boundaries

Signs You Have a Boundary Problem

SIGNS YOU HAVE BOUNDARY ISSUES | BOUNDARY PROBLEMS | RED FLAGS

Setting clear personal boundaries is the key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, trustworthy and caring. Boundaries set the limits for acceptable behavior from those around you, determining whether they feel able to put you down, make fun, or take advantage of your good nature.

If you're often uncomfortable with other peoples' treatment of you, it's likely time to reset your boundaries. Weak boundaries leave you vulnerable and likely to be taken for granted.  They also cause you to build resentful distance between you and the people you love most.

Common Boundary Violations

With that said, it can be difficult to identify when boundaries are an issue for you.  Here are a few signals to look for if you want to see where boundary problems lie in your relationship:

  • Saying “yes” to your partner, when in fact you’d rather say “no”
  • Saying “no” when it might be perfectly appropriate to say “yes” – this is often done to keep a partner at arm’s length, or punish him or her.

Good boundaries require authenticity and honesty. Neither of these behaviors are honest ways to communicate.  They leave huge gaps for misunderstanding and missing intimacy.

  • Making your partner read your mind instead of saying specifically what you’re thinking or feeling
  • Trying to control your partner’s thoughts or behavior through aggressive or subtle manipulation

Again, using indirect communication is a surefire way to create misunderstandings.  Not saying what you really wants sets your partner up for failure- they're sure to let you down at some point.  Not asking for what you want directly won't give your partner the opportunity to learn the best ways to love you.

Both of these kinds of manipulations will lead to conflict and hurt eventually.  You can avoid the hurt by getting clear and being direct about what you want to see happen between you.

 

Here are some tips that can help you establish and maintain healthy boundaries:

  • Communicate your thoughts and feeling honestly, with specificity and clearly. Whenever possible, be honest but respectful in sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Yes, this is a vulnerable action to take, but with careful communication vulnerability is the key to building trust in relationships.
  • Ask your partner what they are feeling instead of trying to guess. Mind-reading is not your responsibility.  And no matter how connected you are, it is impossible to know what your partner wants or is thinking in every situation. If each of you reflects on your own thoughts and feelings, and takes responsibility for putting them into words you will grow deeper understanding. 
  • Take responsibility for your actions. All relationship dynamics are co-created. Instead of blaming your partner for how you feel, ask yourself how your choices (intentional or otherwise) contributed to the situation.

Healthy boundaries take practice. Most of us were not trained to have these kinds of conversations in our families. But with practice you will be better able to identify where the boundary lines are between you.

As a result, trust and connection will only grow stronger and more secure between you over time.


boundaries in relationships | healthy relationship boundaries | how to have boundaries | boundary issues

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  I can help you:

  • change communication & codependent relationship patterns
  • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity & manage intense emotions
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon.  And I've created a HUGE free relationship tool library available online for couples worldwide.

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

Boundaries Aren't Permament

Healthy Boundaries | Boundaries in Relationships

I've gotten lots of questions in my Ask me Anything column lately related to healthy boundaries in relationships so I thought I'd spend a little time writing more about healthy relationship boundaries for a bit to help clear up a few common misconceptions.  

Before diving in below, you might want to read the first installment in this series:

Ten Common Myths About Boundaries

A Common Misunderstanding: Boundaries Aren't Forever

The first thing most people misunderstand is that boundaries aren't permanent. They are always temporary and always shifting.  

For example, when you go on a first date you might have certain boundaries (no kissing, no sex, no talking about religion/money/politics) but over time these boundaries will shift or change depending on how the date goes.  

If your date goes well and you build trust you might want more affection and will likely talk about deeper more meaningful topics.  The boundaries you set on the first date will soften. 

If that same date goes poorly or trust isn't built your boundaries might grow or harden (don't call me anymore, blocking them on facebook, avoiding them at work = more rigid boundaries).

Or you might have one boundary in a specific context that is different in other settings.  For example, I hug my very close friends hello (and often goodbye) but I don't hug my clients or colleagues hello/goodbye.  Or the way I greet someone at a Pride Parade is different than the way I might at a professional conference.  

You can probably come up with some great examples of your own changing boundaries depending on the comfort you feel with an individual person and the context where you meet them.

So boundaries shift over time and between contexts.  But often when we talk about them we try to think in absolute terms.  

We want to think they're a binding contract we'll never need to revisit.  But since boundaries change we have to be willing to renegotiate them.  

Why am I telling you this?

Knowing that boundaries change can help your relationship in a couple significant ways:

1) You can be more aware of the different contexts, times, and trust levels that soften or harden your boundaries. 

2) You might be able to tell people what kinds of behaviors and contexts increase your sense of trust and safety (softening your boundaries) in order to improve relationships.

3) You can practice more self-compassion knowing it is completely normal to have boundaries change, grow, and shift.  There's nothing wrong with you.  

4) You might be able to communicate when and where your boundaries harden with folks around you so you both know what to expect and what you need.

5) If someone has a hard boundary and it's a challenge for you consider (or even better, ask) what might help them feel safer, more trusting or comfortable in that situation, act, or space with you.  I'm not saying try to convince them or wait it out, but use that boundary as a way to connect and get to know them better.  There's likely some great learning in there for you.  

Having trouble with changing boundaries in relationships?

If you're struggling with this don't worry- lots of people have trouble with boundaries growing and changing over time.  Shifting boundaries don't have to be the end of your relationship, but it can be really hard to see a way out if you're on your own.  

Please do call me or connect with another professional who has lots of experience with relationships like yours for help.  We can usually find a new way forward for the two of you that doesn't entail breaking up.  


