Setting boundaries in a relationship is an important concept. It is a concept that gets far too little attention and is ignored in a relationships most of the times.
I realized this when my marriage started falling apart. It was this stage when I realized the importance of setting healthy boundaries in a relationship.
In short, boundaries are the first points of our defining ourselves. People with poor boundaries find they have little definition of themselves.
The fact is that the choice is not between having boundaries and no boundaries.
It is between healthy boundaries and poor boundaries, which really is a choice between owning our own lives, or others owning our life.
# Boundaries and Standards
Boundaries in relationships are those things that we will not allow to be done to us—they are the “No’s” of our lives: “No, I will not let you.
Boundaries let people know how to treat us; they also help people see where they end and we begin.
Our boundaries, whether weak or strong, teach others how we can and will be treated.
They are the instructions for how others may interact with us.
Standards are what we expect to live up to. Standards define who we will be and how we will act.
They are the “Yeses” of our lives: “yes, I will be . . ..” Standards create the instructions for how we will treat others and ourselves.
While boundaries may be enforced with others, standards are ours alone. And so, it is important to be clear about the difference between the two.
Standards and boundaries cannot be treated the same for this reason.
For example, you may make it a boundary that you expect full honesty from those communicating with you.
If you find that someone is dishonest, then the boundary can be enforced.
However, you cannot place upon another person the standard that he or she will always be honest. You may expect it of yourself, but not of another.
I make this statement, not as a philosophical idea, but a practical idea. When you expect someone to be honest with you, it is only partly in your control.
If you discover their dishonesty, you may choose to respond to that. But expecting the other to be honest in all areas of life becomes impossible when the other is interacting away from you.
Parents often discover this painful truth in their children. No matter what they do to instill a standard, the child must one day choose that standard or reject it. With adults, “instilling” is usually not an option.
# Setting Boundaries in the Relationship
There are four basic steps to setting a boundary in a relationship:
Here’s how it works: when you realize that your boundary has been violated, you must move to reassert the appropriate boundary, giving the other person multiple opportunities for rectifying the situation.
The first step in reestablishing the boundary is by Informing the other person of the incursion. You let them know what they have done (or are doing).
And you inform them with a voice that is reminiscent of reflecting on the fact that the sky is blue, i.e. dispassionately and even-voiced. No anger, no sarcasm—simply telling them what they have done.
Let’s “for instance” for a moment. Let’s suppose that the boundary you feel is being violated is that you are being yelled at.
This is a pretty basic boundary. But here is the other person yelling at you. First step: (in your dispassionate, logical voice) “Do you realize your voice is raised?”
First, notice that I did not use the term “yelling.” This is a rather loaded term for many people, and is very subjective.
What is yelling to you may not be to someone else—and they are glad to tell you this! Don’t get side-tracked with that discussion. Simply observe that their voice is raised.
Second, make sure your tone is the same as “Do you realize the sky is blue?” That means you are respecting their boundary by not responding with yelling back.
For many people, and many circumstances, this will be enough. The other person will immediately respond to the boundary and quiet their voice. But some may not.
So step two is Asking them not to yell. So as they continue, you assert “Please don’t raise your voice when you are talking to me.” Again, remember “the sky is blue” tone of voice.
The reason why you can do the calm, peaceful tone of voice is because you know you still have options for resolving this.
Many people will be surprised by your calmly requesting an action, and they will comply.
Others may choose to continue, especially if you are out of practice in setting your boundaries.
That leads us to step three, Telling the person not to violate that boundary. You may say “You may not raise your voice at me.” Again, be aware of the tone in your voice.
And you are adding one more part. You are informing the other person of what will happen if they choose not to comply. “If you do not stop, I am leaving the house for an hour.” Create your own consequence.
Just make sure you can live with the consequence you threaten. Otherwise, you will have a much more difficult time setting the boundary down the road.
But this person continues through your telling them how to treat you. That leads to step four, which is following through on the Consequence.
If you said you would take a walk, do it. If you said you would leave for an hour, do it. If you said you would hang up the phone, do it.
This format will work on any number of boundary issues. Remember to Inform, Ask, Tell, Consequence, and remember your tone of voice, and you will have the toolbox to reset your boundaries.
One boundary I need to mention as being outside the four steps is that of physical violence. If you are hurt (or almost hurt, or even threatened to be hurt), you need to leave the scene immediately.
Set your boundary on this with an immediate consequence, not so much so that they will learn a lesson (they probably won’t), but so that you are safe.
A final footnote about boundaries: most people discover that when you begin working on boundaries, other boundaries that are being violated become apparent.
For example, a friend that was finding herself the object of the yelling set a boundary against that. Then she realized that even in a non-raised voice, name-calling was not appropriate.
When she got a handle on this, he got creative and used letters to stand for the inappropriate words (rather creative in violating boundaries, I’d say). She stood her ground and set her boundaries. You can do the same.
Why Boundaries Are Important For You and Also For Improving Your Relationship.
So now that you have a sense of what boundaries are about, and what standards are about, you may be wondering how that applies to your work on your marriage.
After all, I have spent some energy expounding upon the idea that marriages are WE in my past articles.
Here is the number one rule of lifesaving in water: you don’t put yourself at too great a risk to save the other—they will pull you down and both of you will drown.
As people work to save a struggling marriage, they may find themselves pulled under.
In other words, they may find they have lost their own identity in order to preserve or find peace/calm/ tranquility.
For example, in an attempt to not escalate the other person, some people think it best not to have an argument.
The end result is the person loses a part of themselves by giving in, and the other person soon believes he or she must be right.
I had an email subscriber that found himself apologizing for everything in a relationship. Why? To keep the peace and not cause his wife to leave.
Over time, she began to lose respect for him, to see him as a doormat. In the rest of his life, nothing could have been further from the truth.
But in his marriage, he had “given it all away” to preserve peace.
As he gave way on his boundaries, she moved further and further into his boundaries, causing him to have to give more. One day, it occurred to him that he could not be a “total jerk.”
Even if he was mostly a jerk, that should leave 10% or more where she was at fault. Yet she apologized 0% of the time.
And since most people thought him to be a pretty decent guy, he thought it possible that she owed him an apology maybe 40-50% of the time.
That woke him up. That day, he began to reestablish his boundaries. Surprise! She came to respect him, which led to further movement towards health.
You may find this article a bit boring. But believe me this may be the most important information you must read and preserve in your memory if you wish to build a happy marriage.
if you are currently trying to convince a partner to stay in the relationship. If you work to save the relationship, and in the end, lose all respect for yourself and respect of the other, the relationship will likely not be saved.
However, if one of the issues at hand is loss of respect on the part of your spouse, creating boundaries in your relationship may begin to roll back the tide.
By setting and holding healthy boundaries, you are changing the balance in the relationship, helping to restore health to the situation.
I will stop here. I hope you admired reading this article on setting boundaries in a relationship.
Now, before I stop. I want you to Watch this Amazing Video Below and take action if your marital relationship really matters to you.