Relationship boundaries and expectations are often talked about as the key to successful relationships. What isn’t often addressed is that relationship boundaries and expectations can hurt your relationship also.
Good relationship boundaries include the following: spending time apart, neither one of you being in charge, being flexible, displaying respect for each other, and staying yourself in the relationship. All of these sound great, right?
So, how is that possible? That something meant to make a relationship strong can also serve to weaken it?
Let me tell you…
#1 – You don’t communicate clearly.
Relationship boundaries and expectations can hurt your relationship if they aren’t communicated clearly to each other.
Imagine that for you to be happy in a relationship you need to spend time alone but you don’t tell your partner that it’s important for you. That spending time alone only enhances your feelings for your partner and improves your relationship.
Imagine how your need to be alone might make your partner feel? Perhaps your partner thinks that your need to be alone is a negative reflection of how you feel about them. Perhaps when you are off alone your partner is worried and miserable.
Can you see how that might not be so great for your relationship?
So, make sure that you and your partner set boundaries and expectations together and that you both understand clearly what they are.
#2 – Your expectations don’t match.
Another way that relationship boundaries and expectations can hurt your relationship is if your boundaries and expectations don’t match.
Let’s say that you both know how important it is for you to remain yourself in a relationship. That if you aren’t yourself you just don’t feel happy, alone or together. But what if your partner believes that individuals in couples should work hard to change for the other person. That the individual no longer matters, only the couple.
If relationship boundaries and expectations don’t match in a relationship, the relationship will be doomed unless both parties are willing to work together to make things work both of them.
#3 – Spending time apart doesn’t work for everyone.
Spending time alone in relationship is a very important part of it being healthy. Couples who can enjoy time apart are usually very happy to come back together.
This is not always the case for some couples. Some individuals really struggle when they can’t be with their partner. They are happy that their partner is doing his own thing but they are paralyzed by missing him. They do not take the opportunity to get out and do their own thing but instead sit at home, sad and growing resentful.
So, if one person can’t handle the being alone part it can be very damaging to a relationship. If that occurs, work together to figure out a way for you to spend time on your own in a way that won’t hurt your partner. Maybe do it around times when they already have plans. Or when they are away for work.
Spending time alone is important. Try hard to make it happen.
#4 – No one is in charge.
Making sure that no one person is in charge of a relationship is a key relationship boundary that keeps relationships happy. But it can also be fraught with issues.
When no one is captain of the ship it is possible for the ship to founder. If crew members are left on their own to make decisions independently, without taking into account the other crew members, disaster can happen.
The same can happen with relationships. When no one takes the lead in any one area, such as planning social events or doing work on the house, then, more likely than not, nothing will happen. And, when nothing happens, a relationship can get stagnant and stale pretty quickly.
So, divide and conquer. If something has to happen put one person in charge of taking the lead. It doesn’t have to apply to everything, just the one event that is being addressed.
Don’t let lack of leadership be a bad thing in your relationship.
#5 – You are your own person at the expense of the relationship.
Yes, being your own person in a relationship is very important. No one can be happy if they aren’t being who they truly are.
Unfortunately, the need to be your own person can interfere with the health of a relationship.
In my marriage we had a struggle with this issue. I was the kind of person who was always polite and kind but also insisted on speaking my truth about what I wanted and confronting issues up front.
My ex, and his family, definitely didn’t prescribe to my philosophy. They believed in fitting in with a crowd, going along with what the group wanted to do. They never addressed issues head on but rather said nothing, hoping it would all go away.
The struggle between me needing to be me and the needs of my ex-husband and his family was a profound one that ultimately led to the end of our marriage, I believe.
So, work hard to stay true to yourself in relationship but make sure that if it brings up any issues you are ready to face them head on with your partner before they ruin your relationship.
Good for you for wanting to keep your relationship healthy and doing the research, reading about boundaries and deciding how to apply them to your behaviors and your relationship. That is great work and should be applauded.
BUT, remember, if you don’t share what you learned with your partner and tell them how you are going to apply them to your actions in relationship then you are doomed from the start.
Your partner might not understand why your behaviors are different or that they don’t line up with his. Why is flexibility and respect so important to you? Why are you leaving him alone and insisting on being yourself? And if he doesn’t understand that can definitely hurt a relationship.
So, set healthy relationship boundaries and expectations together and continually work to make sure they are helping your relationship and not hurting them!
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I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.