In the past few years, more and more people have been talking about the importance of setting up boundaries with your significant other and having them abide by them.
Of course, I do think it’s healthy for partners in a relationship to operate in a way that makes each other feel respected and heard, but I think sometimes people go too far with the parameters they set up.
I Guess My Thoughts On The Subject Started A Few Weeks Ago
I was hanging out with a friend and having a wine night when she mentioned that she was upset with her boyfriend over something she had done. Naturally, I asked her to elaborate on the issue.
She mentioned that he had taken a trip to Las Vegas a while back with a group of his friends and, naturally, had gone to a strip club while there.
She Gave Me A Few More Details
She went on to explain that it had happened months before, but she was still bothered to find out about it. It’s not like he had paid for a dance, but she definitely was uncomfortable with the whole ordeal and had left their conversation clearly upset about it all.
She felt that he had acted in a way that she was not okay with and found the whole thing out of character.
She Asked How I Would Feel
I told her, honestly, that if a guy I was seeing went to Vegas and didn’t go to a strip club, I would kind of be confused. I think that’s part of the Vegas experience (I mean, I’ve even done it), and not going would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower.
But I told her it wasn’t about my comfort level, it was about hers.
Then, With More Details, I Got More Skeptical
However, the more she talked about it, the less I supported her feeling upset. As it turned out, she had been talking to the guy for weeks before he went to Vegas, but they weren’t exclusively dating.
I asked her how she could be mad at him for something he did before they were officially together, but she mentioned that, based on her demeanor, he should have known it would upset her.
…And It Got Me Thinking
At what point do we deserve to get upset at people we date? I mean, in my opinion, he hadn’t done anything wrong, but she was adamant that he had crossed a line in her books.
I personally thought that she was being unreasonable, and it got me thinking about what it means to set boundaries with someone, and should a partner be able to negotiate the line?
I Was Reminded Of Another Situation
A friend of mine (let’s call her Brienne) was upset about her boyfriend not really communicating at all with her for a few days because he was “busy.” I figured, surely he’d have time to send a text or two, right?
From her side of the story, the idea that she wanted some communication made sense and was a reasonable ask.
But With More Context, I Was More Apt To Side With Him
As it turned out, he had specifically asked for some space for a week so that he could focus on finishing his thesis for his master’s degree.
In addition, he and Brienne had been in a bit of an argument for a while, so trying to communicate with her was emotionally exhausting for him at a time when he didn’t really have the energy to focus on anything but his thesis.
So When Does A Boundary Become Toxic?
I understand that it’s important to have a partner who makes us feel secure and comfortable in the relationship, but I think it can get toxic when we prioritize that above all or fail to see the other person’s side of the coin.
People reinforce the idea that boundaries should be hard and fast, but sometimes they should be malleable—you shouldn’t demand a regular level of communication if a partner is in irregular circumstances.
Being On The Receiving End Of Harsh Boundaries Can Be A Really Bad Experience
There was a time when I was dating a guy and, while he was away on business, I had planned a weekend trip to a different city with two of my female friends. When there, we planned to stay with two guys that my friend was close with and, therefore, save money on accommodations.
I told my boyfriend about the plan, and he immediately said that he didn’t want me staying with two other guys in the city and that it made him uncomfortable.
I Didn’t Really Know What To Do
On one hand, I obviously didn’t want to make my boyfriend upset by going and staying there, but on the other hand, I felt that he was being paranoid and ridiculous about the situation. I knew that there was no harm in the situation, but he was adamant that he didn’t want me to go.
Reflecting on it, it was kind of an infringement on my independence for him to say that I couldn’t do something because he was uncomfortable. I went anyway. Not much later, we broke up.
I Guess The Tipping Point Is When Our Boundaries Disrupt Those Of Our Partner
I think that it’s important to understand that our boundaries cannot be final in a relationship and that they have to, at the heart of it, be fair. While boundaries came into the discussion about relationships as a way to protect yourself, for some, they’ve gone on to be a way to control the other person and potentially even be selfish.
Sometimes, we can conflate our personal desires with things that we need from a partner, which can cause us to be pretty toxic to our significant others.
We Need To Hold Ourselves Accountable
It’s easy to put a boundary out there and then get upset when a partner doesn’t live up to it. However, I think it’s important to really evaluate what we consider “boundaries” and ask ourselves if they are actually fair to the people in our lives.
I’m a big believer in “putting myself in their shoes,” but I also recognize that the things I’m comfortable with don’t always equal what a partner needs or wants. Additionally, I recommend running them by friends who will be brutally honest with you as to whether or not you’re being reasonable.
Ultimately, Boundaries Should Be Mutually Discussed
When it comes to boundaries, just like anything in a relationship, they should be agreed upon by both parties. You can’t demand certain things in a way that disadvantages your partner or infringes on their personal comfort levels.
At their heart, boundaries are about compromise. Of course, there are things that make sense to be firm on—like, “Don’t cheat on me, period.” But other things exist in a shade of gray that you both get to make the final call on or change in the future.