Boundaries in Romantic Relationships

All relationships need boundaries whether they are friendships, sibling relations, mate/lovers, business relations, etc. On some level, all boundary setting means saying “no.” Take the lover-partner who can never make it to the end of the month on a budget. Every month you bail him/her out.

How much is enough?

And how much is too much?

What fosters self-esteem and self-reliance for the other person plus mutual respect for both of you while avoiding the pitfalls of dependency?

It is usually a qualified nay that says what, where, when, and under what circumstances you will give or not give to another person.

If you have long-term feelings of resentment, anger, manipulation, being treated as unimportant, etc., you probably need to set some boundaries in your relationship.

There are five steps to boundary setting: if you need to list these steps in writing to get them straight for you, do so. You will have to be strong to set boundaries.

1. Choose to set boundaries. You will tolerate a difficult relationship situation just as long as you choose to tolerate it. You are the one choosing to set boundaries in place.

2. Identify the source of your feelings. It often takes some real soul-searching on your part to figure out the source of your anger or resentment.

3. Decide where to set the boundaries. Think about the entire situation. Consider your time, emotions, and means. Then consider whether you are helping the other person or merely allowing them avoid or postpone his/her own problem solving. Aim to do something to help the other person without taking on the whole problem.

4. Express the boundaries clearly. For example, you say to your lover-partner, “I will loan you up to $200.00 no more than once every three months. And I expect each loan to be repaid within three months and certainly before you can borrow more.”

5. Stick to your boundaries.You are not responsible for making the other person obey the boundaries. You are only responsible for following the boundaries yourself and for reinforcing them.

Your lover-partner has repaid $125.00 of his/her $200.00 loan and asks for $200.00 more. You say no. He/she gets emotional then says, “Well just loan me the $125.00 again. I need this money to cover a bad check. If you loved me, you would do it.”

Again, you say no, not because you don’t love him/her but because you do. You are forcing your partner to detach him/herself from dependence on you because you love him/her.

Boundary setting is difficult because people mistake it for rejection. However, boundaries mean that you care enough not to get entangled in your friend, lover, sibling’s problems; you care enough not to take care of him/her…

Boundary setting is often stressful and painful. It will probably give you an intimidating sense of aloneness.

You are separating yourself from old familiar roles and behavior patterns. Any loss brings feelings of anxiety, stress, and even emptiness.

And boundary setting inevitably brings guilt. Bear in mind, it doesn’t mean you have deserted or quit loving your friend, lover, or sibling. It does mean you are expressing that love in a different and more helpful (to both of you) manner.

Setting boundaries is a challenging task at work; it often seems an insurmountable task when love is involved. However, like all people skills, setting boundaries is a process that gets easier with practice.

Note: The opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the position of CyberParent. They are not intended to take the place of advice of a health or other professional whose expertise you might need to seek.

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