If you find yourself reading this post, perhaps you’re single or in a relationship, either way, understanding the need for boundaries is something you’ll find useful to navigate your life as a singleton or an individual in a relationship as I’ll go on to explain in more details.
As far as I’m concerned, everyone needs boundaries. Boundaries play a vital role in safeguarding your space and mental health. If we go by the definition of personal boundaries provided by Wikipedia; “rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits” – then it’s easy to see why it’s something that should be considered. Below I’ve shared ways to go about it.
Consider your values
Human beings are not without flaws, and if you let them have free reign over any aspect of your life, you might find that you no longer recognise the person you’ve become. So how do you tackle this? Well, the first thing I’d suggest is going back to your values as a starting point. Doing this will give you an idea of what is and isn’t acceptable for you. Take for example, if one of your values is integrity and someone in your workplace asks you to make up a story about another colleague that you knew to be false and could lead them to lose their job, chances are you will not take part in any such thing because it goes against who you are as an individual.
In understanding your values, you become clear on what your boundaries are and where to draw the line.
Communicate your boundaries
Now that you know what your values are, you have to communicate this to the relevant parties involved. In order for people to know your limits, you have to communicate this with them. Something you’ll find as we go on in the series is how important communication is for the survival of any healthy relationship. Communication doesn’t always take place verbally, even though it’s a good place to start, your actions also have to back you up in order to ensure consistency.
A good example is someone who recognises the family as one of their core values. They could communicate this to their boss in the workplace by stating they have to be out of the office by a certain time every day in order to pick up their children etc. They could also take it a step further and say they don’t take work home and aren’t available to work during weekends, or prior advanced notice needs to be given well ahead of time in order for them to accommodate any such work needing their extra time. They would then act on it by saying no (and rightfully so) to working late or having to take work home or working weekends on short notice. The same way they have communicated this family-oriented value in their workplace is the same way they would also communicate it to their partner at home. For example, in their home, they could make it clear that family dinner together is a must which means their partner has to be home from work by a certain time etc.
When you find that people disregard your boundaries, you must also communicate this to them, in other words, put them on notice. You must let them know that it is not ok for them to ignore your boundaries especially without good reasons, which leads me to my next and final point.
Consequences and rewards
As I mentioned earlier on, the consequence of not having personal boundaries is losing one’s self. But what are the consequences for those who continue to blatantly ignore your boundaries even after you’ve communicated it to them?
It is important to recognise that you cannot control other people’s behaviour, but you can control the way in which you react to any such behaviours that ignore your boundaries. Your relationships will ultimately determine your actions. For work colleagues and friends, you might find that withdrawing from them might be your only option after you’ve given them ample warning on their choice to continuously disregard your boundaries.
As for your partners at home, you have to seriously consider the effects of their behaviour on you and clearly communicate this to them. You will be holding them accountable for their actions especially because they are your accountability partner and as such, should take ownership of their actions and seek to work on it in order to maintain a healthy relationship where both parties are accorded the respect they deserve. Some couples might find that therapy is a good way to work through the issues that come about from personal boundaries being breached. What remains key, is having a strong sense of communication.
In thinking of consequences, it’s also equally as important to consider rewards, especially in your relationship. If your partner continues to respect your boundaries, you’re much more inclined to accord them the same respect and in some instances take it a step further by doing something that shows your genuine appreciation for the way they love and respect you as an individual.
Set personal boundaries that speak to your values and communicate these boundaries to the relevant parties, knowing that you cannot control their behaviour, but at the same time, you have the power to act based on their behaviour.
Find a link here to a recent video we made about “Privacy in relationships: What is acceptable?”