Honoring relationship boundaries

The truth is, it is easier to forgive when the incident to be forgiven happened far in the past.

The truth is it is easier to forgive when the incident to be forgiven happened far in the past.

by Lori Rubenstein — 

While it is easy to buy into the idea that children need boundaries and that they feel safe and loved when firm boundaries are present, we do not hold the same beliefs in love partnerships. Instead, we have a tendency to become so enmeshed that we lose ourselves, not knowing where one person ends and the other one begins.

As a relationship coach and forgiveness teacher, I see a lot of crazy behavior. Whether it is biting your tongue to avoid conflict; sucking it up when you are mad, frustrated or hurt; or, going to the other extreme — doing everything possible to prove you are right — it is important to learn how to honor and meet both your separate and different needs and desires. In all love relationships, there is a season for forgiveness and there is a season for establishing clear boundaries.

The truth is it is easier to forgive when the incident to be forgiven happened far in the past. When we get triggered over and over again, there is no time to heal. The wound is always fresh. This is when a boundary needs to be set. So, let us talk about boundaries.

Personal boundaries are guidelines for how you interact with other people. What are your guidelines and how do you get them met? It is important for you to ask some of the following questions:

  • What did you learn growing up about boundaries?
  • Do you allow others to suck you dry? Do you feel stressed out in your interactions? Do you feel like someone is taking advantage of you?
  • Do you avoid confrontation like the plague? Do you believe you have a right to set boundaries with others?
  • How do you treat yourself? Have you ever thought that your own negative self-talk may be too harsh? Do you need to set a boundary with yourself, choosing to not be so hard on yourself?

You have both a right and a responsibility for how you treat yourself and others and how you allow others to treat you. Think about this: What has it cost you not to set appropriate boundaries for yourself?

If you are ready to set a boundary, please keep these five helpful tips in mind:

  1. You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you are setting. You are only responsible for communicating your boundary in a respectful manner. If it upsets them initially, hold your ground and know that they will figure out how to deal with it.
  2. At first, boundary setting might feel awkward, selfish, guilty or embarrassing. Do it anyway; you have a right to self-care. Setting boundaries takes practice and determination. Do not let anxiety, fear of losing the friendship, fear of hurting someone’s feelings or insulting them, or your own low self-esteem prevent you from taking care of yourself.
  3. Lose your own victim mentality and learn to have more self-respect and self-esteem. When you feel anger or resentment, or find yourself whining or complaining, you probably need to set a boundary. Listen to your gut, determine what you need to do or say, then communicate assertively.
  4. Have patience. Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time. It is a process. Realize that the person you are trying to set a boundary with might test you. Like a child, they want to know how far they can push you. Just reaffirm what you said and do not get into an argument about it.
  5. Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries. Eliminate toxic people from your life — those who want to manipulate, abuse and control you.

Being a loving and forgiving person does not mean you need to be a doormat. Once boundaries are set and maintained, you might notice a peaceful shift in your relationships.


Lori Rubenstein is a forgiveness teacher and author of Forgiveness: Healing Your Past and Find the Peace You Deserve. As a former divorce attorney-mediator and relationship coach, she discovered that forgiveness has been the cornerstone of her work for the last 30 years. 

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 5, October/November 2013.

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