I’ve heard horror stories about some relationships that have made me ask a few questions.
“Why don’t couples in relationships establish clear and concise boundaries?”
“If and when boundaries are established and in place, why are so many of us willing to cross the boundary lines we have established with our partner?”
“If there are boundaries in place, why are so many of us willing to overlook or minimize when our partner crosses those boundaries?”
We don’t even need to have a deep discussion about boundaries—just acting respectful and trustworthy to our partners if they have not given us cause to doubt them should be enough.
In the discovery phase of each relationship, we should be using that time to discover and set forth our own boundaries with our partner. Yet some still feel the need to cross that imaginary line, even once the lines are established. Some of us may even feel the need to “test” the lines; to see where the boundaries really are.
I have multiple friends whose girlfriends will go through their phones when they are sleeping, check their emails, demand answers to minor disappearances and jump to absurd conclusions about the tiniest discrepancy in a story. Basically, some of us feel the need to keep our partner on a tight leash and under a watchful eye. Don’t worry ladies, I know plenty of guys who are guilty of doing the exact same things.
Maintaining boundaries in any relationship is healthy because it promotes independence and it diminishes the need for dependence on our partner. Boundaries are essential for our authenticity. Healthy relationships should be equal partnerships where both parties have room for individualism while growing together as a couple and sharing common interests, passions and attractions to each other.
People who insist on crossing boundaries with their partners mainly do it because of their own trust issues. Whether there really are current trust issues or not, they will cross boundaries. Sometimes we or our partners will create phantom issues as justification for crossing boundaries. This can eventually lead to problems within a relationship. While I advocate that most boundaries can and should be established naturally, when issues like the above mentioned occur, it is best to jump out in front of it and address the issue immediately.
Those of us who continually cross boundaries do it because we might have had a bad experience from a previous relationship. However, all relationships are unique. And, it is unfair to label an entire gender as untrustworthy just because of past involvements with someone who was shady, a liar, a cheater or a thief.
Trust must be earned in the initial stages—that much is certain. However, boundaries still must be maintained during the trust building phases of all relationships. If you begin to see red flags showing a lack of trust or untrustworthy behavior in the beginning phases, talk it out. If problems continue to arise, that should be the actual red flag that this relationship is doomed.
I’ve been cheated on, I’ve had my heart broken and I’ve been in many short term relationships that never really got off the ground, yet I always made it a point to respect the boundaries of my partners. I always choose to act respectfully and let the boundaries become established naturally. However, just because I always choose to do this, doesn’t mean I have always had the luxury of executing it. A few times, a discussion was necessary.
I was once dating a girl for nearly a year, and every time we went out for the evening, we would spend the night at her place. I never once assumed I was staying over after our time together that particular evening. Don’t get me wrong, I was prepared—I had my overnight bag in the trunk of my car, but I would never go into her place until she officially invited me in. There were a few nights I could sense she preferred to sleep alone and have some space. I always tried to look out for that and be respectful without making a conversation out of it. I am no saint though, sometimes it would hurt to pick up those signals and not talk about them, but I am an old soul, and I try to be a gentleman as much as possible. I think she respected that about me.
We began to jokingly call this the “vampire effect.” Vampires cannot enter a home unless they are invited in, and that’s how I operated. I wanted her the feel and assert her independence at all times, and I did not want her to feel like I was invading her privacy. It also released her from the pressure of expectation of my assumption of staying at her place every night. Maybe she wanted to sleep alone that night, or do her own thing in the morning. I never assumed I was staying so I could give her more independence and control.
I didn’t dare go through her emails or phone, (even though we spent so much time together that we knew the pass codes to each other’s phones) and if she ever asked me to look something up on her phone for her I always doubled checked, “you sure you don’t mind?” Doing this gave her extra peace of mind that I was not looking for an excuse to invade her privacy.
If she received a phone call or text in my presence I would never ask “who were you just talking/texting to?” She would normally tell me anyway, without being asked, but the point is I never wanted to cross that boundary. In return, she did the same for me.
Many of us are able to practice this maintenance of boundaries, but it still can be hard for us to do.
We all get jealous and wonder, “who is he/she speaking or texting with?” It’s how we react to things that makes us curious about what our partner is doing that allows us to practice maintaining boundaries. Jealousy is a natural occurrence and difficult to control, but having and establishing trust will lead to healthy communication, boundaries and ease our jealously concerns.
Once boundaries begin to get crossed, it usually leads to escalation.
Going through our partner’s phone one day makes it feel okay to check their email, Facebook or Twitter account the next day. We begin to feel comfortable asking those unnecessary questions if we see a red flag (whether one actually exists or not). We are more likely to conjure up and label simple actions as red flags. The relationship begins to become unhealthy. Trust is being broken whether there is cause for it or not.
We start to control our partner or feel controlled by our partner when the boundaries are crossed. We lose or take away a sense of self. If we do not respect our boundaries, we begin to harass of feel harassed by our partners, which will lead to feelings of resentment.
We need to sit down with our partners and establish clear and concise boundaries. If issues persist, then perhaps it’s best to end the relationship, because I will say it again: no healthy relationship can survive and thrive without trust and boundaries being maintained. Once trust is lost, it is always very hard to earn back, and in some cases, it can be impossible to fully earn back.
Author: Adam Wilkinson
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