It is nearly impossible to have a healthy, long-term relationship with someone who has no boundaries. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves and an equal partner in a romance. It is always our own responsibility to take care of ourselves and to protect ourselves when necessary. It is impossible to love ourselves when we don\’t insist upon our right nor take responsibility for our own lives.
Some people may claim that setting boundaries is a form of manipulation. Some will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate. The main difference between setting a boundary in a healthy way and manipulation is, when we set a boundary we let go of the outcome. Boundaries are not ultimatums. They are limits of acceptable behavior with clear consequences.
We need to learn to communicate without blaming, in order to set effective boundaries. Setting personal boundaries is a vital part of healthy relationships, which are not possible without communication. If we never have to set a boundary, we will never get in touch with who we really are. One element of a healthy sense of self is how we erect and enforce our emotional boundaries. Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to protect ourselves from being manipulated by, or trapped with, emotionally needy others. Such boundaries come from having a good sense of our own self-worth.
We need a solid sense of self in order to clearly and unambiguously convey our needs and desires to our partner. Setting boundaries does not isolate us from others; it permits communication to flow between people in a healthy, loving way. It feels open, not limiting. We give and receive from a place of honesty and well being while taking responsibility for our own choices. When we have relationships based on respect for others and ourselves, we are free to be who we really are.
Healthy boundaries allow us to work from a point in reality rather than fantasy. When problems are present, good boundaries allow us to define the problems and to communicate with our partner in finding solutions. They encourage a healthy self-image, trust, consistency, stability, and productive communication.
We may need to change our relationship with ourselves in order to make any long-term changes in our relationships with others. By learning to respect and honor ourselves, we come to realize the necessity of boundaries that allow other people to know that we deserve and demand respect. Also, by learning how to set boundaries, we learn to own, respect, and love ourselves-a necessity in a healthy relationship.
Setting boundaries is not the end of the story. It is imperative to be willing to do whatever it takes to enforce them. We must be willing to go to any length and do whatever it takes to protect ourselves. It is very important to set consequences that we are willing to enforce. Setting consequences and not following through on them gives the other person an excuse to continue in the same old behavior, and weakens your position greatly. Do not say that you will do something that you\’re not ready yet to do. Consequences should be realistic and enforceable. It is also important that the consequences impact the other person more than us.
Having said all that, setting a boundary is not making an idle threat. It is clearly communicating what the consequences will be if the other person continues to treat up in an unacceptable manner. When we said a boundary, we must let go of the outcome. We want the other person to change their behavior and we hope they will. But we need to take responsibility for our lives and stop setting ourselves up to be a victim. We always have a choice. We may not like our choices, but they exist. No matter what happens, we always have a choice in how we respond to any life event. We do not have to do anything.