by Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT
Setting boundaries early in your relationships sets the stage for a partner that knows how to be successful for you.
No one knows what you want or need unless you say it. On one knows what is acceptable to you unless you say it. Many of us (myself included) don’t say it because we don’t want to be rejected. We want to fit the mold of what we BELIEVE is desirable or lovable to our potential partner. So we tell white lies to them… and even to ourselves… about what is and isn’t okay.
We do this by saying “it’s okay” when someone hows up late even if it’s not.
We do this by agreeing to go places that make us uncomfortable so that we seem fun.
We do this by eating or drinking or listening or watching things that don’t make us feel good. Just to go with the flow.
If you don’t set boundaries in the beginning, then you may set up a relationship in which lines are blurred.
Eventually, in response to frustration or resentment you will attempt to set the boundary. Most likely harshly. And to the surprise of your partner. They will “rebel” and you will seem “out of line” or “unfair”. You might even escalate in response to years of feeling disrespected or your partner “should have just known” how to treat you.
The thing is, people don’t know until they know. And even worse, when you stop enforcing your boundaries sometimes you don’t know either. Sometimes you forget what you stand for. It becomes easier to lose yourself.
So get out there and say “no” to some stuff. The right people will still stay around.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT is a licensed marriage therapist in Philadelphia. Elizabeth supports individuals and couples improve the relationship they have with themselves and others through better communication, self soothing, and a clear understanding of what a successful marriage looks like. She believes that any committed couples who is willing to do the work can walk away from therapy with more clarity and connection in their relationship.