Expressing your needs to your partner when you know they won’t be happy about them is a daunting task.

If you know that a conflict lies just beyond “I need to do more alone time every week” or “I don’t want to be intimate every day,” that impending friction may be enough to scare you away. say. those.

But if communicated with compassion and honesty, boundaries can actually strengthen a relationship, says Lisa Bobby, psychologist and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching in Denver, Colorado. They can also help reduce your anxiety.

A boundary is not about telling your partner what to do or change, but about expressing what you will do for your health, she says.

“You’re setting limits on yourself,” she says. “You are not controlling the behavior of others. You are telling people what you will or will not tolerate with the choices you make.”

Here’s why it’s so hard to set boundaries and how to do it.

Setting boundaries in a relationship can be difficult

If you have a partner you may feel responsible for their happiness. That’s something you have to unlearn, says Bobby.

“Setting healthy boundaries is about letting go of the idea that you have to manage someone else’s emotions,” says Bobby. “Your job is to take care of yourself emotionally and let other people take care of themselves emotionally.”

Your job is to take care of yourself emotionally and let other people take care of themselves emotionally.

That doesn’t mean you won’t encounter pushback, she says. In fact, you should expect it.

“That’s what makes it so hard for people to set healthy boundaries, this self-imposed obligation to make others feel good or be happy,” she says. “If you want to set healthy boundaries for yourself, that’s not always consistent with other people feeling good.”

You should also expect that if you are in a “system” with someone who is not in a healthy place, “the system will protest.”

For example, a partner who drinks heavily to cope with stress and expects you to join them may try to guilt you into going out whenever they’ve had a bad day, regardless of your preferences. Know that it can happen – and that you can say “no”.

“The system will try very hard to pull that person into an unhealthy place,” she says. “You don’t have to participate, but expect it.”

It’s fine to just say ‘No. I can not.’

Your boundary is about your action, so vocalizing it should focus on what you’re going to do. For example, if your partner insists on hanging out with your friends, but you would benefit from some alone time with your social group, you can say:

“I understand you’d like to be included and sometimes I’m happy to do so, but it’s important to me to have time alone with my friends, so I won’t invite you every time.”

You can also provide a little more context, she says. For example, if your partner wants you to text them back while you’re at work, but you don’t want to, you can say:

“I hear you prefer it when I text you back, but I’m realizing it’s hard for me to focus. I know you get upset when I don’t text you back and it makes me anxious so I have to set this boundary. while I’m In work”.

If you want to set healthy boundaries for yourself, it’s not always in line with other people’s good feelings.

Acknowledge their feelings and show them that you care about them, she says, but that your health is important, too. And don’t forget to stay focused on what you need.

“People, especially women, really feel like they need to protect themselves and can take a lot of pushback about setting healthy boundaries,” she says. It’s okay to just say “no, I can’t do that.”

It is important to be thoughtful and selective

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