Why is it important to set boundaries in a relationship?

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We each look at the same issues differently, have different values and want different needs met. Don’t assume that your partner’s expectations fully match our own. At the beginning of a relationship, we often think we are one. We have similar interests and values and perceive fidelity in an identical way. Falling in love promotes ‘bonding’ with the partner. Over time, as the body produces less phenylethylamine, the chemical responsible for the love “high”, we begin to notice differences. These often give rise to disappointment and… a sense of loss. Boundaries in a relationship can be divided into physical, psychological and intellectual. It is a good idea to set them at the beginning of a relationship so that we can avoid getting involved with a person who has a completely different perspective on key issues. Everyone is entitled to their own vision of their sexual, social, professional and family life. If we get to know her at the outset, we will see how much she coincides with our perceptions. When the boundaries of freedom in a relationship are unclear, many conflicts arise. We resent our partner for spending weekends apart, spending a large part of his/her paycheck on his/her passions, rearranging documents on our desk, etc.

What are the types of boundaries in a relationship?

Getting into a relationship does not mean losing autonomy and having to conform to the other person. We are each entitled to our own space, passions, careers and get-togethers with friends. We never have to agree to things that do not suit us, even when the other party strongly insists. Boundaries in a marital relationship are just as important as in an informal one. I briefly discuss their most important types below.

Limits of freedom in a relationship

The psychological boundaries of freedom in a relationship can be compared to writing a rental agreement. Both parties agree at the outset what they are agreeing to and undertake to abide by the terms agreed. The tenancy agreement sets out clear rules, although these vary if we look at the documents drawn up by each person. E.g. sometimes the tenant has the right to have pets, and sometimes their presence is not advisable. A similar situation is observed when it comes to the psychological limits of freedom in a relationship. Some couples define infidelity as flirtation, others allow themselves casual sexual relations provided that these are not accompanied by emotional closeness. Let us not assume that our partner has the same perception of fidelity as we do. Let’s set clear rules at the beginning of the relationship to see if we are moving in a similar direction. If we disagree on fundamental issues, it is a sign that we have not found the right partner for us.

Privacy boundaries

We often think that getting into a relationship is tantamount to telling our partner everything that is going on in our lives. Let’s remember that we retain the right to autonomy. Privacy boundaries in a relationship allow us to consciously decide which issues we want to share with our partner and which we prefer to keep to ourselves only. If there are problems in our family home, e.g. the carer/father has returned to gambling, we are not obliged to inform the other person. Not only in informal relationships, but also in marriage, we retain the right to confidentiality of correspondence. It is unacceptable for a partner to view our text messages, emails, Messenger conversations, letters from the bank etc. without consent. Privacy boundaries in a relationship also protect him, so a crisis of trust does not justify tracking his actions.

Limits of control

There is nothing wrong with asking your partner where he or she goes out. Often this is not out of excessive suspicion, but out of simple curiosity. When we love someone, we want to know that this person is safe and that nothing bad is happening in their life. It is worth respecting the limits of control in a relationship, because it is very easy to violate someone else’s autonomy. A partner has the right to spontaneous outings with friends, their own passions and space. He or she does not have to inform us every time he or she decides to go for a walk or visit his or her parents after work. Unhealthy control is evidenced when you establish your partner’s whereabouts by calling their relatives or installing a spy app on their phone. When every activity is done together, the mutual fascination disappears, and a sense of entrapment can arise.

Trust boundaries

At the outset, it is useful to define the boundaries of trust in a relationship. This does not mean that we have the right to look through someone else’s phone if suspicion arises. Instead, we can declare what we will not tolerate because it violates our trust. For example, hiding our friendships with other people, keeping our loans secret and flirting at work. If we notice that the other person is overstepping our boundaries, it is worth talking about it.

Intimacy boundaries

Everyone has their own boundaries of intimacy in a relationship. Some people share information about their past relationships, others do not wish their partner to ask them about an ex. No one knows our needs until these are openly expressed. It is worth communicating to the other person that we feel bad when someone brings up the subject of previous relationships, so we ask them not to do so.

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