5 tips to help you build relationship boundaries instead of walls
Once upon a job, I worked for a manager who used to contact me on weekends, on Whatsapp, via text message and when I had booked time off. I’d end up answering messages at 1 am, taking calls when I was ill and working over my weekends.
The situation became so stressful that I started feeling physically sick every time I saw her name pop up on my phone, but I was completely terrified of approaching her and telling her how I felt. Instead, I absorbed all of her irrational behaviours and allowed her to devour my personal space.
Ignoring and accepting her habits wasn’t a solution, and all it did was compound my stress further. It took six months for me to crack and quit.
Six years later and hopefully a little wiser, I now know that accepting bad behaviour is equivalent to allowing it, and that’s why I now make a conscious effort to reflect on the boundaries I set within my relationships.
When was the last time you checked out your relationship boundaries?
Probably never, right?
For some people, setting appropriate boundaries comes naturally, but for many of us, we may only realise that our space is under attack once we’ve been kicked out of our happy place.
With our online lives encroaching on our offline time and our personal space smaller than ever before, it’s easy to forget how important it is to teach people how to treat us.
“Walls keep everybody out. Boundaries teach people where the door is.”
- Mark Groves
Check out these tips and try to apply them to your life; are you honouring your boundaries in the relationships you currently have?
1. Know your limits and enforce them
Relationships are sacred spaces where we can grow all kinds of ideas about ourselves and each other.
Assessing the way that we relate to one another is vital to our emotional wellbeing, but sometimes we forget that in understanding our connections, we must also pay attention to the room between us.
Knowing what you will tolerate and allow and knowing what will cause you anxiety or stress is an important part of setting up your space.
Ask yourself, what will you tolerate from others?
2. Change has to come from you
If someone crosses your boundaries, what will you do?
Remember, you cannot change how other people behave. The only element of any relationship you can control is how we react to others. Therefore, any boundaries you define need to be upheld by you.
If someone shouts at you, you can yell back or ask them to stop, but the best course of action may be to step out and abandon the conversation entirely!
Over time, that person may realise that shouting is an ineffective form of communication and can challenge them to change because they need or want something from you that they know they can’t get when they shout.
3. Lead by action
Often, it isn’t enough to tell people what you need; you have to show them.
For example, telling a co-worker that you can’t be productive if they keep interrupting your work is one thing, but enforcing this by politely asking your colleague to book your time in advance will over time, cultivate understanding and respect for your needs.
Similarly, if your partner wants to talk immediately after arguing, you may respond in anger or want to regroup before you can comfortably chat again. Telling your partner that you need five minutes alone is one thing, but enforcing this by taking yourself out of the room or going for a quick walk is better for your emotional well-being and your relationship!
4. Be bold
Being assertive in your relationships is not a bad thing. When you learn to stick up for yourself and challenge what you don’t agree with, you gain confidence and clarity. Knowing what you want is powerful, knowing how to articulate it is a skill!
5. Practice self-care
Listen to your feelings and put yourself first.
As with any element of your mental health, honing in on what you are feeling can provide valuable cues for boundary-setting. Happiness is intrinsically tied to your ability to be a good partner, parent, friend and employee. Learn to take direction from your feelings, because no one knows you better than YOU do.