Every couple needs to have open conversations and come up with boundaries to be set within the relationship.
Good fences make good neighbors. Good boundaries make happy couples.
Love is romanticized to be selfless. You are expected to give without holding back. Anything that could come between you and your partner is seen as hurdles that block the flow of pure love. But let's hit pause before we add to the existing myths about relationships.
A) There is no such thing as selfless love.
B) You need to be self-full before you can give love, joy, support to others.
There is a difference between being selfish and being aware of your self. This includes understanding your likes/dislikes, preferences, interests, things you can tolerate, things you just CANNOT tolerate, etc.
Boundaries help ensure your relationship is healthy and your love comes from a place of fullness and not from a void. In short, boundaries define where the world, including your partner, ends and you begin. Here are some boundaries which need to be in place for your relationship to thrive.
This one resource pretty much determines how your life turns out. Even if you are head over heels in love with your partner, you are likely to enter a phase called Life, where you have a lot of other things to do apart from wanting to cuddle up and feel all warm and happy.
Ensure you have a firm boundary when it comes to your time. This includes understanding your priorities and goals and ensuring you make enough time for each of it. This also includes saying NO to requests from others and work, which could hamper your health or sense of wellbeing. So all these need to be put in place with a firm NO or equally effective response.
Make sure you also get time to unwind and relax. So if you have had a really long day and you could do a hot bath with some bath salts and unwind with some music, ensuring you don't feel pressurized to go out with a noisy bunch of people just because your partner was invited is an example of a healthy boundary in place.
This includes your physical space around your body and mental space. Just because you and your partner have been intimate, it doesn't mean you need to be okay with having no sense of privacy. If you live with your partner, ensure that there is a spot you can go to in order to unwind, where you know you won't be disturbed.
Similarly, you need mental space where you don't have to think of things to say or do.
This includes being aware of how you feel and how your partners' actions, inaction, words, expressions affect you. Are you always the one to say sorry? Do you feel guilty when you say NO to your partner? Are you the one to take all initiatives in the relationship? Do you feel obliged to give up what you feel/think in order to feel what your partner feels? All these suggest a lack of emotional boundaries.
What do you like, enjoy, prefer doing in bed (or elsewhere)? What is an absolute NO when it comes to sexual activities? What is something you haven't done, but you might want to try sometime in the future? Discussing this ensures you aren't caught off guard, or worse, end up feeling violated.
What about playful gestures with sexual undertones? Is it okay for your partner to pinch or spank you while you are in the kitchen or doing your yoga? How do you feel about your partner touching you when you are asleep? These are thin lines that can be concrete only after a discussion on consent.
How you want to spend your money, how much you want to save independently, how much you want to save together as a couple, what major expenses you want to budget for, little indulgences you want to have despite other commitments, etc. need to first be thought over before you discuss it with your partner.
You might think you will never be the couple to fight over money but trust us. It is better to be smart than sorry later. Good boundaries also stop things from getting ugly where you squabble over something you know is petty yet important to resolve later.
How do you feel about your partner going through your notes, journals, even your calendar? If you are the kind who writes "reflect on life goals and work on self-belief" in your to-do list, are you okay with your partner seeing it? It's okay if you don't mind and it's okay if you do.
What about the things you tell your partner? Do they know what are the things you wouldn't mind your common friends knowing? And which things are a complete no?
Are you both comfortable with sharing pics of your moments together? What about who in their list can see your snaps? What about emoticons—those confusing icons that can trigger strong emotions? How do you feel when your partner adds three winks or kiss smileys to a normal text. Is that a common sign of affection for friends for the both of you? Or does it mean more to one?
What do you want in your life outside of your relationship? How much involvement do you expect from your partner for it? Let's say you want to spend a hundred hours practicing an instrument or learning a new language. Your partner wants your evenings to be more about cooking healthy food together and catching up with each other. You need to discuss a time frame (boundary by the clock) to ensure both of you get your needs met.
Are you okay with being friends exes? What about your partner? What if your ex-was once a very good friend and has shifted back to being a friend after the relationship ended? What about following your exes on social media? And liking their pictures? Having a discussion about this topic is very important so that it doesn't crop up as an issue many years or decades later.
What are the things that make you feel unsafe? If you really are scared of roller coaster rides and your partner cajoles you to go for it, that's probably okay if you live to tell the tale. But what about more real-life fears like having to share a space with a stranger or working out in a gym that doesn't feel okay?
It's very important to listen to your inner alarm whenever you feel a sense of danger. This holds true for social meetings, too. Suppose your partner is very excited to take you to their office party. And the boss you've heard so much about gives you the creeps and you just don't feel comfortable around them. You have the right to keep away and the right to tell your partner, who will hopefully protect your boundaries and make you feel safe.
Remember, it's important for boundaries to be explicitly stated and agreed. Yet, they are flexible and revisable as you and your partner grow and as your relationship evolves to take new forms.