How to set boundaries in a relationship without being controlling

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Have you ever felt silenced in your relationship? Does it seem like you have no control over the things that you do together?

Maybe you’ve been struggling to take a stand or say an opinion in some of your decisions, or you might have felt voiceless and helpless because you want to avoid confrontation or any negative feedback from your partner.

That could only mean one thing… You have an issue with setting your boundaries.

But don’t worry, there’s a solution! Although establishing limits can be quite challenging, it’s absolutely vital for a happy and successful relationship.

So how do you draw the line in a relationship without coming off as “controlling”?

Here are the six things that you need to do so you can safely express your much-needed boundaries!

1) Identify your limits

Setting boundaries enables us to clearly express our needs, desires, and limits to our partners. Unfortunately, when you don’t express them properly, it can be seen as “taking control” over the relationship, which can lead to misunderstandings and arguments.

Before you start to open up and discuss the issue of boundaries with your partner, you must first identify what exactly are your boundaries.

You have to ask yourself: What do I want? What do I need? What makes you uncomfortable? What makes me feel safe? What are my values? What are my expectations?

Answer these questions first to avoid having conflict not only with your partner but with yourself. You can’t expect your partner to just know where not to cross if you don’t even know where to draw the line.

It would help to have a clear picture of these matters first before you present them to someone else to avoid confusion down the line.

2) Know the difference between ‘boundaries’ and ‘manipulation’

When you’ve identified your limits, it’s also important to know when people are being manipulative or genuine about them.

I remember when I had my first boyfriend. I was seventeen years old.

Since I was still so young at the time, I was not really well aware of the difference between boundaries and control. I thought they were the same thing.

I remember the times when he would decide what I should wear and who I could be friends with. He did not like seeing me wearing shorts, skirts and sleeveless tops, so most of the time, I only wore pants paired with a plain shirt, even when that was not my style at all.

He also did not like seeing me talking or hanging out with other guys, even the ones I was already friends with, way even before we met. The only guys I could talk to were family members and those he knew and gave permission for me to hang out and speak to.

I loved watching movies and was pretty much taken with the concept that jealous boyfriends were cute, so it took me a while to really see how toxic his behavior was – he said that if I really loved him, I would understand that the boundaries he had set were meant to protect me.

Being the naïve and hopeless romantic, I saw his actions as sweet when in reality, it was far from it. When I saw that his demands were suffocating me and were no longer healthy, I started to speak up for myself.

I started to set boundaries. I started to ask for trust and respect. I was well aware that since we were in a relationship, his thoughts and feelings should be taken into consideration, but so should mine.

No matter how hard I tried to make him understand, he refused to listen. So, I ended it. I realized that relationships should be a two-way street. And up to this day, breaking up with him was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.

3) Communicate with your partner

Once you have self-reflected and your boundaries are clear, it’s crucial to talk to your partner about it.

There is no better way to set your boundaries than actually communicating with your partner. Respectfully, of course!

Remember, you do not want to come off as bossy or overly demanding. Most of the time, I think this is the problem with relationships: miscommunication.

Some people just expect their partners to know what they are thinking and how they are feeling, even when they don’t talk about it.

While it’s true that in a relationship, you should know well enough how your partner thinks and how they may react to certain things. But, also keep in mind that at the end of the day, we are all only humans.

Do you know what holds people back from communicating effectively? A lack of resilience. 

Without resilience, it’s extremely hard to overcome all the setbacks that come with love and relationships. 

I know this because until recently, I had a tough time overcoming my fears and doubts.

That was until I watched the free video by life coach Jeanette Brown

Through many years of experience, Jeanette has found a unique secret to building a resilient mindset, using a method so easy you’ll kick yourself for not trying it sooner. 

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The tools you’ll learn from Jeanette will serve you in all areas of your life. Success is achievable, but you’ll need more than just willpower to get there.  

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Remember, your partner is not a mind reader! So when you’ve unlocked Jeanette’s secrets, and you become brave enough to overcome your fear of communication and honesty – stay consistent!

If you want your boundaries to be acknowledged and respected, communicate with your partner respectfully and acknowledge the boundaries they might set as well.

4) Enforce your boundaries

When you’ve communicated your side, it’s time to enforce your boundaries.

Now, this is the hard part. It’s one thing to identify your boundaries, but having to actually stick to them is a whole different story.

It can be quite challenging at first, or maybe even uncomfortable, but remember that you should be firm and assertive so your partner can take you seriously.

Try to be specific about what behaviors or actions are off-limits and explain how they make you feel.

