The Importance of Setting Boundaries in Relationships – Nearly everyone has experienced the feeling that occurs when you allow something that you are not comfortable with in a personal or romantic relationship. Often it is excused by saying, “just this once” or “it isn’t that big of a deal,” but these instances can quickly add up over time, establishing a pattern of behaviours that can lead you to feel taken advantage of or uncomfortable. Once this occurs, it can be very difficult to break the cycle without compromising the relationship, so setting boundaries in advance sets the stage for mutual respect and understanding between both parties.  

The benefits of boundaries

Constantly giving in to the behaviours, requests, and demands of those around you can be exhausting and can lead to decreased mental health and low self-esteem. A lack of boundaries is often associated with “people pleasing” tendencies, which can exhaust your mental and emotional resources. Additionally, once a pattern of behaviour has been set, it can be incredibly difficult to be assertive and establish boundaries later, which can damage the personal or professional relationship.  

Setting boundaries helps to protect your emotional state without confrontation, by communicating your needs and expectations in advance. This can have several beneficial effects on both romantic and personal relationships, including:  

  • Increasing trust and personal connection by communicating needs clearly so that problems can be avoided  
  • Reducing burnout by setting expectations of the work that you will take on, and what you are not comfortable with doing  
  • Preventing others from taking advantage of your time and your abilities and asking for things that cause you to have to sacrifice your own needs  

What does a boundary look like?

Boundaries will look very different depending on the individual and the type of relationship. They are about your needs and finding ways to make sure that your needs don’t become diminished by the needs of others. In a well-functioning relationship built on trust and communication, both parties will have clearly defined boundaries that are mutually respected. Types of boundaries include:   

  • Time boundaries: These include establishing times outside of working hours in which you cannot be reached for work purposes or setting aside small chunks of time just for yourself. Letting those around you know that this is the way in which you are valuing your personal time can help to keep you from becoming overwhelmed or overworked.  
  • Communication boundaries: If you have past experiences that cause certain conversations to become triggering, you can establish communication barriers that avoid these topics altogether or set expectations for your response to them in the future. In a work setting this might sound like, “I’m not comfortable discussing my personal life during work,” while in a relationship it might be defining the way in which certain topics are brought up.  
  • Physical boundaries: While boundaries surrounding the way in which you require your body to be respected might seem more relevant for a romantic relationship, they can also be applied in the workspace as a way to let others know what your expectations are for the respect of your personal space.  

No matter what type of relationship it is, or whether you perceive that a “problem” exists or not, setting boundaries is important for protecting your own mental health and emotional state before a problem arises. However, everyone’s own personal boundaries will be very different, and determining what yours look like can be challenging. Working with a counsellor can help you to understand what things set you off, what things make you uncomfortable, and what actions you require to make sure that your needs are being seen to in your personal and romantic relationships. If you would like help exploring or establishing boundaries, contact Horizon Plymouth to schedule your initial consultation today!  

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