When the book, The Rules, by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, first came out in 1995, it became an instant worldwide hit. Women everywhere were drawn to the concept of having a set of ‘rules’ to help them navigate the early stages of their romantic relationships.
Although I don’t necessarily agree with the ‘rules’ themselves, the idea of having a set of personal parameters of what you will and won’t accept when you’re dating, is a concept I can get behind.
Boundaries are a set of rules we create to let people know how we would like to be treated. They also determine how other people’s actions and words affect us and how our own behaviour and words can affect others.
Being crystal clear about how you want to be treated is so important when entering into any new relationship. Setting up the understanding of what you prefer gives the other person the opportunity to figure out if they can meet your expectations, or not.
Once the relationship is established your desire for closeness should be met with closeness. If your new partner only ever wants to hook up on a Friday night after they’ve already been out, but having an actual conversation with them is like pulling teeth, then it’s probably a good sign that they don’t want the same thing as you.
If this is happening, and you find yourself making excuses for them, then you need to be honest with yourself and ask why you’re putting up with that sort of behaviour.
Being flexible is important. Allowing room for mistakes is okay, but when their pattern of behaviour feels like you have to constantly adjust something within yourself, then it’s time to make a decision about what you really want.
A friend of mine recently met a guy through an online dating site. They had a good connection and started emailing each other on a regular basis. One day he sent her an email and called her by a different name. At first she corrected him and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The second time it happened, well let’s just say, he ran smack bang into her boundary!
Whether you or I would have given him a second chance is not important, because boundaries are unique to each person. What my friend knew was that she was also talking to more than one person, and it could have been an honest oversight. By the second time, she felt it was a sign he wasn’t putting in much effort, and that definitely didn’t bode well for a long and happy future together.
Here are my top three boundary-setting guidelines:
- Mildly annoying behaviours vs. deal breakers
Like it or not, people aren’t perfect. There’s going to be behaviours that annoy you from time to time. That’s totally normal. But there are behaviours that you’ll want to (and should) draw a line at. Having a good understanding of what the difference is for you can help you decide when to be flexible, and when to call it a day.
- When the tables are turned
How do you react when someone says ‘no’ to you? How do you go with someone else’s boundary? Can you handle hearing a ‘no’ without trying to push your own agenda or sulk? To be clear, I’m talking about the everyday ‘nos’ as opposed to outright rejection. Both people need to able to hear ‘no’ without taking it personally, and adapt accordingly. If for whatever reason you can’t accept their boundary, then it’s probably time to call it a day.
- Getting your own needs met
Do you find it difficult to tell people what you need or want from them or the situation? Sometimes it is just easier to keep quiet and go along with things, but if you can’t or won’t set boundaries, people will start to treat you like a doormat. People ultimately respect and admire those who can set clear boundaries and express them with confidence from the outset.
Ultimately, when we understand what it is that we like, or don’t like, we can communicate that in a way that’s respectful to ourselves, and others. Whether or not the other person chooses to accept our boundary is entirely out of our control.