Setting boundaries in our relationships and at work can be hard and is especially tough for people in high-pressure fields, like the medical field, or for those who work as first responders, but setting those boundaries – both at work and in your relationship – is critical.
When we talk about boundaries, there are three kinds we can use when we need to say no to a request.
1. Rigid Boundaries
A rigid boundary is a firm NO. For example, your partner may ask you to go have a cup of coffee with them one morning when you’re enjoying just relaxing at home. If you’d rather spend some quiet time alone, you can say, “No, I just want to spend some time by myself.”
2. No Boundaries
When you don’t have boundaries, you often say yes when you don’t really want to. You might think ‘I don’t want to get coffee, can’t they see that I just want to be alone right now?…but they really want me to, I’ll just go.’ Not having boundaries – whether it’s a partnership, friendship or work relationship – leads to resentment over time.
3. Permeable Boundaries
What you want to have are permeable boundaries that let you decide what you want to take in, and what you want to leave out. They allow you to decide how you want to relate to others. In the coffee example, you might say “No, not right now, I want to spend some time alone. But I’d love to make time for us later. Would you like to get together later today and play a game of Scrabble?”
Saying ‘No’ Means We Respect Our Time – And Others Do, Too
Every ‘no’ allows us to figure out how we’re going to be respectful of our time – how we’re going to create those opportunities for ourselves, and for our partners. It allows us to figure out how we want to say yes, and keeps up attuned with our partners.
It also allows your partner to let you know how they feel. Looking back at the previous example, they might tell you that having that cup of coffee now is more important to them than playing a game of Scrabble together later.
If the boundary issue isn’t with your partner, but with your job, and the job demands are cutting into the time you normally spend together, you can always ask your partner. For example, you can ask “Is it ok with you if I work some overtime this weekend? I know we usually spend the weekends together, but I want to save some more money for the trip we’re planning.”
Curiosity Makes Your Love Work
When in doubt, be curious. Being curious allows us to be open with our partner. Curiosity – about each others’ thoughts and feelings, wants and needs, and about each others’ lives – is a major part of making your love work.
In the following video, I go deeper into how setting boundaries can strengthen your relationship.
Gain the Relationship You Desire
This LoveWorks is more than therapy – it is a process of relational transformation that takes advantage of the most relevant, accessible, understandable, and up-to-date information available. We want to help you and your partner to develop a deeper connection, recognize and fight dysfunction, and heal your relationship.