When my boyfriend and I were just starting, I told him I wouldn’t be comfortable if I saw him lurking on other girls’ social media accounts. On the other hand, he told me he didn’t want me to reply to another man’s message if it was obviously flirting.

Neither of us had done that when we decided to be exclusive, and setting those restrictions early on avoided petty fights that people had in the same situation! I think the secret is to be consistent in enforcing your boundaries and avoid making exceptions – that’s how you can command respect in a relationship.

Also, be open to your partner’s opinions and insights, and make sure to also listen to their point of view. Show a willingness to compromise when you’ve hit a dead end in a discussion.

It’s also important to show appreciation when your partner respects your boundaries and make sure to reciprocate the same level of respect for their boundaries as well.

5) Take some time for yourself

Apart from enforcing boundaries, another crucial area is exercising independence.

Setting boundaries with your partner requires taking care of yourself so that you may continue to feel independent and maintain your sense of self.

During your time alone, you can refuel, reflect on your ideas and experiences, and gain clarity. It also shows how much you value your time alone, which can foster a more respectful and fulfilling relationship.

Most people lose time for themselves when they get into relationships, and it is understandable. However, what most people don’t realize is that spending too much time with your partner may result in you neglecting your own desires and needs.

Taking time alone helps you to reacquaint your core and with who you are so that you don’t lose yourself in the relationship.

And I know that there might be days when it’s difficult to be alone if you and your partner are inseparable, but that’s not an excuse!

There are many ways to spend time with yourself and practice self-care. So, here’s a list of things that I do to get away, even for just a little while. Maybe you can try them too:

  • Take a relaxing bath or shower. Go splurge on beauty products too!
  • Read a book or listen to an audiobook. Pick whatever genre you want!
  • Go for a walk or hike in nature. You need some fresh air and sunlight.
  • Practice meditation or yoga. It helps to find your center.
  • Listen to music or a podcast. I usually need at least 30 mins a day to just jam it out!
  • Write in a journal or do some creative writing. It’s a great outlet!
  • Cook or bake your favorite meal or treat. Cooking can be therapeutic.
  • Watch a movie or TV show that you enjoy. Something that only you would watch, and no one else!
  • Do a hobby or activity that brings you joy, such as painting or playing an instrument. As they say, music is food for the soul.

Honestly, there is no right or wrong way to spend time with yourself, so choose activities that make you feel happy, fulfilled, and energized!

So remember, just because you have shared responsibilities with your partner doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a break every now and then! This is usually what happens in a marriage or a shared home.

I know a lot of people who made the mistake of blurring the lines between their identity and their partner’s, and that’s not healthy. You have to respect yourself enough to take time to breathe and step back so that you can keep in touch with yourself.

6) Seek professional help

And if, after doing all of these steps, you’re still not comfortable with the idea of setting boundaries or you don’t know how to justify them, it’s always helpful to seek professional help.

A counselor or a therapist can give you the resources and encouragement you need to handle challenging situations and emotions.

They can also help you figure out specific boundaries that you need to establish and how you can communicate them to your partner in a non-hostile manner.

They can also assist you in resolving any underlying problems that might be interfering with your capacity to establish and uphold your limits.

I actually have gone through therapy, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My therapist had given me a safe place to express my worries and emotions without me worrying that they would be invalidated or judged. And it has greatly improved my relationship with my partner.

Remember that seeking help from a professional does not mean that you’re “weak” or “damaged,” contrary to other people’s misconceptions. Rather, it is a sign of strength and a testament to your commitment to addressing your unresolved issues.

Not everyone can be brave enough to acknowledge the fact that they need help, and if you are having doubts about what you should do, reach out to a professional for support.

Final thoughts

“Innocence, your history of silence

Won’t do you any good

Did you think it would?

Let your words be anything but empty

Why don’t you tell them the truth?”

– “Brave,” Sara Bareilles

When we talk about relationships, another word that comes to my mind is “comfortable.” When you are in a relationship, you form a bond, a connection that helps you become more comfortable with each other later on. However, sometimes, there are instances when we get too comfortable that we tend to forget where we draw the line.

Most of the people I know think that getting into a relationship means completely losing yourself in it – that’s simply not true.

Setting boundaries is never easy, but it is necessary. At first, your partner may or may not be as accepting of it, and you might even feel a little guilty for it.

Your partner may see it as being controlling, or you may be the one to feel that you’re being insufferable! But this act, no matter how uncomfortable, would be healthy for you and your relationship as you regain a sense of security and safety as individuals.

I remember a useful mantra that a friend told me about it, she said “boundaries are not walls.”

They are not put up as a way of shutting people out. Rather, it is simply controlling who and what you let in to preserve your peace and identity.

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

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