What are some examples of emotional boundaries? Expecting kindness, communication, and respect from your partner. Saying no and asking for space. Finding out who you are outside your relationship. Not accepting guilt for mistakes you didn’t make. Whatever it is that you do to prioritize your needs in a relationship, constitutes examples of emotional boundaries.
But how can one set emotional boundaries in relationships? And why are these boundaries important? Let’s find out with the help of counseling psychologist Kranti Momin (Masters in Psychology), who is an experienced CBT practitioner and specializes in various domains of relationship counseling.
What Are Emotional Boundaries?
According to Kranti, “Emotional boundaries in relationships are all about separating your feelings from your partner’s. In the initial stages of love, you unknowingly give complete freedom to your partner to control every aspect of your life and you accommodate all their needs just because you’re in love.
“And then, there comes a stage in your relationship where those limits start getting pushed. This is when you need to realize that you can’t just be a follower to your partner and your freedom needs to be respected too. You can tell your partner to go ahead with the activities that he/she loves. It is not compulsory that you take part in all those activities.”
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If you think about your partner and feel anxiety, resentment, fear, or discomfort, it’s one of the signs that your boundaries are not being respected. You need to sit and examine whether your partner is abusing his/her power in the relationship and taking advantage of your emotions in any way. Most importantly, you must be willing to take a stand for yourself.
Emotional boundaries in a dating setting are very important because if there are no boundaries, there will be no trust. And if there is no trust in a relationship, there will be anger and resentment. So, both partners have to make conscious efforts to not lose their original selves and respect each other’s freedom and space. And what are those conscious efforts? Let’s dig in and look at some of the examples of emotional boundaries.
Tried And Tested Ways To Set Emotional Boundaries
According to research, the absence of work-life boundaries leads to burnout. The same holds true for relationships too. A lack of emotional boundaries can lead to stress and anxiety. The question is: how to have better emotional boundaries? It all starts with paying attention to how you feel after meeting/talking to a certain person. If your interactions with them make you feel anxious, it is an indicator that your emotional boundaries were breached. Here are some of the tried and tested ways to set emotional boundaries (and avoid an enmeshed relationship):
- Have a discussion with your therapist/loved ones (on good emotional boundaries)
- Self reflect and clearly lay down your priorities in a journal
- Specify your exact needs when setting healthy emotional boundaries
- Set emotional boundaries politely but assertively
- Hold your ground (even if people react negatively)
- Don’t overcommit; listen to your gut feeling/instincts
- Honor your emotions/goals/identity values and your “me time”
- Don’t fall for a guilt-trip for putting yourself first (feel proud instead)
- Cut off contact with people who exploit you/treat you like a doormat on a regular basis
9 Examples Of Emotional Boundaries In Relationships
Kranti emphasizes, “To begin with, make sure you are in a relationship with a person who complements your core beliefs and values. Before committing seriously to the person, see if your values, goals, preferences, and flaws match. If they differ fundamentally, there is a high chance that you will drift apart in the future.”
It’s okay if he likes pineapple on pizza and you don’t. Or if you like Coke Float and your partner doesn’t. But, core beliefs must be in sync. Now, when that’s in place, we can look at the examples of emotional boundaries in relationships:
1. Voicing your likes and dislikes to your partner
Kranti points out, “If you are someone who likes to read a book or introspect in your free time, you don’t have to force yourself to go to parties, just because your partner is an extrovert and likes to be around people.”
Emotional boundaries in marriage are all about communication and expression. And what do you say when setting emotional boundaries? Just go ahead and say “I can go to a party once a month but don’t force me to socialize more than that. I like to read instead.” By voicing your likes and dislikes to your partner, you can have better emotional boundaries and hence save your relationship from a lot of turmoil.
According to studies, the power of saying no is an essential part of self-management. So, examples of emotional boundaries include saying no to tasks that you don’t want to do or don’t have the time to do. Emotional boundaries in a dating setting are all about honoring what’s important to you and putting your needs first.
2. Delegate tasks and free yourself of misplaced guilt
Kranti says, “Start the process of getting to know your own self. Only when you understand what you need can you set boundaries that ensure your emotional well-being. What is it that you want from life? What are your goals? What is your motivation? What do you actually need? You can only communicate your needs, once you know your needs.” And once you know, communicate your needs. Some examples of emotional boundaries could be:
- Delegating tasks if you feel overworked
- Asking for space when you need your own time
- Avoiding over-committing to plans
- Speaking up when you feel uncomfortable about a particular situation
- Dropping the guilt if you are not the one at fault
How to free yourself of misplaced guilt? Understand the concept of “projected guilt”. People often project their guilt on you so that they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions. So, one of the examples of emotional boundaries is to let go of your habit to apologize unnecessarily for mistakes you didn’t even make.
3. Build self-worth
Why are you not able to set emotional boundaries in marriage or a relationship? Because you are too scared that the person that you love might leave you. And why are you so scared? Because you lack self-worth and don’t see value in yourself. This is why you settle and compromise, even when you know that the relationship no longer serves you and even when you see signs that you should walk away.
What to do in such a case? Build self-worth i.e. become worthy in your own eyes. Take a moment and make a list of your successes and accomplishments. Create short-term goals and when you achieve them, pat yourself on the back. At the end of the day, highlight your blessings and note all that you are grateful for. This will help you build your self-worth and self-respect. And once you respect yourself, you wouldn’t be okay with people disrespecting you.
