One of the main components of a successful and long-lasting relationship is respecting boundaries. While healthy boundaries help both partners grow into the best versions of themselves, unhealthy boundaries in relationships can twist a beautiful partnership into something toxic and ugly.
We all know that it is important to have boundaries in a relationship. However, distinguishing between what are acceptable boundaries in a relationship and what are not can be a bit confusing, especially when your partner says one thing and behaves differently. For example, he says, “I love you so much and I want complete transparency in our relationship”, but then goes through your messages and freaks out over an NSFW meme your best buddy sent you. Sounds familiar? You are not alone.
That’s why learning to set and uphold boundaries the right way is imperative. Relationship and intimacy coach Shivanya Yogmayaa (internationally certified in the therapeutic modalities of EFT, NLP, CBT, REBT), who specializes in different forms of couples counseling, helps us understand why setting boundaries is vital and what are some signs of unhealthy boundaries in a relationship.
What Are Signs Of Unhealthy Boundaries?
To know and understand what are healthy or unhealthy boundaries in a marriage or a relationship, we need to understand why we should have boundaries in a relationship in the first place. When you start talking to a loved one about boundaries, they get this look of disappointment on their faces as if the relationship has received a death sentence. There is a misconception that boundaries exist to keep people out, which is not true at all. Boundaries exist to protect our values, feelings, and sense of self. They help us feel safe in our relationships and are thus vital for their health.
Unfortunately, there are too many couples who, despite knowing the importance of boundaries, are unable to enforce them. They are unaware of the signs of unhealthy boundaries in a relationship. Shivanya explains, “People tend to stay in relationships with unhealthy boundaries, or even abusive relationships, because of the misconception that relationship sans boundaries is love. Sometimes, people are just not aware of what true love really looks like.”
Unhealthy boundaries in a relationship don’t exactly spell doom. Neither does it mean that you and your partner don’t love one another. It is just a disproportionate mix of intimacy and independence in a relationship. Balance, after all, is the key to success for anything including relationships. Here are some signs of an unhealthy relationship due to compromised boundaries.
1. You compromise your boundaries to please a person
We all have a set of principles we hold on to. These principles resonate with our sense of being and help us build our lives in a certain fashion. These values become a part of our identity.
If you find yourself deserting your principles just to keep a person interested in you or to impress them, then you are compromising your boundaries to please a person. Worse, if your partner disapproves of your principles and you alter these to please them, this means healthy boundaries are absent and it is time for some change.
It is natural to compromise in a relationship. Being too rigid or staunch in your thoughts and beliefs doesn’t give you much room to grow as a person. But if your entire belief system flies out the window just to please a person, then you are agreeing to conform to your partner’s need to change you at your core. This is one of the signs of unhealthy boundaries in a relationship.
Related Reading: 12 Things You Should Never Compromise On In A Relationship
2. Feeling guilty when enforcing boundaries
The most difficult part of setting up a boundary is enforcing it. You will be met with some kind of pushback when you try to have boundaries in a relationship. A person who is not accustomed to respecting the boundaries of other people will have a hard time accepting yours.
If their struggle in accepting your boundaries leaves you feeling guilty or you tend to cut them some slack every once in a while, you are permitting them to infringe upon your boundaries. This could pose trouble for you in the future. After all, the only thing more difficult than enforcing boundaries is getting a person to start respecting them.
3. You have boundaries that you don’t believe in
Boundaries exist to protect you emotionally, mentally, physically and financially. However, many times, one ends up creating boundaries one does not agree with. If you are a person who loves to feed strays but stops because your partner disapproves of you spending time and resources on them, then chances are you will not be very happy with the situation and even develop resentment toward your partner and sometimes it is difficult to let go of resentment in a relationship.
Boundaries that do not coincide with your feelings cannot be enforced either. Soon enough these turn into unhealthy boundaries in a relationship.
