The image of romance being a highway has been twisted and curved by many authors, speakers, and well meaning advise givers. Anything from “no exits” to “stay in your lane” have been used with the analogy to inspire lovers to stay together for life. Today, we’re adding a different layer to this useful analogy.
Where do boundaries fit in love, romance, relationships, and marriage? Should there be any?
A Case for Boundaries
All human relationships are negotiations. We learn to get along by sharing information and sharing of ourselves. Sadly, some folks get lost in the process for any number of reasons.
The best relationships all have boundaries built into their existence. The pain and damages come in part when expectations are unmet, boundaries are broken, trust is breeched, or others refuse to stay in their lanes.
Boundaries inside a relationship
We all have our preferences. We’re not going to meet someone who perfectly meshes and blends in with us. There will always be a little difference. The way to safeguard unnecessary hurt is to help our partners know our limits, our boundaries.
It could be something as small as letting your partner know that when you’re asleep, you like the door close. They may not treasure this or value it, but to you, it makes all the difference in the world. Your partner needs to know that you intend to have this boundary respected as you negotiate with them how to best keep that boundary intact.
It could be more significant. A boundary may be as serious as keeping your partner out of your personal family business that doesn’t concern them. Like… they can’t tell you how to speak with your sibling when you do speak with your sibling. (provided the nature of that relationship is healthy and the conversation has no impact on your partner). More clearly phrased… for example… they can’t tell you how much you can or can’t laugh with your sibling when you’re with your sibling.
didn’t want to use the example of your partner understanding the importance of not signing legal documents for you without you knowing… as that is beyond “more significant”
There are things we are OK with and things that we’re not. These boundaries have to be voiced, explained, understood, and even negotiated. But not compromised. It’s a respect thing. If your partner cares about you like they say they do, they will respect your boundaries just like they will expect you to respect theirs as well.
Boundaries outside a relationship
We live in a world where some people feel entitled to tell you what to do within your relationship. For clarity purposes, we’re talking about legally grown adult romantic relationships.
This can be influences of in-laws, parents, siblings, community friends, and others we have friendships with. The couple has to have a certain degree of boundaries in place to keep the relationship moving smoothly.
“Too many chefs spoil the broth” is a phrase often used to help young married couples understand the importance of keeping outside influences from creating stress for the relationship.
These boundaries require a degree of diplomacy. Many forget that. Others go too far and place barriers they believe are boundaries. There is a difference. Barriers block and prevent knowledge sharing. Boundaries define the path by which knowledge sharing will be accepted.
Example: Couple A decided to pro-actively block the influence of all family on their relationship… just to be safe. Couple B, after reviewing their values, agreed on what limits they would start to put in place should any family member try to influence them in a way they didn’t want to be influenced.
One is erecting barriers and the other is setting boundaries in place. The diplomacy comes into play with how the couple notifies and negotiates with the outside.
Example: If the husband wants boundaries set in place with his in-laws… after speaking with his wife and getting a consenting agreement, the wife needs to inform tactfully her family of the boundaries she’d like to see respected with regards to her relationship. The same goes with the wife… the husband needs to inform his family of the boundaries he expects. This is why both parties in the marriage (or long term dating) have to be on the same page and in agreement.
This also applies with friendships. Two friends may be receiving toxic influence from another friend. It is OK for these two to find a tactful way to set up boundaries to protect the friendship.
note: wisdom has to play here. Some influences are for the good of the relationship. Some influences are not. Discernment is critical on top of amazing diplomacy.
Without going into extensive discussion, families by definition can have boundaries issues baked into them if people don’t know how to self-advocate or change with the times.
When children are growing up, the adults make a lot of the decisions for them. As they grow, the balance should be shifting so they can become more independent. Some parents can’t handle that well or gracefully. Some children do not want to follow the normal progression of growing up.
Then, when you mix this set of dynamics inside a nuclear family and branch it out to the extended family, these dynamics get very complicated fast.
Harder still for some, how do children set boundaries with their parents and at what age should they? Then, later in life, when children have their own children, where do boundaries fall? How do the grandparents set and respect boundaries? When grandparents are in need of support, how do boundaries work there?
Quiet complicated. With no guidebook left for us to follow. This is why it takes patience, diplomacy, tact, and wisdom to discern where to go and how to proceed. It is really a negotiated process that requires both art and skills wrapped in finesse.
As one kicks off a new week, lets take boundaries as the safety mechanism that keeps the relationship running smoothly down the highway of love one step further.
We need dividers to keep toxic traffic flowing away from us. We need run-off areas, as boundaries, that help us realize we’ve gone off the path but not destroy us as we slow down and regroup to return back on track. We need lines to delineated he boundaries of the relationship so all drivers (the two in the relationship) know exactly where the relationship should go. The negotiation allows for the engineering of curves to move around obstacles that are too costly to move out of the way.
Some boundaries are negotiated, like solid versus dotted white lines. Others are bright-lines, like the yellow lines, where consequences can be painful for not respecting the lines. Other boundaries are less tangible but still require voicing and respect.
Each person should invest in keeping up with their own boundaries. Know where they’ve shifted over time, and review them to ensure you want them where they’re at. If you’re happy with your existing boundaries, honor them. If you’re not, do the work of growth to change them. Most boundaries are not fixed in stone.
Make time, once you’re done identifying your existing boundaries, to talk with your significant other. They have to know where you stand, after all, they’re just as invested in the relationship as you are. Talk. Learn. Negotiate. Understand. Respect each other’s boundaries.
As the journey through life continues, allow the highway of love to develop more lanes. The wider the lanes, the more room you’ll have to have fun. The more lanes the more capacity to have enjoyable love. Keep boundaries to the necessary minimum and as low as possible without risking unchecked harm. Save the big boundaries for when it really matters.
Have a great week as you search to improve the traffic patterns of your love and minimize delays from excessive boundaries and barriers. Until next time, do share your thoughts, this post, and click like.
Thank you for the continued encouragement, support, and reading.