Relationships, especially ones that are new or ones between two young people can be tricky. Drawing the line between completely in love and toxicity can be hard to distinguish, even in otherwise healthy relationships. Whether your relationship is in the honeymoon phase or you have seen many moons with your partner by your side, boundaries are important pieces of every relationship that helps all parties separate “me and you” from “us.”
If you can, try maintaining boundaries from an early point in your relationship so that both you and your partner(s) don’t have to adjust to them in the future, however, if you’re in a cozy place with your partner, it’s never too late to draw these lines. It’s also important to note that boundaries are different than walls; wanting to maintain privacy or have space away from your partner(s) is perfectly acceptable in building and maintaining a healthy union with another person is normal, but icing them out or using boundaries as a means to get away from them or act in a way that you know would hurt them is manipulative. Conversing with the people in your lives about what healthy limits look and feel like to them will give you points to work off of when drawing your own lines with them or other people.
Why do I need to set boundaries in my relationships with others? It is important to maintain your sense of self and autonomy when entering or continuing relationships with others, not just romantic or sexual partners. Boundaries can be mental/emotional, physical, social, or otherwise. Emotional boundaries can look like setting your feelings apart from others in order to maintain the validity of the emotions you or the other party is feeling, setting terms for how people speak to you or how they speak about you, or not letting certain aspects of your life define you (take, for instance, is reduced to the idea of a mother just because you had a child). Violations of these mental or emotional boundaries can include sacrificing your needs for the needs or wants of others or blaming others for your misfortunes or actions. By setting up these limitations with the people around you, you protect yourself from unneeded stressors or disrespect, but you also protect those you value from the possible negative outcomes that stem from an unintentional breach of your personhood, whatever that means to you.
Physical boundaries are also important in any relationship; I remember when I first started dating my current partner, he liked to touch me a lot. Anyone who knows me understands that unless I initiate physical touch, I usually don’t enjoy it. After I let my partner know about this, explaining that this is something that predated my companionship with him, we worked out ways in which to navigate my aversion to physical contact. Communication, whether it be with friends, partners, family, or anyone else, is the only way that your needs, as well as the needs of the other party (or parties), will ever be properly addressed. If efforts to communicate with the person in question don’t work, try to do some soul searching and ask yourself how this makes you feel. If the result is a feeling that puts you in distress, think about how to correct this situation. Even if you don’t want to put your happiness first, you should; at the end of the day, your worth is more important than any other relationship you have. Boundaries within your interpersonal relationships are invisible force fields which you and you alone are in charge of protecting and maintaining. Even if it sounds important, many people struggle with setting healthy boundaries consistently. At times, it is difficult to identify when our boundaries are being crossed, and we may never set them in the first place in fear of the consequences to our relationships if we do set them. But a word of advice: If someone disregards your boundaries or gets angry with you when you try to set them, leave that relationship immediately. It is important to stay in tune with your feelings and to take a mental (or physical) note of any red flags that pop up in regards to the limits you have set with the people in your life. Reg flags may include feelings of stress, guilt, anger, frustration, sadness, or fear concerning how someone is acting around or towards you, but these are not the only things that could make a referee have a field day. Red flags are not universal. You are the only one who gets to decide what you want and don’t want for your life and the connections you make in life. Your boundaries and limitations in your social, sexual, romantic, platonic, or familial interactions are yours and yours alone, and nobody, no matter their relationship to you, should get to overrule your comfort. — Haley Berger