Healthy Emotional Boundaries
Healthy emotional boundaries are about defining ourselves, what we’re happy with and what we’re not. Respecting our own self-worth and helping others to know and respect it too. When we set boundaries we can find and keep our own sense of identity.
When we’re in a couple, respect works both ways and in the same way that we feel comfortable and secure when our own boundaries are respected, so it is for our partners. How can we learn to manage these boundaries so that we can still connect and be joyful together without crashing into a painful unseen barrier and causing or feeling emotional pain? Here are five ways we can help ourselves.
1. Know ourselves
Take time to explore ourselves and find out where our boundaries lie in different circumstances. Setting healthy emotional boundaries can have many benefits, including helping us make decisions based on what is best for us, not just the people around us. This autonomy is an important part of self-care.
2. Become comfortable with this
We can feel free and relaxed within our individual space of comfort and so when we’re true to ourselves and secure there, we become the best version of ourselves, for us and others and a good model for our children, if we have them.
3. Learn how to express these boundaries clearly and calmly
Keep it simple, honest and focused on what we need ourselves rather than what we’d like the other to do or stop doing. Some explanation can help in order to avoid assumptions and misunderstandings. For example: When I get in from work I need time to change gear mentally, and it helps me to reconnect to family life to have 10 minutes to myself first.
4. Be clear what happens if the boundary is crossed
In a different scenario, maybe after an affair when trust needs to be re-built, try saying, for example: I find it difficult not to feel excluded and fearful when you are on Facebook so much and don’t tell me who you’re chatting to. I don’t want us to slip back into our old habits and this time for us to split up. It would help me to feel comfortable and less worried about splitting up if we both came off Facebook altogether for a month and focused on talking to each other.
5. Watch out for and respect your partner’s boundaries
There are different kinds of boundaries in different situations and times of life: rigid and porous, professional and personal, physical, emotional, sexual. We are not mind-readers. We need our partner to be able to explain what they feel comfortable with so that we can respect this.
Sometimes talking about boundaries can lead us to feel defensive, as if we have done something wrong. It’s important to avoid making ourselves or our partner feel guilty. If we explain clearly, calmly and kindly what we mean, those who love us and have our best interests at heart will probably do whatever they can to make us feel comfortable and at ease.
For example, for an army veteran, sudden loud noises or open doors may trigger previous trauma. Rather than getting irritated about the open door but not explaining why and the couple rowing over this “stupid little thing” it can help to explain this simply. You could try saying: “I feel really insecure sleeping with the bedroom door open because of my previous experiences. It helps me feel relaxed and safe to have it closed.”
Interested to find out more about where your own boundaries lie and how to express these to your partner? Contact us via the home page or email us for information about arranging a no-obligation assessment consultation.