Sharmen Kimbrough MA, relationship coach at the Marriage Recovery Center, discusses why setting boundaries can transform your relationship.
Why Setting Boundaries Can Transform Your Relationship
Boundaries play a crucial role in any relationship, and addressing them openly is especially important within marriages, close family dynamics, and extended family relationships. Unspoken boundaries often get repeatedly crossed in these contexts, resulting in toxicity and harm. In order to bring about positive change in your marriage and other significant relationships, it is essential to understand what boundaries truly entail and how to effectively establish them.
Boundaries Are Not Rules
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that boundaries are not rules. They are not about imposing restrictions on others or dictating their actions. When you set up rigid rules, it often creates a context for rebellion and resistance. Just as you dislike being told what you can and cannot do, others feel the same way. Boundaries are about expressing your own needs and values and choosing not to engage in behaviors or situations that are harmful to you.
What a Boundary Looks Like
A boundary is about making your personal space safe and maintaining your identity and well-being. It involves taking charge of yourself and refusing to allow toxicity and harm to influence or shake your sense of self. Instead of telling others what they can or cannot do, a boundary is a declaration of what you will no longer tolerate in your life. It is a way of saying, “You can continue to behave that way if you choose, but I am removing myself from participating in it because it goes against who I am.”
Boundaries as an Invitation to Change
Establishing boundaries in a relationship serves as an invitation to change for both parties involved. By clearly communicating what you will and will not accept, you are initiating a transformational process. It gives the other person an opportunity to reflect on their actions and decide whether they are willing to make the necessary changes to maintain a healthy connection with you. This crossroads reveals their true intentions and level of commitment to the relationship. If they adamantly refuse to change, it becomes apparent that they are not genuinely interested in being in a relationship with you.
Consequences and Follow-Through
The effectiveness of a boundary lies in its consequences and the commitment to follow through with them. Boundaries must have meaningful consequences for the other person, providing motivation for them to change their behavior. Without consequences, boundaries remain mere wishes or hopes, lacking the power to bring about transformation. Natural consequences often arise from specific behaviors. For instance, if a spouse chooses to engage in infidelity, a natural consequence could be a broken relationship until they demonstrate genuine efforts to end their affairs and prioritize the marriage.
Maintaining Healthy Boundaries
Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries requires consistent effort. When faced with disrespectful behavior such as name-calling or contempt, it is essential not to engage or defend yourself. Instead, it is more effective to calmly express that such behavior is detrimental to the relationship and refuse to participate in arguments or finger-pointing. Walking away from toxic situations and prioritizing your own well-being establishes a boundary that protects your emotional safety.
Taking Control of Your Journey
Healthy boundaries empower you to take control of your internal state and the direction of your life. By creating boundaries that reflect what you will tolerate for yourself and where you are headed, you establish a sense of agency and self-respect. Boundaries are not about changing others but about ensuring your own safety, peace, and personal growth.
In conclusion, setting boundaries can be a transformative force within relationships. By understanding that boundaries are not rules, but expressions of self-respect, you can establish healthy boundaries that protect your well-being. Inviting change through clear communication and enforcing meaningful consequences fosters growth and reveals the true nature of the other person’s commitment. Ultimately, boundaries enable you to maintain a safe space within your relationship, ensuring a peaceful and fulfilling home life.
Also read: What are the Harmful Effects of Coping
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.