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Examples of emotional boundaries are all about following your instincts. Listen to your body and you will know if your boundaries are being crossed. Increased heart rate, sweating, tightness in your chest, an ache in your stomach, or clenched fists could all be indicators of breached boundaries. Pay attention to how your body and mind react to a certain situation and you will be able to see the crossing boundaries examples if there are any in your relationship.
4. Examples of emotional boundaries – Negotiation and dialogue
Kranti says, “Talk. Communicate with your partner about all that is hurting you or turning you into someone you’re not. Don’t be afraid to express yourself if there is something that you don’t like. Speak up for yourself because nobody else is going to.” Emotional boundaries in a dating setting are all about negotiation. One of the examples of setting boundaries could be telling your boss, “No, I cannot work overtime for the whole week. How about two days per week?”
The same could be applied to your romantic relationship as well. An example of emotional boundaries in a relationship could be saying, “Hey, I don’t feel comfortable sharing passwords of my social media accounts. I think that is a violation of my privacy” instead of saying something aggressive like, “Why the hell would you want to know my passwords? Do you not trust me?”
5. Non-negotiable deal-breakers
Make sure you both decide on boundaries that can’t be negotiated. What do you say when setting emotional boundaries? Here are some examples of non-negotiable emotional boundaries:
- “I expect you to not hit me ever”
- “I expect you to respect my time with friends”
- “I never want us to go to bed mad”
- “My partner shouldn’t watch child pornography”
- “I expect my partner to be loyal to me and not cheat on me”
- “I cannot tolerate my partner lying to me”
You must reconsider being in that relationship if these boundaries are being violated consistently. Kranti says, “A relationship wherein a lack of boundaries affects the emotional well-being of partners involved is a toxic relationship. Either the person is silently accepting the wrongs or ranting with other people instead of sharing their thoughts and feelings with their partner.”
6. Be careful about who you rant to
If you end up sharing your problems with other people rather than communicating with your partner directly, it might create a bigger wedge between you and your partner. Because your friends will validate your thoughts. Your first step should be to talk about unreasonable boundaries to your partner instead of going to other people.
A significant characteristic of emotional boundaries in relationships is knowing when and where to draw the line between vulnerability and oversharing. Be vulnerable but don’t overshare. Vulnerability is important and good for your emotional well-being. But oversharing is just an uncomfortable and unsatisfying experience between both the people involved.
7. Stand up for yourself
Some of the crossing boundaries examples include letting your partner invade your sleep time or the “me-time” that you need for introspection. Why are you so okay with your boundaries being crossed? Maybe because you are too scared to lose your partner. Maybe, there is a false reward or payoff involved.
For example, “My partner doesn’t treat me well but damn, he is awesome in bed.” Or your partner is rich/famous/ powerful and you’ve tied your identity so closely to their stature that you’d do anything to keep it, even if it means letting them walk all over you. So, examples of emotional boundaries can include, “Yes, my partner is great in bed or rich but that doesn’t justify them treating me with disrespect. I deserve respect.”
Related Reading: What To Do When You Realize Your Relationship Is A Lie
8. Mutual respect
Kranti points out, “In a relationship, beliefs/values/desires/goals of the two partners can differ, and both need to respect each other’s emotional freedom and space. If your partner is too possessive and controlling and isn’t open enough to understand your point of view, it could be a sign that your relationship is not heading in the right direction.”
Emotional boundaries in marriage or a long-term relationship are all about mutual respect. If your partner keeps you in mind and consults you while making the smallest and biggest decisions that will affect both of you, it is one example of emotional boundaries. No matter how well your partner knows you or how well you know your partner, you both cannot make decisions on each other’s behalf.
In case mutual respect is fundamentally missing, be willing to walk away. You have to believe in the possibility that you have the power to create the life you want and you don’t have to settle for anything less than that (and treat it as the new normal). Know that compromising yourself all the time is not okay and be vocal about it, if you continuously notice examples of emotional boundaries being violated in your relationship.
9. Learn to say no in a polite but direct way
How can you set boundaries politely? First, acknowledge your partner’s wish. For example, “Hey, I know your dog was your best friend while growing up. I totally understand and respect that.” Then, be direct and vocal about what you truly want instead of giving hints. You could assertively say, “But, I don’t want a dog right now. I am not ready for it”, instead of saying, “Would it be okay if we get a dog later?”
Finally, it is possible that you are not even aware of the unreasonable boundaries that you have set for yourself. One of the crossing boundaries examples would be our mothers overworking themselves (in the house and at work too) because they don’t even realize they are being taken for granted by other family members. In fact, a mother often considers herself as a martyr or superhero, who has to sacrifice her own needs to fulfill the needs of her family.
- Communicate your needs and free yourself of misplaced guilt
- Respect and value yourself enough to put yourself first
- Walk away if someone violates a deal-breaker
- ‘Me time’ is precious and so is holding space for yourself
If you are unsure about how to implement these examples of emotional boundaries in your life, a therapist can provide you with the necessary support to express your needs, even when it’s uncomfortable. Our counselors from Bonobology’s panel can help you in setting healthy emotional boundaries in relationships for better emotional well-being. Always remember that you can help others only when you learn to help yourself. So, make sure that your mental health is in check before you try to be a pillar of support for other people.