Once your boundaries have been crossed it is very hard to re-establish them, so it makes sense to make these clear at the start of any relationship. Some people have no idea, they allow even minimum boundaries to be crossed until in the end they have little control in the relationship. This will eventually cause resentment and at worst the relationship becomes abusive.
Sometimes we have to compromise if we want a relationship. For example, you want to go out with your friends, – a reasonable desire. If your partner tried to stop you having any contact with your friends, they would have crossed a line and would have too much power in the relationship. However, if you saw your friends so often that you never spent any time with your partner, they would likely find this unreasonable and not without good reason. So a compromise has to be found if the relationship is to continue.
So compromise has to be reached, but also some boundaries are less important than others. For example, you probably go into a relationship with the belief that you shouldn’t be assaulted. If your partner crossed this once, that might be the end for you. But if one of your boundaries was that you should not have to do all the household chores, but your partner rarely helps, maybe you would tolerate that if everything else in the relationship was good. So boundaries have different strengths.
When I started my relationship with my ex, Ben, many years ago, I had little idea what my boundaries were and even where I had some idea, I was not assertive enough to uphold them. Before I knew it, he had just about crossed every line, and I was left feeling my whole being had been invaded. So from that bad experience, I have come up with my key ones now.
This is a difficult one, as in a relationship it would be expected that people are open and transparent. Being very secretive gives the impression that you are maybe trying to hide something, like seeing someone else. It is not unreasonable if there is some insecurity in the relationship as long as it doesn’t cross into being unhealthy paranoia. However, I am quite a private person and I really didn’t like it that Ben looked through my bags, checked my text messages and emails. I feel that if I have a conversation with a friend, that is private between me and them. His constant accusing me of being unfaithful began to feel demeaning. So you need to come to an agreement about how much privacy you want.
Another difficult one. When you are married, finances should be transparent, but maybe not so in a more casual relationship. A common issue in abusive relationships is that the controlling person causes the other to be financially dependent on them, so keeping some financial independence is a good thing. In my abusive relationship, Ben would force me to pay for things by saying he had no money. In the end it was me who had no money! So you need to decide your financial contribution to the relationship. For example if you have just met, how do you share the cost of meals out, fuel, drinks etc? In a house, who is going to pay the bills, food, rent? After I had paid for everything and got into debt in the process, there was no appreciation from Ben at all. Not one bit.
The Home Space
The respect for someone’s living space is pretty important. If one person is tidy and one not, this can cause problems. You need to set your boundary as to how much you can compromise. Do you need to have an area that’s just for you where you can be as tidy or untidy as you like? This one is a pertinent one for me as I am reasonably tidy, Ben not in the least. Unfortunately I was stupid enough at one point to give him a key to my house which he refused to give back. Each week he would clean his car out and pile the black bin bags in my living room. He told me I could not touch them as they had important things inside which he needed. In fact they were full of drink cans and half eaten food. I was too scared to move them. A policeman said it was a kind of territorial thing. This complete nightmare came about because when I met him I did not set my boundary about the importance of my home and allowed him little by little to store stuff there or leave it untidy.
Set your boundaries here firmly and don’t do things you feel uncomfortable with to please or to try to keep your partner. If your partner cares about you they should respect your feelings. This is not just in the kinds of things you do but how often and where.
Your partner should respect your need for sleep and rest. An example of crossing this boundary would be expecting you to wait on them, making food, fetching and carrying, clearing up, even when you are really tired. In my case it also involved driving Ben around as he had lost his license. Having a late body clock, he would want to visit friends until the early hours and I had to drive him home, even though I had to get up for work the next day and he didn’t. He had no care about me getting enough sleep. So make sure you set times to rest and get adequate sleep for your wellbeing and health.
Belittling and insulting language
Be quite clear from the start about how you expect to be spoken to. Sometimes nicknames can be affectionate but I know from many of my clients that all too often they can feel demeaning. Be very firm if your partner belittles you in front of other people.
A real obvious one. Also intimidating behaviour such as getting in your face, trapping you and staring menacingly. Make your boundaries very clear from the start and don’t let these kind of behaviours go on.
An important relationship boundary is trust. If your partner betrays your secrets, confidential information or just blurts out to people things that you obviously don’t want them to know, you need to nip this in the bud swiftly and if it carries on, seriously consider if you want to be with this person. Some people are not very empathic at knowing what are appropriate things to say, so you need to make it clear.
Respect for time with friends and family and for hobbies
Your partner should respect this time which may need to be negotiated between the two of you. They should not cross boundaries, by behaviour such as making you late, ringing constantly while you are out, being embarrassing or rude in front of friends and family and such the like.
Respecting your job
Your partner should respect the boundary of your professional role. They should not keep phoning you at work, turning up, or horror of horrors kick off at you at work in front of your colleagues and boss.
Work out what your boundaries are and how much you are prepared to compromise. Contact me for more support on how to get back control if your boundaries have been compromised.