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Discussing boundaries with your partner
by TeenHelp January 1st 2018, 08:13 PM

Discussing boundaries with your partner
By Sammi (Orenda.)

While it's no secret that understanding boundaries is a key factor in any healthy relationship, openly discussing them with your partner can sometimes feel awkward, especially when you're having the initial conversation about what is and is not okay with you. Questions may run through your mind such as "Is my partner going to be disappointed if I say I'm not comfortable with this?" or you might face concerns about whether or not their feelings will change if you express yourself openly. If you're feeling this way, you're not alone. This article aims to address some of those concerns and help guide you through them, as well as provide pointers for having those initial conversations and subsequent conversations as you and your relationship evolve.

One of the most common fears that people have when they think of bringing up boundaries in a relationship is how it will impact the way their partner sees them. Here's the thing: it shouldn't. Although it's definitely a valid concern, what your significant other thinks about the boundaries that you have set for yourself shouldn't be a key factor in expressing what it is that you want and/or need. After all, do you really want to be with someone that is so bothered by what you are and are not comfortable with? While the anxieties you may be feeling are perfectly valid, they shouldn't be your primary concern when it comes to addressing these things with your significant other.

The best time to have a conversation about boundaries really depends on you and the dynamic of your relationship. For some, it's best to get it all out on the table from the beginning. Others prefer to wait until it becomes necessary to start talking about these things, such as when they start being sexually active in the relationship. As with most things, the best time to do it is when it feels like a natural discussion to have. It's even okay to have more than one conversation if breaking it up is something that makes you feel more comfortable addressing the topic. For example, you could bring up emotional boundaries (jokes that you're not okay with, things that you're not comfortable talking about, etc.) and mild physical boundaries, such as your feelings towards public displays of affection early on in the relationship and wait until things get more serious before you bring up more specific physical boundaries.

While boundaries should not be a taboo topic in relationships, it can often feel like they are. Because of this, it's common for people to avoid bringing it up at all. As understandable as the feeling of awkwardness is, it shouldn't be something that deters you from having such an important conversation. If you're unsure how to raise the subject, consider saying something along the lines of "I'm really happy with the direction our relationship is going, but there are some things I want to make sure we're on the same page about." Be sure to let your partner know that the conversation hasn't come about because of anything they've done, but because it's simply the appropriate time to start talking about where you both stand on different things. Remember, this conversation needs to be a two-way street, not just a list. So, give your partner time to talk about their own boundaries and address any questions or need for clarification that they might have regarding yours.

As time goes on, your boundaries may change. This can occur as a result of personal development or the progression of your relationship. Depending on the nature of the change, you may be able to subtly work your thoughts into your relationship without having to openly discuss it, but there is also the possibility that it will require a subsequent conversation. If the latter is the case, rest assured that it doesn't need to be a full-blown conversation in the same way that the initial one was, as it's generally only one or two things that change at a time. In this instance, you can simply let your partner know that you'd like to address the concept of boundaries again quickly, as some of yours have changed. After filling them in, it's also a good opportunity to ask them if there are any changes with their boundaries that you need to be made aware of.

While talking about boundaries can feel awkward in the beginning, doing so is essential to creating a healthy, respectful relationship. It's not always easy to know what to say but, once you get going, you really will start to see a positive impact on your relationship.

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