4. You don’t respect your own boundaries
One of the most obvious signs of unhealthy boundaries in a relationship is when a person does not respect their own boundaries. Just like it is important to have boundaries in a relationship for it to be healthy, it is equally important to have boundaries with yourself and stick to them.
Discipline is a quality that is appreciated by everyone. A person who walks the talk is considered dependable. You can see it in everyday life. It is difficult to respect an athlete who is out of shape. It is difficult to trust a doctor who doesn’t stay updated on the progress made by modern medicine. Similarly, if you are unable to stick to your own boundaries, chances are people will not take your boundaries seriously as well.
11 Examples Of Unhealthy Boundaries In Relationships
Unhealthy boundaries in a relationship can lead to plenty of issues that cause resentment in a marriage or a relationship. If left unaddressed and unresolved, the bitterness it creates can destroy the relationship, and in some cases cause severe emotional trauma. Let’s be honest, no one wants to hurt the person they love, yet sometimes, we unknowingly hurt these very people. Here are some examples of unhealthy boundaries that might be affecting your relationship:
1. Letting a person know everything right at the beginning
Transparency is vital for a strong relationship. However, there is a thin line between being honest and oversharing. If these lines are getting blurry on the first date then you might be rushing into a relationship, and that is one of the signs of unhealthy boundaries in a relationship.
Oversharing all at once can be very dicey and a major turn-off for people. A personal story here and there is fine, but when you share all your personal details right at the beginning it leaves you exposed to hurt and betrayal. Being overly trusting can lead to unhealthy attachments and that never bodes well for anyone involved. A partner should be patient enough to want to get to know you over time. It makes for a stable relationship.
2. Being sexual for someone else instead of yourself
It is not necessary that emotional intimacy should lead to sexual activity. Nevertheless, there is no denying that sex plays a very important role in romantic relationships and the first rule of a healthy sexual relationship is that it needs to be consensual.
Indulging in sexual activities against your wish just for the sake of your partner’s pleasure or out of fear of abandonment or ill-treatment are signs of an unhealthy relationship. Your body is yours and yours alone, and you should not allow someone to be physically intimate with you against your will.
3. Someone else dictates your life
Vanessa loved her boyfriend, Martin, from the bottom of her heart. Yet for the past couple of months, she had been feeling a bit stifled. It seemed, as days went by, Martin became more and more demanding of her time and energy. It started with little things like picking out her clothes for her or asking her to change if he didn’t like what she was wearing. Before long, he was telling her which of her friends she should be talking to. If she disagreed, he would stonewall her or throw things around.
When Martin went down on one knee to propose to Vanessa, she gave their relationship serious thought and realized that Martin was already dictating how she should live her life. She realized if she did marry Martin, there would be a lot of unhealthy boundaries in their marriage. She told Martin how she felt and they decided to go to counseling together to try and solve their relationship issues. Fortunately, Martin and Vanessa saw where they were going wrong and were able to fix their relationship.
4. A sign of unhealthy boundaries: Touch
One would think this is an obvious boundary people will not cross easily and will respect, especially in a relationship. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Some people struggle to maintain this boundary. Either they want to be loved or sometimes it is just that the person has a hard time saying no.
If you are wondering what are acceptable boundaries in a relationship, then touch is a very important criterion. Some people are more comfortable with being physical than others. And it is completely fine if you are not comfortable with someone’s touch. And if you are unable to enforce this or your partner doesn’t respect this decision, then this is an example of unhealthy boundaries in a relationship.
5. You fall in love easily
A strong and healthy relationship is not built in a day. It takes time and effort to build a strong foundation for love to grow. If you find yourself easily falling for a person within a couple of days or as soon as you establish a connection with that person, it is a sign of unhealthy boundaries in a relationship.
The beginning of any relationship can be very exciting and intense but the connection that you are feeling when texting or calling doesn’t equate to truly getting to know a person. If you notice a pattern where you keep developing feelings for people easily, you need to make boundaries to protect yourself from harmful relationships.
