Whether you’ve been in a relationship for a while or you’re still playing the field looking for love, it’s useful to start figuring out what your boundaries are. During the early stages of a relationship, it can be tempting to brush off red flags because you’re so excited to meet someone you click with.

The same can be said when you’ve invested a lot of time in something. After six months or a year, it’s easy to dismiss bad behavior without addressing it for the sake of keeping the peace.

Boundaries are an important part of any healthy relationship. Setting and maintaining boundaries is a good way to make sure you’re being treated with respect, staying true to your desires, and showing yourself the love you deserve.

Know Yourself

Make a list of your most important priorities. This shouldn’t be a wish list for a perfect partner, or ingredients for an idyllic fantasy relationship—these are your needs. Think of this list as the food, water, and shelter of your soul.

This list should be the things you are most interested in getting out of a relationship. It’s also worth considering sacrifices that are non-starters for you. Sacrificing time with your kids, or giving up a passion or hobby.

Your goal should be “reciprocity” – what do you want, and what can you give? What can’t you give?

Establish Independence

First and foremost, this means making yourself a priority. Make sure your own needs are taken care of before you start sacrificing your time and energy for others. If you haven’t always been good about this, you might feel selfish doing this at first. Try to remember that this isn’t about hurting others, it’s about being kind to yourself.

The more you take care of yourself, the more strength you’ll have to share with others. By taking on responsibility for giving yourself a sense of safety, independence, and self-worth, you are reclaiming your own power.

Another key way to establish independence and take responsibility for yourself is to practice using “I” statements when expressing yourself. This means talking about your feelings, your perceptions, and your actions, without putting responsibility for them on someone else.

Here are some examples:

  • I was frustrated when I saw the dishes weren’t done.
  • I felt lonely after you fell asleep last night. I need more affection.
  • I felt left out at the party when you were talking with your friends.
  • I’m feeling very insecure about my appearance, and need some encouragement.

“I” statements are primarily about giving your own needs and feelings a voice. Your feelings are valid, and it’s important for you to express them. “I” statements help do that without coming across as an attack.

Trust Your Intuition

You’ve probably been faced with choices in the past that made you feel queasy and uncomfortable, or where your sixth sense was going off because someone rubbed you the wrong way. It might not always be right, but it’s worth hitting the pause button whenever your intuition starts going off so that you can listen carefully and consider what it’s telling you.

Chances are, your intuition is telling you that something’s wrong because you’re not respecting your own boundaries, or you’re letting someone else violate them or test them. Situations like these are a good opportunity to test yourself by canceling, saying no, or keeping your distance.

As with establishing your independence, there may be times where turning someone down because of a bad feeling in your gut feels selfish or mean, but the reality is that there’s nothing wrong with listening to your own instincts.

Interested in Learning More?

Difficulty setting boundaries can lead to professional burnout and personal heartache. If you’re interested in learning more useful tips and tricks for setting healthy boundaries, please feel free to reach out so that we can talk in relationship counseling.