Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Pop culture, from music to TV shows to rom-coms, teaches us that we should do anything for love—to find it, win it, and keep it.
But that stereotype ignores one of the secret ingredients to any healthy and long-lasting relationship: boundaries.
Simply put, boundaries are limits we set. We can either set them for ourselves (“I am only going to watch TV two nights a week”) or we can set them for others (“Do not read my text messages over my shoulder”).
Some boundaries might look like:
→ At work, asking your colleagues to not put you down, even if they’re “just joking”
→ At a social gathering, asking the host to accommodate dietary needs
→ At home, asking your partner to stop and check in before becoming intimate
Think of boundaries like a shimmering bubble around you. They help prevent us from feeling overwhelmed, allow us to maintain your identities, and are a sign of self-respect. They are also a key way to communicate to other people how we want to be treated, and are vitally important to healthy romantic relationships because they allow us to form close bonds while maintaining our independence.
But how can you discover what your boundaries are and begin to set them?
1. Explore Your Feelings
Start by listening to your internal monologue, and paying attention to your emotions body language. When difficult emotions arise, it can often signal that your boundaries—even if you didn’t know they were there—have been crossed.
2. Examine Your Values
Spend time listing out your values. If trust is a value, you might feel violated when a partner asks “who was that?” every time your phone rings or constantly “checks in” by text when you’re out with friends. If honesty is a value, you might feel hurt by lies, no matter how big or small.
3. Identify Your Needs
Next, make a list of your needs. Maybe you need time alone to de-stress, or need to eat a certain way to feel healthy, or have to have private space to work on creative projects. Knowing your needs will help you understand what to say yes and no to.
4. Evaluate Your Relationships
Then, consider your relationships with your colleagues, friends, family, partner,