Polyamory Counselor Portland | Portland Polyamory

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

 

Myths About Boundaries

Myths About Boundaries | Boundary Myths

I've gotten lots of questions in my Ask me Anything column lately related to healthy boundaries in relationships so I thought I'd spend a little time writing more about healthy relationship boundaries for a bit to help clear up a few common misconceptions. 

So to start us off I'm listing the eight myths about boundaries that come up most often in my work.  They're super hard to combat because our culture reinforces them in a lot of funny ways (movies, tv, romantic fairytales...)

Holding on to these gets in the way of most of the relationships I see in my couples work.  Read on to see if any are holding you back in your own partnerships.

Relationship Boundary Myths:

Boundaries are permanent or forever

Boundaries shift and change depending on the situation and the relationship you have with each person you interact with.  So naturally, they change as you learn more about people and about yourself.  This is why we have to keep talking about them to keep our relationships healthy.

Boundaries should be the same across the board

Often in relationships, I see people compare the boundaries a partner has with other close friends to those in the relationship.  You might have a different set for your boss and your best friend.  

This kind of comparison just gets us off track because boundaries aren't the same across the board.  Boundaries just don't work that way.

Certain boundaries are to be expected

While there are some boundaries we culturally expect as a norm even these are based on assumption.  The more we can clear out assumption and get specific about what our partner needs the more we can really connect with them (and determine if we can respect their boundaries).

Start thinking about which boundaries you take for granted and check in with your partner about them.  

Boundaries are mean 

Boundaries aren't all about cutting people off or removing them from your life.  Boundaries are about getting clear with the people you love about how you can best support each other.  It takes real compassion and care to have a loving boundary.

You can't recover from a boundary violation

Many folks come to me after someone has broken trust in a big way in their relationship.  Often they've thought one boundary or another was a dealbreaker for them in relationships- but now they're stuck not wanting to break up with a partner who hurt them.  

I've been really touched by couples who work through really tough boundary crossing to repair hurt and rebuild trust.  You can learn to respect boundaries and change the way you negotiate them- it might just take a little help.

Boundaries are about yes or no

Most of us only think about boundaries when we're pushed to an extreme.  So we often think a boundary is all about saying no to something.  But boundaries can be much more nuanced- like asking for what we need, stating clear expectations, or asking people to slow down.  

Instead of a stoplight with only red and green there is a whole lot of yellow when it comes to boundaries.

You can change someone's boundary

It can be really hard when someone sets a boundary and that means I'm not going to get what I want.  I'll be disappointed at best, heartbroken at worst.  

And yet if I want to stay close or get closer to that person the only option for me is to respect their boundary as is- without pressuring them to change it.  Adding pressure by trying to convince them to change will only push them away, or force them to shift when they're not ready (leading to hurt or resentment later).

Some people are just naturally bad at boundaries

Nope.  This is just an excuse.  Few of us get any mentoring about boundaries as kids, some people have a much harder time respecting others' boundaries, and some people just don't care.  If you have trouble maintaining healthy boundaries or respecting others please call a professional for guidance.


gina senarighi | boundaries in relationships | relationship boundary

Gina Senarighi offers non-judgmental sex-positive, gender-affirming, LGBTQ relationship support online and in the Pacific Northwest. 

She often says, “I love love, in all its forms!”

She’s helped thousands of couples deepen their sexual connection, repair trust, and build sustainable lasting partnerships.

She uses her multi-disciplinary professional training to teach communication skills and help her clients handle conflict with compassion.

Gina has supported many couples experimenting with open relationships based in trust and integrity. If you’re considering polyamory you should check out her online resources here.

Although most of her couples are experimenting with less traditional relationship structures, even her more mainstream clients appreciate her open-minded non-judgmental approach and diverse expertise.

If you’re interested in taking this work further contact her for a free consultation.

ASK ME ANYTHING: He's Like a Drug

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.

This Week's Relationship Advice Question:

I'm in a passionate intimate relationship with a guy I use to work with. He told me from the start that he just wants to have fun and he's married. I agreed because I like him soooo much. I feel powerful and sexy when we get together. I feel like I'm making love to the sun!  He's like a drug and I'd like to break out of this but I often say to myself ...fuck it, the heart wants what it wants....Kindly advise please and thank you.


Oh sweetheart, drugs are bad.  Not all drugs, not all the time, but there are a couple easy ways to tell when a drug isn't working for you:

  • You can't stop thinking about the drug, you're distracted and not fully present in other parts of your life
  • You're not paying attention to the warning labels written on the bottle/case/whatever.  You take them as often as you can get them.
  • You feel moody or out of control.  
  • The drug interrupts your other healthy functions (sleep, friendships, exercise, sleep) so you're not well.
  • You can't seem to stop yourself from taking it.  

I know the drug might feel good, but you need to keep focused on those warning labels to keep your use in check.  In this case, your drug (Mr. Sunshine) is telling you his energy limits and boundaries, and it sounds like you might be caught up in some fantasies about those changing, or you're ignoring them.  

Some people can recover from addiction with focus and limitation.  I'd love for you to be one of those folks so you could keep feeling all that sexy powerful energy you're getting.  Is there a way for you to create better boundaries for yourself?  

Some people have to quit completely to recover.  I imagine that would be very hard for you and it might not really be necessary.  

What I know for sure is most people who successfully "quit" have a community of supporters around them helping them stay clear and accountable.  Who can you call for support?  Do your friends or other lovers know what's going on?  What do they say?  

Ask yourself what meaningful support might look like for you here and find a compassionate well-boundaried friend who can help you out.  If not, hire a coach or therapist who can help.

Not all drugs are bad- but most can be dangerous.  Be careful with your heart dear one.


relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).