The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Conceptually, boundaries are where you end and the other begins. They’re the key to a successful relationship-whether it is familial, romantic or platonic. The discourse on boundaries is extensive, but when broken down to the barest of bones a boundary is a limit you set for another person to respect so you can protect your mental health and personal space.
They imply existing communication between the participants and act as non-verbal aids for future communication. Further, they are tell-tale cues for when someone does not intend to be deferent to your limitations. It is very easy to get carried away with a situation if you don’t know what your inhibitions are going into it.
The crux of the matter is that if someone takes offence at you setting or reiterating a boundary, they intended to violate it. There are three elemental things one needs to know as we delve further into this topic:
First, there is no index that charts the relaxing or changing of one’s boundaries with time. Your comfort levels determine when a change is in order, if at all. Consequently, you can have different boundaries with two people even if you’ve known them for the same length of time and if they know similar aspects of your life.
Second, boundaries go both ways. It doesn’t matter if you are in the place to share a critical detail of your past if your partner isn’t in the place to listen. It’s not that your partner doesn’t want to listen but that they can’t.
Third, there is no particular intonation or turn of phrase that needs to accompany setting a boundary. It varies vastly with your pre-existing relationship with the other person and the gravity of the situation. To give an example, you would probably tell the friend you’ve known for ten years that you don’t want to share details of your new relationship just yet with far less severity than you’d tell that very new partner to not pry into details of your past.
Keeping these in mind, it is very easy to sift through the misplaced expectations of other people and the guilt that often accompanies not being able to meet the same. Setting a boundary may often feel ‘rude’ or abrupt, but you have to prioritise your mental health and comfort over social niceties. No rational person takes offence at boundaries being set.
Your partner is not entitled to unload their wants, needs, anger and baggage on you. You can support and love them without making their issues your own. What becomes critical in a relationship, especially one where you care very deeply for the other is keeping your own boundaries in track. While some boundaries would get altered in the natural progression of a healthy relationship, some would remain and if you let your partner abuse them in fear of backlash or losing your partner you greenlight continued and constant disrespect for your boundaries. Since boundaries vary so greatly person-to-person, not stating yours can often lead to the -conscious or unconscious-crossing of them but your partner. The lack of succinct limitations is the stepping stone for assumed consent.
Both participants need the space to set their boundaries and then respect the others. A disregarded boundary breeds mistrust and resentment and is the root over which you trip into a rabbit hole of unfortunate choices.
There is a lot that goes into building a healthy and loving relationship-whether it be with a romantic partner or a sibling- but the cornerstone remains mutual boundaries.