healthy 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.  

Two Kinds of Boundaries in Relationships

Two Kinds of Boundaries in Relationships | Relationship Boundaries

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 two installments in this series:

Ten Common Myths About Boundaries

Boundaries Aren't Permanent

Two Essential Kinds of Boundaries

When I work with people to clarify and respect boundaries I find boundaries most often fall into one of two camps.  When we're envisioning them, boundaries either seem to be Hard Lines or Negotiables.  

Hard Line Boundaries

Hard lines are the kind of boundaries that feel especially important and/or tender to us.  They are the ones we'll react most strongly to if crossed.  

Hard line boundaries appear to be absolute or unmoveable.  We can't imagine they will ever shift.

Often these come up in initial conversations with words like never or always attached.  Here are some examples of hard line boundaries I've heard:

"If you cheat on me I will end this relationship."

"I'm vegan."

"I can't imagine I will ever want to be tied up."

"I don't like anal sex."

All of these examples are specific to behaviors and appear absolute or unchanging.  Trying to negotiate with these will risk annoying the person sharing their boundary.

There are several pros and cons to consider when using a hard line boundary:

Pros

Hard line boundaries are usually very clear.  The more clarity the easier to be sure you and a partner are on the same page.

Hard line boundaries can seem simpler to live by.  Often hard lines have an either-or kind of feel (see the first example above).

Cons

Hard line boundaries don't take into account the personal growth and relationship development that happens over time.  Even hard line boundaries will need revisiting in time.

It can be really easy to assume these boundaries are fixed- forever.  I've seen many individuals in the couples I work with feel blindsided when their partner wants to revisit a hard line boundary.  

For example, I've seen many people who thought they would end a relationship after an affair decide to repair and stay together.  Most of those folks would never have predicted they'd stay.

Flexible or Negotiable Boundaries

Flexible or negotiable boundaries are the gray area between an absolute yes or no to a specific behavior or context. There are many pros and cons to using flexible/negotiable boundaries.

Here are some examples from real relationships:

"I like rope play, but I don't like to bottom in group spaces. Let's talk about when and where we want to play."

This boundary is negotiable depending on location-specific behavior. I like this here but not there.  

"Sometimes I get really triggered when sexual content comes on tv.  If that happens I'll let you know by_____ and you could support me by _______."

This boundary might not even look like a boundary to most people- but boundaries are really about asking for what you need and setting expectations.  The part that is negotiable or flexible is the "sometimes" and "if" part of this boundary conversation.  There's room for it to flex and change depending on the situation (in this case tv content or stress I'm feeling).

"I like flirting with you via text but this week I have a huge project at work so I'm not going to be available to respond like I usually am."

This boundary is time-sensitive (the project is happening this week).  It's clear we may renegotiate in a week or shift back to our previous texting behaviors.

Pros

Negotiable boundaries can grow, change, and flex with you and your relationship over time.

Cons

Some people think negotiable boundaries don't deserve the same kind of care and respect.  Thinking because they're flexible negotiable boundary violations don't cause the same kind of harm.  This is just completely untrue.  All boundaries deserve respect and care.

Because they are more conscious of the grey area between absolute yes or no, it can be more difficult to be clear about negotiable boundaries.

You need to be willing to keep a conversation going about boundaries- and some people don't want to invest that much energy in relationship maintenance.

Questions to ask about Hard Line and Flexible/Negotiable Boundaries in Relationships

If you're not sure what kind of boundary you want to set ask yourself a few questions to find more clarity:

Is this boundary time-sensetive?

Is this boundary specific to a location or situation?

How might this boundary change as we get to know each other?

When will I be open to talking about this boundary again?

If you want any help clarifying or communicating boundaries, I'm happy to talk with you in a free consultation.  I love chatting about boundaries!


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.

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.