Whether it’s in a romantic context, work environment or our family relations, relationships built on mutual respect and consideration of each individual can be a rewarding and powerful experience! However, if we start to feel an imbalance or injustice in the relationship, for example that we are giving more than what we get back in return, conflict can start to arise. This can lead to relationship stress.
Conflict can be a stressful experience for all those involved. Some conflict in a relationship is, of course, normal but when the arguments happen regularly or are very intense it not only damages your relationship but the stress involved can also take a toll on your physical and mental health too. You can read more about the effect stress has on us here.
How do we reduce the chance of conflict in a relationship and take care of our own needs at the same time? By setting healthy boundaries!
Boundaries help you to indicate to another person what your needs and limits are in the relationship, what you are comfortable with and how you would like to be treated by them.
Boundaries help you and the other respect your needs, limits, values, feelings and goals. When our boundaries are unclear, weak or not respected by the other person, it can lead to resentment, conflict and stress.
What are some indicators that you might not have set healthy boundaries in your relationship? Below you will find some examples of what this might feel like:
- You feel like the other person is asking too much from you.
- You feel like you are doing too much for the other person and not getting enough in return. There is an imbalance.
- You say ‘yes’ to things you would rather not do, to please the other person.
- You keep the other person at a ‘distance’ to avoid feeling uncomfortable or doing things you don’t want to do.
- You feel like you do not have enough time for yourself.
- You feel like the other person does not treat you with enough respect.
These feelings can lead to resentment, conflict, stress and eventually even burnout. If you identify with any of these it might be time to start working on some healthy boundaries!
Setting healthy boundaries
Setting a boundary does not mean that you ‘distance’ yourself from the other person. Actually, the idea of a boundary is to create a good balance of independence and interdependence. By setting boundaries you establish your own identity, while also creating an environment for your relationship to blossom.
So what does a healthy boundary look like? Because our relationships in different contexts are vastly different, our boundaries can also look very different. But, for example:
- In a professional setting you might set a boundary to not talk about your private life with your co-workers, to keep a separation between your private and professional life.
- In a family setting you might indicate that you will not tolerate being shouted at. Or, you might ask your family not to go through your personal belongings to maintain some privacy.
- In a romantic relationship, a healthy boundary would be to tell your partner that having alone time for yourself is very important for you and your wellbeing. That you would like one night a week to spend time alone.
When setting a boundary it is important to be assertive, clear and set consequences. If someone breaks your boundaries, ensure that you follow up with the consequences, otherwise people may test your boundaries and see them as flexible. Figure out what you lack or you need from a relationship and clearly communicate this with the other.
As a bottom line, boundaries are a great way to look after yourself, your relationships and reduce our stress!