Relationships and boundaries
Boundaries and Expectations
When we talk about boundaries in relationships it’s normally in relation to what we’re prepared to tolerate, what are my, and my partner’s limitations? How far we can go before our actions are questioned or we get into trouble?
Quite simply, boundaries protect. Boundaries protect not only you and your partner but also the relationship.
Often boundaries go unspoken, it’s just expected that that’s the norm and we should both comply with what’s generally considered acceptable within the realms of a relationship. What if we come from different backgrounds or we’ve had a different upbringing to our partner. Their idea of what’s expected and your idea could be poles apart.
I recently worked with a couple that had two to different role models growing up in their respective families. The husband experienced a strong patriarchal figure where his father basically did as he pleased, spent most of his time out with friends and very little time within the family dynamic. The wife experienced a strong matriarch where the mother ruled the roost and the father lived in her shadows. Both these models worked for their individual families but when these two people came together to form their own relationship it wasn’t working. They’d both witnessed opposite end of the relationship spectrum and tried to enact similar behaviours in this new union. It wasn’t working. Both their ideals of a relationship were based back in their families of origin.
Good, healthy conversations now are better than difficult situations later.
When I work with a couple in a new relationship or a new situation in an existing one, it’s a good idea to talk about various issues which may or may not present. It’s far better to have good conversations before anything happens than hard conversations after the fact.
Boundaries without consequences are just dreams or wishful thinking.
One couple I worked with, John and Patricia were experiencing marital problems. John had a problem with his ego, he felt the world revolved around him. As he became more successful in business his ego grew bigger and bigger, he started to become more controlling and demanding of Patricia. He also becomes verbally abusive and was quick to pick a fight. Patricia, on the other hand, tried to avoid conflict at all costs, the first sight of an argument she would turn and walk away. They realised this pattern wasn’t working for them, they both loved one another but couldn’t see a way forward.
John realised he had anger issues and how he spoke to Patricia wasn’t conducive to a happy, loving marriage – things had to change. Patricia had to set some boundaries and decided on the consequences. When John became abusive she would tell him ” I feel hurt when you speak to me this way, I love you but this behaviour is unacceptable. If you carry on like this I’ll go into another room or I’ll ask you to leave until you stop this.” It did take time for the two of them to slowly reconnect, John learnt some valuable skills on managing his anger and the experience gave Patricia ways to protect herself by setting healthy boundaries.
Boundaries come from speaking our truth.
- honest communication
- saying the hard stuff
- aligning with or stepping into our power.
Having healthy boundaries with people includes:
- respecting their rights, privacy, safety, and personal business
- asking, not demanding, expecting or assuming
- being true to your word
- not arriving unannounced
- being truthful
- being non-judgemental
- not pushing our beliefs on others
- not being disrespectful or talking about others behind their backs
What about respecting other people’s boundaries?
Exercise: Write your answers down in a journal or diary.
Respect others boundaries. Has anyone set a boundary with you? How did you feel? Are others able to tell you about their boundaries without you becoming defensive or embarrassed?
Accepting “No” as an answer. How do you react when someone says no? If you can think back to a time when someone has said no to you and you reacted, were you demanding, being controlling or coming on too strong?
Barriers to setting healthy boundaries
Not knowing our feelings. Having an emotional awareness around how people or situations make us feel is crucial for setting our limits.
Boundaries violated as children. Experiencing trauma or inappropriate behaviour acted out upon us as children can have a marked effect. Upon reflection, knowing this wasn’t appropriate behaviour, now allows us to set relevant boundaries.
Abuse. Living in an abusive relationship or having a domineering or controlling partner can cloud our judgement. Being abused either physically or verbally isn’t part of a loving caring relationship.
Poor parental role modelling. Poor role models as parents showing us destructive or unhelpful patterns.
Low self-esteem. Not recognising that we are a person of value if we don’t recognise it how do we expect others to? Start practising self-appreciation (love and gratitude) and know you are good enough.
People pleasing. Stop pleasing others at your expense, they are good enough and capable.
Do you tend to say ‘yes’ when you really mean ‘no’?
Which of the above have been problems for you in the past? If there was something you could say without fear what would you say and to whom? Is this a boundary you need to set? Are you denying some feelings or emotions or tolerating something which doesn’t feel right?
This is a guide only, based on my experience, reading and research in this field. Setting healthy boundaries is crucial for the relationship to function. Boundaries tell us one another’s limits, what we’re prepared to tolerate.
Ex pats, fifo and airline pilots
Any marriage or relationship faces challlenges, it wouldnt be healthy if it didn’t. There are times when an offer of a posting overseas or working away for a period of time, and given the financial rewards, is quite attractive. But can put added pressure or stress on the relationship. Families of ex-pats, fly in fly out workers and airline pilots are some of families who I’ve worked who face such challenges. Recently, working with Erica May from sky families we put together a video answering some common questions relating to issues which came up in their relationships, check it out.
If you’d like more information on setting boundaries or any other issue in your relationship please do not hesitate to contact me.
Yours in health, Dave Crispin.