Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 08-20-2018 Comments: 0
Romantic relationships can bring out the best in us – but they can also bring out our biggest weaknesses. When you become intimate with someone else, unhealthy behaviors surface that are based in self-doubt and fear. Whether you have abandonment issues, are a people-pleaser, or tend to get jealous, it’s important to recognize how you react to your partner. We can’t avoid our feelings, but when we understand our tendencies in relationships, we can establish healthy boundaries from the beginning.
New relationships can fool us. When we fall in love, we aren’t always aware of negative patterns playing out – these are often our blind spots. For example, if you seek a sense of validation from helping your partners – whether it’s emotionally, physically, or otherwise – you might play a part in a codependent relationship. Understanding this can make all the difference in how you approach your next relationship.
So if you find yourself getting clingy, or you tend to get lost in a relationship, you don’t have to fall back into this pattern. You can make a choice to behave differently, as long as you know your tendencies.
So how do you set healthy boundaries from the very beginning of a relationship?
First, let’s define boundaries. They are limits you set with other people to value your needs – acting in a way that is not contingent upon what others think of you. Understanding your self-worth means finding intrinsic value in who you are, regardless of your situation, circumstance, or perceived failures. It is also recognizing that you are entitled to your own feelings, space, thoughts, and opinions, regardless of what others may think. Here are some practical ways you can set healthy boundaries in a relationship:
Get to know your limits.
You know yourself well enough to understand your weaknesses. For example, let’s say you have always wanted to please people because it’s upsetting when someone doesn’t like you. Because of that, you tend to agree to things you don’t want to do, or you rush to apologize without speaking your mind. If you know this is your tendency in romantic relationships, take a step back. Ask yourself how your behavior negatively affects your happiness and fulfillment. Instead of thinking only of others, start to think of yourself – what you like, what you want, and how you would like to be treated going forward. This is a good place to start.
Address your frustrations.
Many of us take setbacks on the chin. Maybe your partner has disappointed or frustrated you in some way, and you decide to let it go without addressing your concerns. You might accept their actions, hiding your frustration or resentment. Unfortunately, if it keeps happening and you say nothing, your frustration builds over time. It leads to unhealthy relationship patterns, like blaming your partner, looking to him/ her when you lack personal fulfillment, or becoming resentful. Instead of “letting it go” (which sounds very zen), let’s get real. It’s important to let your partner know how you feel. Instead of allowing your anger to get to the point of blame, address your feelings of concern immediately, so the two of you can talk it through.
Make yourself a priority.
There’s no shame in self-care. Too many of us are busy trying to please and take care of others, but this often leaves us feeling tired, resentful, and stressed. This doesn’t lead to happy or fulfilling relationships! Instead of thinking of others’ needs all the time, set aside time for your own relaxation, renewal, and care. Think about places or activities that calm you, or make you happy, or renew your spirit. Maybe once a week set aside a few hours for hiking in nature, or take a spa day, or enjoy a good book. The point is, give yourself permission to take care of your own needs without putting everyone else ahead of you.
Join a CoDA meeting or seek help in therapy.
Sometimes we all need a little help. If you don’t know how to set a healthy boundary, or recognize where yours should be, then reach out to an expert, whether it’s a therapist or group program like Co-Dependents Anonymous. Many of us have ingrained patterns, so it can take some time to recognize our unhealthy behaviors and develop new ones. With the right tools, you can establish healthier relationships in all areas of your life, including family, work colleagues, and friends.
Setting healthy boundaries is hard work, but you will notice the difference in your relationship quickly. If your partner doesn’t respond well to your new boundaries, then that’s a sign you can move on to a healthier relationship with someone new!