Boundary setting is one way to demonstrate respect in a relationship - for ourselves and our partner(s). But it’s not always easy to introduce new boundaries with your partner(s).
Where do you begin? Read on to explore ways to practice boundary setting IRL.
First, what exactly are boundaries?
Boundaries are clearly articulated agreements that foster respect in a relationship. Boundaries help partners honor their individual and mutual needs in a relationship. Practicing boundary setting helps you build trust, security, safety, and harmony. Click here to explore more benefits of boundary setting with your partner(s), and read on for 6 ways to practice boundary setting IRL.
6 ways to start setting boundaries
1. Start with self-reflection
You need to know what your needs and limitations are before you can set boundaries with your partner(s). Start by reflecting on why you need boundaries and how they support your wellbeing.
Pause to examine your thoughts and feelings. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel resentful or angry, stop to ask yourself where the emotion may be coming from. This could be a sign that a boundary has been crossed.
2. Move at a comfortable pace
If you’re new to setting boundaries, it can actually be overwhelming to introduce them into your relationship(s). It helps to move at a pace you feel comfortable with and pause at intervals in your relationship(s) to reflect on how boundary setting is feeling and functioning for you and your partner(s).
3. Be consistent
Establishing boundaries is a practice. And like any other practice, it will get easier with time. Try to be consistent with honoring the boundaries you've set. This may help avoid confusion with your partner(s) in the initial stages of boundary setting.
4. Keep the conversation going
Communication is key. You need to talk about your feelings and limits and bring up tough topics, even if those topics feel really awkward. Remember that communication is a two-way street. Pay attention to and honor your partner(s)’ needs too. If a boundary is violated, do your best to address it in a supportive way.
When a boundary is consistently respected, acknowledge it with appreciation. This can be a source of clarity, as practicing boundaries IRL is sometimes confusing.
5. Check in
As mentioned above, setting boundaries can feel simpler than practicing boundaries. Check in with your partner(s) often to clarify and adjust boundaries, and create space for open communication. If a boundary isn’t serving you the way you intended, reflect on what needs to change and communicate that to your partner(s) in a supportive manner.
6. Stay true to yourself
Boundaries are top-tier self-love and ultimately help you be the best partner you can be in your relationship(s). If you are feeling undeserving of your boundaries being kept, practice extra self-care. As Brené Brown says, "Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”
How long does it take to set new boundaries?
Emotional boundary setting doesn’t happen overnight; it takes practice and patience. Remember to lean into self-love practices as you set boundaries with your partner(s), and to respect and honor your needs every step of the way.
With that in mind, it’s important to respect boundaries as soon as they are communicated. Similarly, you must always seek affirmative, enthusiastic consent. Consent is required for every physical advance (and it can’t be given in advance!), even in relationships. Never assume that consent is given, even with your partner(s).
If you or your partner(s) struggle with boundary setting, check out our Accountability Circles. These 16-week, virtual programs offer a brave space created for people at risk of causing harm to explore boundary setting, consent, and accountability with guided support. Visit AccountabilityCircles.co to apply or learn more, or read our blog post on Accountability Circles here.
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