How to Have Healthy Boundaries in a Relationship
Emotional boundaries are so important in any relationship.
Read that again — if you need to.
Healthy relationships will always have boundaries. I don’t just mean romantic relationships.
For years, I let my dad walk in and out of my life. I let this happen, knowing that he would continue to disappoint me. At first, I didn’t learn from this. It continued into my adult life.
It was years and years of toxic romantic relationships that made me realize something:
I didn’t have boundaries in any of my relationships.
Wait— what exactly is a healthy personal boundary?
Don’t feel bad if you don’t know. I had no idea until recently.
The way I see a healthy personal boundary is like this — I take responsibility for my own actions and emotions, while not taking responsibility for the actions and emotions of anyone else.
Most of us probably don’t grow up being taught healthy boundaries in any of our relationships.
How many families do you know that actually respect privacy? In my experience, my family wanted to know everything and for me to be dependent upon them. My family was also very enabling of my bad behaviors.
If you want to have healthy personal boundaries, you have to deliberately build them in your relationship.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I started in by working on myself and this began to carry over into my current romantic relationship.
I was sick and tired of being in codependent and toxic relationships. It wasn’t ever fulfilling to me or the other person.
It was time to make a change. I had to start by working on my own mental health. Through therapy, I was able to see the character traits of myself that influenced my toxic behavior. It also taught me to see when other people in my life were acting in a toxic way towards me.
Now that I am aware of what toxic behavior looks like, I don’t have to allow it in my life. I don’t have to participate in every argument that is brought to me. I don’t have to give anyone power over me. I don’t have to do anything in any relationship that I don’t want to do. Neither does anyone in any sort of relationship with me.
How I Set Healthy Boundaries in My Relationships
My therapist really helped me with this. I can’t take all the credit. I mean I am in school for Psychology and I do have over two years of recovery under my belt. However, it’s the professional help that I have received that has really made the biggest difference.
I am not ashamed of that because it has helped me build relationships that are so fulfilling. I listed below some of the things that I have learned so far in regards to having healthy boundaries.
- I am responsible for my own happiness and I should never feel like I am incomplete without someone else.
- That I need to have friendships outside of my romantic relationship. I cannot put all my eggs in one basket or rely on my partner to make me happy.
- I should always communicate in an open and honest way. People with healthy boundaries in their relationships do not lie and manipulate other people.
- I have to respect other people’s opinions and differences. We are all entitled to feel how we feel.
- I can’t expect people to just know what I want if I don’t tell them what I want.
- I also have to be able to accept when a relationship ends. It is unhealthy to not be able to let someone go.
- I have to limit the bad behaviors that I am willing to accept from other people.
- I have to define who I am outside of any relationship (this includes my job, family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, etc). My feelings need to be defined separately from anyone else’s feelings.
- I cannot have healthy emotional boundaries if I don’t work on my self-esteem and practice self-love.
- I have to be willing to say no.
- I do not have to share my thoughts or feelings with anyone if I choose not to.
- I have to be vigilant of my own feelings, so that I don’t project them onto other people.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. That is something I had to be aware of when I embarked on this journey to change my relationships.
A lot of issues kept coming up. I wanted to act the same way in every relationship as I acted in the past. It took a lot of self-control and failure to begin to really change.
You can have the awareness of your bad behavior and still not be able to change it. It wasn’t until I let go of expectations and opened myself up to the fact that maybe some of my feelings weren’t true, that I was able to notice a difference in myself.
For so long, I was expecting myself to act the way that I did. I wasn’t taught to have boundaries in any of my relationships. I thought the way I acted was normal, but it wasn’t healthy at all. I just continued to live that way because it felt normal.
By letting go of my expectations and working through my emotions, I was able to set healthy boundaries in my romantic relationship. The process started when I began working on the relationship I had with myself.
This is because the relationship that I have with myself sets the tone for every other relationship in my life.
Slowly, but surely I get better every day. I am not perfect with boundaries. But since I started the process I have built some great friendships and a great relationship with a wonderful woman. Most importantly for my mental health, I was finally able to set a boundary with my father.
He doesn’t get to just come in and out of my life anymore. I don’t let him have any power of me. Honestly, where we are at now, we barely speak beyond text message. I am okay with that because it is the only thing I am comfortable opening myself up to right now.
I hope in time to build on that. But I won’t open myself up to being manipulated by him ever again. I refuse to allow him to just bust through my boundaries anymore.
I encourage you to make sure you have healthy boundaries in all of your relationships. And if you don’t, make the necessary changes to do so.
Healthy boundaries make relationships happier and much more fulfilling.
Don’t settle for anything less.
Thank you for reading!