We all dream of finding our match, our second half, “the one.” If we are lucky enough to have made the lucky catch, the work does not stop there, in fact it has only begun. It’s a journey to find a person who is right for you, and it’s a journey to stay with a person who is right for you. Great chemistry is great, but it’s not enough to bank on for a long-lasting relationship. When we grow more comfortable with a person, complacency and old, destructive habits can set in unconsciously which – if left unchecked – set us up for an avoidable loss.
A romantic relationship is an ongoing art project, it is a (hopefully) lifelong collaboration between two people who believe in the project enough to do the consistent maintenance to not only keep it afloat but make it grow in beauty and complexity. To do this, we need to always be evolving as individuals, doing the work on ourselves, as well as checking in and openly and honestly communicating with our partner. One of the best ways to do relationship-saving work is by maintaining healthy boundaries. Maintaining healthy boundaries will create an environment of mutual respect and decreases the chances of gradual resentments rotting away at your precious love.
Personal boundaries are the ultimate life hack. That said, it’s often terrifying for people to implement them in their lives and relationships because we’ve never implemented them or maintained them. Chances are, growing up you never saw the adults in your life have healthy boundaries (think of the father who put everyone before himself or the mother who said yes to every request). While these types of behaviours are rewarded as selfless, we often fail to look at how the behaviours made our parents feel – most likely they felt exhausted, depleted, depressed, angry and or resentful. Over time, pent up emotions like these result in physical illness and disease.
In your current relationship, start practicing these three boundary skills for long-lasting success. It won’t be easy at first, but if practiced enough (like any art) it will not only feel like second nature but will be a relationship saver.
1.Learn to say “No” then take personal space. The reason we’re scared of saying “No” is because we’re scared of the other person’s reaction. Saying “No” is a powerful way to respect your needs. “No” is a complete sentence that does not need to explain itself. It may cause a lot of fear and anxiety, but practice saying “No”, then remove yourself, i.e. turn off your phone, go into another room and shut the door, go for a walk. Block out all responses. You are allowed to say “No” as an act of self-respect, and your partner will learn to respect your self-respect and respect you for respecting yourself! (Say that five times fast).
2. Learn that people’s feelings are not your responsibility. Some people don’t like hearing the word “no,” they may call you selfish or rude. Understand that their reaction has nothing to do with you but with their own conditioning and experiences in the world. We think that by making others feel better, we are responsible for how they feel. But if simply saying “no” makes them feel bad, it has nothing to do with you. You did not insult them or call them a name. You are not responsible for their feelings. When you are prioritizing somebody liking you or praising you over your own needs it means it’s time to work on your own self-esteem and self-respect. In the end, this only benefits the partnership. If your partner cannot respect your “no” then that is a sign they do not respect you.
3. Act first, speak later. With boundary-setting, not only do we have to DO something different, we have to resist the urge to over-explain or apologize for our choices to another for the sake of their feelings or them still liking us. Doing something for yourself is not selfish, it is self-care. Commit to your decided action or inaction. Sometimes the best communication is non-verbally through our actions.
With these three (deceptively) simple boundary setting tools being implemented in your life, it is guaranteed to not only increase your own personal well-being but also the strength, integrity and respect on which your love with “the one” is based.