Here are a few suggestions about what it feels like to have good personal boundaries with a partner. I’m sure you will be able to think of lots of other ideas, but these may start you thinking about your own relationship.
- I am aware that my actions, attitudes, thoughts and feelings are my own, not those of my partner
- I realise I can change myself, but not my partner
- I notice that when I respond (take thinking time), rather than react, my relationship to my partner changes
- I recognise that I can decide what I will and won’t tolerate in our relationship
- I see that when my boundaries are too rigid, there is little communication or intimacy between us
- I discover that if I push too hard into my partner’s personal space, they pull away, and put their boundaries higher
- I find that if I say ‘I feel and I need’, rather than telling my partner off, they are more likely to listen. I can show empathy and make it clear I have heard them too.
- I stop offering solutions and excuses and ask my partner what they would like to be different
- I understand that my partner is not an extension of me; is not there exclusively to meet my needs
- I accept that we both have needs which cannot be fulfilled in our relationship; that we need other interests, friends and family too
- I feel that to have good personal boundaries is to be strong but flexible; close but separate.
I’m not suggesting that any of us have perfect boundaries all, or even some of the time, but it’s good to reflect from time to time on whether our closest relationship is making us feel good about life or is making us unhappy. Looking at how we negotiate intimacy and independence with our partner, so that we feel close, but neither ‘engulfed’ or pushed away, is a good way of deciding whether we need to renegotiate our relationship. Sometimes talking about our boundaries with a couple counsellor can support us to get the balance right.