Relationship boundaries : In a group work setting, we usually develop a set of boundaries called a group agreement. When we have these, it allows everyone in the group to feel held and hold each other in a way that creates safety.
In a relationship, the relationship agreements are usually formulated unconsciously and without actual agreement which then informs the relationship boundaries.
So we bring a list of agreements from previous relationships, from our ideals around relationships, what we observed our parents do & any personal agreements we made when wounded in the past.
We take all these previous ideas & reactions & we meet another person with them & together we start creating the ground agreements for the relationship. With a good mix of both our previous stuff.
When we don’t out rightly discuss them we have to figure them out based on our partners reactions & let out partner know through our own reactions.
This often has us acting out hoping our partner will make sense of our acting out. Sometimes they do … however they also have to act out to be heard & understood. Then we have two people who do not voice their needs and have to be reactive to felt heard and understood.
We get all caught up in secret rules that we engage with, without actually discussing them.
In relationships we need boundaries, so that we can feel safe to be ourselves and free to explore our lives.
We need to know what is acceptable for us and for others. We need our partner to know what we need, want and what’s not OK with us.
Sometimes in relationships it’s challenging to put boundaries down. Fear of our feelings not being valid, fear of being left, fear of being rejected … generally some kind of fear stops us setting up or discussing clear boundaries.
Sometimes no one role modeled boundaries and we had no idea how to practice them. Even when we do actually have them. As my therapists once said “your feelings are alerting you to your boundaries”
Without setting boundaries we can’t thrive and be present, without them we have to use our defenders and keep people at a distance. Without clear boundaries intimacy is non exsistant.
To start developing boundaries within a relationship it is important to start to become clear about your own needs and sense of self. Your own sense of self respect which comes from honoring who you are, what you want and need. When you do this boundaries are far easier to bring awareness to.
Looking at what is reasonable and unreasonable to expect from a partner. Sometimes this can be confusing because of all the unconscious relationship rules we carry into our relating. A quick intervention for this is to ask yourself as I expecting my partner to parent me or partner me? Are they expecting me to parent them or partner them?
A good place to start the discussion around this with a partner is for each person in the relationship to write a list of their expectations of a relationship and each other. Then negotiate and discuss the answers. Remembering that expecting things from our partners can often lead to demanding and nagging, requesting things is much more effective in seeing our partners autonomy and meeting on equal ground.
A lack of relationship boundaries is often coming from a lack of boundaries in life before the relationship developed. Sometimes some effective 1:1 support can be very helpful!
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