Setting boundaries in a relationship can be a real struggle. You meet someone, you start to fall for them and you want to spend all your time together and then maybe reality starts to set in and you realize you can’t continue to live in this bubble the two of you have created. You have a life of your own and it needs you. You have friendships, family, a job, projects...things in your life that you value and that fulfill you that you can’t let fall to the wayside just because you are now smitten by your new love.
You need to set boundaries, but how? How do we maintain a relationship while juggling our own lives? Sometimes we can get in relationships and become so attached to one another that we are convinced nothing else matters but our love for one another. We ignore phone calls from our friends convincing ourselves we will call them later when we aren’t so consumed by our new love; however, we can’t return those calls either because when we aren’t with our partner, we are talking to them on the phone. We can’t make plans with anyone because our partner gets first dibs on us now. Well, we also can’t continue at this rate. It is not possible to be in a healthy relationship that is completely consumed by our adoration and/or obsession for each other. We have to draw a line where our lives meet and where they separate.
Creating healthy boundaries in a relationship enables us to keep our independence and also tests the future of the relationship. Cutting back on time spent is a great way to really test the validity of your love. Is it love or is it obsession? Love is patient and understanding. It understands you have a life of your own and it wants to be a part of your life but not your entire life. Love respects you and your time. As we get older we recognize that relationships are more than just feelings, there is an end goal. That goal is to intertwine your two lives. It’s not to make one person’s life the center of each other’s existence. It’s about taking what you have and what they have and combining them. Sacrifices are made in relationships, but some things we shouldn’t budge on and that is why we need boundaries.
Sometimes when we set boundaries, feelings get hurt. How could we do this to them? We have invested so much time into the relationship and now we are backing off? Our partner may feel insulted, hurt, and even rejected. For me, I struggle with understanding their pain. I have to put myself in their shoes. It would hurt me too if someone slammed on the brakes during a relationship. I would think maybe they just weren’t that into me or possibly there was someone else. But if someone tells you they care for you and are enjoying the relationship, but they want it to last and they know making it work takes boundaries, believe them.
People who are looking to terminate the relationship usually don’t say things like: I want what is best for the relationship and I want it to be healthy. People who cut back on spending time with you because they want to break up with you will fight and argue with you, they will put you down, they’ll ignore you. They try to get you to dump them because they’re too afraid to pull the plug themselves. Relationships take trust and if you can’t trust your partner, you’re not right for each other.
One thing I have learned in setting boundaries with people is if I am with the wrong person, they’ll show me once I start the boundary setting. Red flags love to come out when boundaries are set. Because of the time I have spent walking with Lord and going to counseling, I recognize that there is a good chance I’m more conscious of healthy and unhealthy behavior than my partners are. I take this into consideration. I do my best to be patient and understanding, but that doesn’t mean I overlook red flags anymore. I see them and I call them out. Red flags can’t be ignored and eventually they can’t hide because they’re constantly waving in the air. In fact, when they continue to come out after you’ve addressed them and are not being worked on is when we have to consider changing those set boundaries to cut ties.
Sometimes after boundary setting, our partners will instill rules and expectations on us. “Ok, well I need assurance we can see each other or call each other this day and that at this and that time”. And at first this may seem harmless. After all they are hurt and feel rejected, we can reassure them of our affection. Why not? But then for me sometimes those rules and expectations turn into more and more. Our efforts are not seen or respected. The relationship has now become a part-time job. When an unhealthy person is met with boundaries, they won’t react well. The more time you are able to spend alone within your boundaries, the more time you have to reflect on the relationship, the other person and your future with them. You owe it to yourself to give yourself the opportunity to reflect without the pressure of another person’s presence or rules.
Unfortunately, I have experienced the demise of a relationship because a partner couldn’t tolerate my boundaries. I had to walk away. I had to accept the current reality of the relationship instead of focusing on the happiness of the beginning of the relationship. It is so easy to lie to ourselves and convince ourselves things will get back to normal and we are just experiencing challenge in a relationship, but when it comes to boundaries being a problem, the relationship can’t get past the honeymoon phase. That’s the reality. Challenging your boundaries is a deal breaker. Don’t lie to yourself and let yourself settle for someone who can’t respect your wishes and your life outside the relationship. You deserve someone who is willing to put the relationship on the sidelines sometimes so you don’t lose yourself to it. Being in a relationship that knows no bounds is out of bounds.