you’re doing in detail. One boundary I have for this personally is that they’re all females. I just know it would make my partner uncomfortable if I was sharing deep secrets with a man and it would probably cross a line.
One interesting boundary is a financial boundary in friendships. I have the most generous friends in the world who will surprise me some days and Venmo me money for coffee or take me out on a friend date, but there is a line that needs to be drawn where you don’t become your friends’ bankers or are loaning hefty sums. It can make the friendship strained and more of a transactional one.
You can apply similar boundaries in your friendships as you do with your romantic relationships. You can adapt these boundaries however strictly you would like to. Maybe don’t spend all the time with your friends and let each of you have some breathing space. And sexual and intimate boundaries can be applied in friendships too!
Boundaries in Work
Work has encroached on people’s home lives a lot in the past year as they’ve moved into a work-from-home lifestyle. I have a love/hate relationship with my WFH life because I love that I can get up at noon and ‘go to work’ in my pajamas, but I hate that I can get up at noon and ‘go to work’ in my pajamas. Try to set boundaries for your WFH lifestyle. I suggest you get dressed like you’re going into an office and even take your work into a particular part of your house. That way you won’t work, sleep, watch TV, and work out all in the same space.
Boundaries aren’t just an issue for people who work from home. You might go into an office every day but when you come home you can’t get work off the brain. Because work is such a big part of everyone’s lives, boundaries become crucial to creating a healthy work environment.
One boundary you can set is that work is at work. This is easier said than done. I’m always thinking about work and different ideas I want to pitch. I have a sticky note on my computer and anytime I have an idea, but I’m not actually working, I jot the idea down and go about my day. When I then go into work, I have that idea but I didn’t take my free time to work on it.
Be careful not to only talk about work either. While you may have the dream job, understand that your life doesn’t just have to be about what you did at work and what you’re going to do. This could be hard if you and your partner work together or have similar jobs. Make a work-free zone and try to refrain from shop talk if you can.
You could also set a curfew for yourself. I stop work at 10:30 every night. If I have a definite time when I cannot work, it makes me more motivated to do work when the sun is out and it doesn’t interrupt my sleep. If you go into an office, this curfew might be easier for you to enforce.
The last boundary to set up with work is relationships. This is a personal preference, but very important. While I have made friends at my jobs, I’m careful that the friendships are just that and stay professional. You might want to keep your work relationships solely at work and that’s fine! Do what makes you feel the most comfortable.
Boundaries with Family
I have one too many Thanksgiving horror stories that started with me not having the proper boundaries in place. You might have different boundaries for every member of your family. You might get along great with your family and love to share everything with them. But if you’re anything like me, take some of these boundaries into consideration.
Don’t discuss politics with anyone. To be fair, this doesn’t have to just be a family thing. Most likely, your political beliefs won’t match up with someone else’s completely. I text in my family group chat before I go home for holidays and make everyone promise not to talk politics. It probably won’t be fruitful and will most likely make everyone a little upset and on edge.
Money also shouldn’t come up at family dinners. Most likely, everyone in your family is also in a different place financially. I understand asking for advice, especially if you’re in a family business or just in a pickle, but don’t pull out your ledgers and compare budgets.
Families are all different and the way you communicate with yours is unique to only you. You may get along great with your family and have no problem whatsoever sharing these personal tidbits with everyone, and that’s so good! But if you do feel that strain when you’re about to visit your parents or siblings, maybe take a step back and decide what you’re willing and comfortable talking about and what you’re not.
Boundaries keep us safe and healthy in relationships. Everyone’s boundaries are going to look a bit different and will be in place for different reasons. It’s important that you respect others’ boundaries while also maintaining your own. If you want to read more about boundaries, we linked some books below for you!
What are your non-negotiable boundaries? Comment below!
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