boundaries in a relationship

The importance of boundaries in a relationship

by Eharmony Editorial Team - January 31, 2018

Do you have boundaries, and do you stick to them? Knowing what yours are could make all the difference to your dating life, as Laura Yates explains

Boundaries in dating and relationships is one of my favourite topics to talk about because they’re a game-changer when it comes to success in love.

Setting boundaries isn’t about being high maintenance, it’s merely about showing others what you will and won’t put up with in a relationship. It’s about communication and standing by your values. They allow you to spot red flags and step away from something that isn’t working out early, so you can avoid any potential hurt and heartbreak down the road.

Why boundaries are helpful

Boundaries help you figure out what you want, need and expect from a relationship. It’s not about being dogmatic in your approach to dating. In fact, having boundaries makes the process so much more relaxing and enjoyable! It’s just about having an inner knowledge of your values. It shows you respect yourself and your needs – a trait that’s incredibly attractive to prospective partners too. You’ll attract people who also have boundaries in place and are aligned with what you’re looking for.

If you go into dating or relationship boundary-blind, not knowing what you want, how you want to be treated, and what you will and won’t tolerate, it makes you far more vulnerable.

Boundaries are also important because they help you to spot signs that something or someone isn’t quite right earlier on. When you’re being compromised you can recognise it, address it through communication, and move on if you need to.

Looking back to past relationships, having a clearer idea of my boundaries would have saved me so much heartache and time wasting. But it’s been a valuable lesson to learn.

What happens when you don’t have them?

Having no boundaries is a recipe for dating and relationship disaster! You might find that people take advantage, they don’t respect or value you, or they behave in ways that conflict with what you believe is right. They may not do this intentionally; unless you show people what your boundaries are, they won’t understand your expectations. You might not be dating a ‘bad’ person but if you don’t have boundaries, you’re always going to be playing to their tune. This could lead to feeling insecure, uneasy, or like you’re not an equal part of the couple.

If you don’t have boundaries then your needs won’t be clear, for you and for others. You leave yourself open to settling for crumbs in a relationship when you deserve to be enjoying the three-course meal, on equal terms with your partner!

How do I start implementing them?

First, be clear about what your boundaries are. It can help to think back to past relationships and work out where it felt your needs felt overlooked, where you failed to communicate them, or when you were unhappy about something. Were there issues that you overlooked because you didn’t want to cause a fuss or felt too afraid that the other person might see you as high maintenance?

Your boundaries can also extend beyond romantic relationships. Honour them on a day-to-day basis, with friends, family, work – everything! Are you a people-pleaser and feel you can’t say no? Do you always drop everything for others, even when you really need time to take care of yourself? Are you afraid to speak up and end up stressing out in silence? You can address all these issues now and it’ll really help you start to approach your dating life differently.

Ultimately, boundaries work because when you know what yours are and you act on them, they help you see things from a wiser and wider perspective. You’ll feel able to choose partners more appropriately and not take things so personally if things don’t work out. They build resilience and make the whole dating process much more fun, enjoyable and enriching!