6. The push and pull
Anna couldn’t figure out Damon at all. One moment, he would be in a good mood humming as he cooked, and the next, he would be raging around like a fire-breathing dragon. These mood swings were so regular that Anna felt her relationship had become a roller coaster ride. Damon would refuse to hang out with her, and then, randomly land on her doorstep with a bouquet of roses.
While this might sound cute to a lot of people, facing this every day can be frustrating and can leave one feeling played. A lot of narcissists use this kind of emotional manipulation in relationships to confuse a person, keeping them on their toes and seeking their constant approval so that they are unable to enforce boundaries.
7. Expecting others to anticipate your needs
When you are in a relationship for a long time, you and your partner will get attuned to each other. Soon, you will be able to guess how your partner would react in a given situation and vice versa. However, no matter how long a time you have spent with each other, you cannot anticipate all your partner’s needs all of the time.
Similarly, expecting others to anticipate your needs without you communicating them is not possible. We are all different people with different sets of beliefs and ways of functioning, which makes it virtually impossible for anyone to guess your every thought and want.
8. Falling apart so that someone can take care of you
There is no denying that everyone likes to be pampered. Having someone else take care of you feels good. You feel that you are loved and you enjoy it. But if you tend to break down easily with the intention that someone else takes over and handles everything for you, then take note that this is one of the unmistakable signs of an unhealthy relationship.
Many of us are strong and independent and can take care of ourselves. To fall apart just so someone else can take care of us builds the victim mindset. As a result, you are dependent on other people’s presence to bring happiness to your life. Remember to love yourself first. After all, our happiness is our responsibility and no one else’s.
9. Lack of respect for privacy
Privacy is a basic necessity for every person, irrelevant of their relationship. Be it a parent, a child, a couple or a sibling, we all need our privacy. When a person is not capable of respecting that, it is a major red flag in the relationship.
One can tell a lot about a person by what they value. If a person is unable to value your privacy, do you think they will be able to respect much else?
Related Reading: Drawing The Line Between Love And Privacy In A Relationship
10. You are attached at the hip
Does he always find ways to tag along with you on every occasion? So much so that you find yourself hanging out with him 24/7? Does it feel that she is unable to function properly without you present? And, when you bring it up in conversation, your partner gets offended and upset? These are all examples of unhealthy boundaries in a relationship.
Sure, it feels good to be wanted, there is no denying that. But when a person wants to spend every waking hour with you, that is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Every person deserves an identity of their own. It is healthy to have a life outside of your relationship, otherwise, this constant togetherness can give rise to resentment in the future.
11. Not noticing when your boundaries are being infringed upon and vice versa
It is very flattering to be on the receiving end of someone’s undivided attention. To be on someone’s mind 24/7 and have them worship the ground you walk on. Them knowing exactly how they feel about you, how they see you in their life from day 1, the intensity of their feeling toward you can be very thrilling and intoxicating indeed. But it is also a major relationship red flag and there is a reason for that.
While the chemistry in such relationships can seem very potent, more often than not, one of the partners tends to get controlling. They expect your undivided attention and anything short of that makes them insecure. At this point, you begin to see signs of unhealthy boundaries in a marriage or an intimate relationship, and from there, things just keep going downhill.
No relationship is perfect. No human being is perfect. We all have our own set of flaws to work on. The reason why so many of us are in unhealthy relationships with someone or even ourselves is that we are not trained to recognize the signs of a healthy relationship. Relationships around us, be in the media or our families, normalize unhealthy boundaries in a relationship. A child who has been brought up in an abusive family would think that is the way of life. It is now known that abusive adults were once abused in their childhood.
The only way out of this is to recognize and unlearn unhealthy behaviours. Seek professional help to understand the core of your issue. With the help of Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists, a healthy relationship is a click away. Isn’t that all we want?