It is said that fences make better neighbors. In the same way, boundaries create better relationships. After all, every relationship has a set of rules whether unspoken or spoken. Setting your boundaries and understanding those set by others is incredibly helpful in meeting others’ needs and establishing your own.
There are ways you can set boundaries and communicate them to others, whether they are friends, family or a romantic partner.
Below are five ways you can implement boundaries into your relationships:
- Know why you are setting them.
Some things need boundaries for you to keep moving forward and remain sane. You need to first identify what items require boundaries. It could be your time or your money. It could be your personal space, inward or external problems. It could be your job, your children or your marriage.
Each of these things may require boundaries to keep it safe from stress, attack or unnecessary roughness.
Next, you need to set your boundaries and write them down to make them clear in your head. Writing them down seems to make them official too and helps you stick to them. For instance, if family dinner could be something requiring a boundary because it is important to you. So, when your daughter’s cell phone goes off or your mother calls you about shopping on Saturday, you can respond to both by stating they are crossing your boundary and to call back later.
- Discuss them.
No one can read your mind and they may not place the same value on certain things as you do. You need to discuss your boundaries with those you love who can also be affected by them. They need to understand that you are, in a sense, changing the terms of the relationship and are giving them a chance to adapt.
For instance, you can address a friend who is constantly borrowing money from you by telling her ahead of time that you are no longer going to do that. Explain that you are setting a new rule to not loan out money and she needs to understand that there is no next time.
Then, when she comes around to ask for money, which is undoubtedly happening, you can remind her of the previous conversation. Discussing it before the new incident helps you stand up for yourself with confidence.
- Make sure your boundaries are clear.
There is always a chance one of those in your social circle will try to excuse new behavior by saying they didn’t understand what you told them. They must understand clearly that you have implemented boundaries and will live by them even at the cost of hurt feelings.
In some cases, you may need to go over it a couple of times for a few weeks just to make sure they understand. In extreme cases, such as a roommate or a sibling situation, you may even want to draw up an agreement with the boundaries stated and have both of you sign it. That way, they aren’t left with any excuse for a lack of understanding.
- Allow for a learning curve and minor infractions.
Remember, these are people in your life and you do want them to stay in your life. There will be times they may forget or try to work through a loophole they projected in their mind.
Forgive them for minor infractions and save your energy for the major ones. You need to realize you can’t fight every battle, so you must pick your battles wisely.
- Know when to stand your ground.
There are times you can revisit your boundaries with the person in a gentle way to help them learn why the boundaries are in place. However, there are times you need to be the point guard and block any maneuver attempted to move into your zone.
You need to address it when boundaries are crossed and address it immediately. Failing to act to protect your boundaries signals to others that you aren’t serious and your wishes can be ignored.
Once you have communicated your boundaries and start teaching people how to treat you, you will find that you will have a more stress-free and happier life. That life will include genuine respect from others.