One thing that has always struck me as strange and ironic is the lack of relationship education we have in our world. We spend 12 years in school learning how to read, how to write, how to do arithmetic and all about science. We are NEVER taught basic relationships, though. I think the guiding assumption is that is stuff we should all get at home but the truth is far different. I mean, think about it…How many of YOUR parents taught you how to communicate properly, using “I” statements and the speaker-listener technique? Wait, you don’t know what that technique is? My point exactly.
So back to my point and getting closer to the title of this piece. One crucial component of healthy relationships is having healthy boundaries. A boundary is an invisible fence that separates you from someone else; it shows where you end and someone else begins. My first real exposure to learning about boundaries was about 13 years ago when I was working in a megachurch. There had been a ton of layoffs and I was consistently picking up the duties of the others who were laid off until I found myself buried under work (grossly underpaid) and on the verge of burnout. I went to talk with the Executive Pastor, who has also become a beloved mentor, and we had a talk. I was shaking because I was so nervous about telling him that I thought what I was being asked to do was unreasonable. After about an hour, he agreed with me and said “Lisa, I will set this boundary for you but it’s your responsibility to keep it”. He then handed me a book called “Margins” and I set out on my journey to find my own boundaries.
Since that time, I’ve read just about all there is to read about boundaries and that research and reading has informed my practice as a therapist and coach. I’ll say it again, having healthy boundaries is CRUCIAL to having healthy relationships. Why? Because if you don’t have good boundaries, you risk becoming rigid (having such boundaries that no one or nothing gets through) or having too loose boundaries where you don’t know where you end and others begin. When you don’t know your boundaries, you can’t identify when someone is pushing them and when you’re being hurt.
One area I coach my clients on is finding their “non-neogitiables” in relationships (AKA
boundaries). Non-negotiable things are those things that if your partner has, does or is, you cannot remain in the relationship and be healthy and happy. Those boundaries are different for each of us and must be discovered individually. For me, personally, one of my non-negotiables is that my partner MUST be honest. The first time he is dishonest will be the last time. Having these non-negotiables IDENTIFIED and written down is paramount to your relationship success because when we are feeling the glow of love (or lust) it’s too easy to ignore the red flags. If, however, you have identified your non-negotiables (and hopefully shared them with your coach!) then you have something to go back to when things pop up and you’ll be less likely to compromise on the things that really matter.
Some signs that your boundaries are being pushed? You become angry, resentful, irritated, frustrated or stressed. You know your boundaries are being pushed when you find yourself saying “yes” when you really prefer “no”. Those feelings are not bad; they are road signs, pointing you toward your boundaries. Now, as you learn your boundaries, you’ll become more and more empowered to hold them and make empowered choices based on your deepest needs.