Establishing a status quo for your new relationship is essential, but it’s especially important to know how to set boundaries in a relationship early on when you know you want it to last. Maybe you’ve been around the block a few times and you know that this relationship has some real long term potential, or maybe you met the person of your dreams right when you started dating. Whichever it is, it’s time to learn how to set boundaries in a new relationship if you haven’t already, and it’s time to actually start setting them, too.
Identify Your Boundaries
Every single relationship should have boundaries, even if it isn’t a romantic relationship. Your boundaries keep you safe in relationships, but they also should support you in being your best self, and allow you to bring you best self to a relationship. Your boundaries should be one of the most important things in your life, if not the most important thing. It’s important to know how to set boundaries in a relationship so that you have the ability to build strong relationships that will last!
To start, try reflecting and asking yourself a few questions about what your needs are and what makes you feel supported in a relationship.
What do you need when you are upset- space, comfort, a combination?
What are you physically willing to share, and what needs to be kept private or for personal use only?
Related, what information is to be kept private? How much do you want to know about past relationships?
This might come later, but what are you comfortable with sharing financially?
How do you expect your partner to treat you in X situation, and will you promise to act a certain way towards them?
Realistically, how often does sex make sense and feel good to you? How will you resolve the situation if one of you wants to get sexy, and the other isn’t into it? (There should never, ever be any pressure or requirements here! Important to set a boundary around that).
Check out this list for more things to consider when setting boundaries.
The sooner you start setting boundaries in a relationship, the more likely that they will become ingrained as habits for you and will thus become the standard expectation of you from your partner. Ideally, you start a new relationship with boundaries you have already set for yourself in terms of what you need in all of your relationships, how much you can give, when you can give, etc.
It’s okay if you don’t already have a clear idea of what boundaries you need to be setting, and it’s important to keep in mind that people may need different things depending on what they’re going through in their life, but in general, I would recommend only getting into a relationship you feel is serious if you already have an idea of your boundaries and how to set boundaries in a relationship. That way, you can adapt to the situation without sacrificing your boundaries, and more easily create new boundaries depending on how you and your new partner’s personalities mesh together.
Being consistent doesn’t have to mean that you only need one specific thing all the time, but the more predictable your needs are, the more likely your partner is able to meet them. For instance, some people like texting more often than other people. If you don’t want to be word-bombed and your partner likes sending cute little texts throughout the day, you should establish your boundaries so that they don’t feel like you don’t reciprocate their feelings. Perhaps, you can also compromise by sending them an emoji, a message or two, or something that feels good to you that doesn’t encroach on your boundaries.
When learning how to set boundaries in a relationship, it’s important to be consistent so that your partner can predict to some extent what your needs are, and thus meet them. However, life is full of changes and a life event might alter what your needs are at some point, and for some amount of time. To cope with the ever changing nature of love, life, and relationships, you must communicate.
You should aim to be consistent in your communication even when your needs remain the same so that the act of communicating your boundaries becomes second nature to you. If something comes up that bothers you, you must communicate that. If you want to know how to set boundaries in a relationship, this is how: by recognizing a situation that doesn’t feel good, discussing it, and determining what would be better next time a similar situation comes up.
For instance, if you’re feeling jealous because of a certain situation, you should be able to communicate that. Not: ‘why were you flirting with that person?’ Not: ‘I feel like I can’t trust you.’ Not: ‘Uhm, aren’t you going to ask me what is wrong?’ Instead, communicate your needs respectfully, kindly, and with as much self-awareness as possible: ‘When I witnessed X happening, I perceived the situation as Y, which made me feel Z.’ Your new partner should care about how you feel, and will hopefully discuss the situation with you. It’s possible that you need to alter your perception, and it is also possible that they can alter their behavior. NO situation is a one size fits all deal, so you must communicate.
Learning how to set boundaries in a relationship is also about learning how to keep them. Sacrificing your boundaries for the good of the relationship is not healthy and you should never have to do so. Occasionally compromising is natural and healthy, especially if an emergency comes up or some other circumstance that won’t reoccur all the time. However, if one of your boundaries is consistently being confronted or crossed, this is a red flag. Although this doesn’t mean that the person you are dating is toxic or a bad person, it does mean that your new partner is probably not capable of respecting your boundaries while also maintaining theirs. Discuss the situation, and recognize that their boundaries deserve to be respected exactly as much as yours do. Neither of you should sacrifice.
It’s a huge bummer to realize that the person you were hung up on doesn’t actually fit into your life in the way that you had originally hoped, but if you continue to date them and they continue to confront or cross your boundaries, then the situation will become toxic, unhealthy, and unsafe for you- emotionally or otherwise. It’s better to realize this sooner rather than later.
Have you learned how to set boundaries in a relationship yet? What boundaries have you learned you need the most in a healthy relationship?
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