Setting Boundaries in a Developing Relationship

This is a guest post from Ian Birke. 

You got dumped. I’ve been there too. It stinks. Early on post break-up when things feel the most raw and agonizing it can all feel like one giant step backward. It doesn’t have to be. One of the few silver linings of break-ups is that they give us an opportunity to stop, reflect, and learn from the mistakes we made. In this article, I’m going to explore one of the biggest mistakes men often make in relationships: not setting boundaries. 

Setting Boundaries 

To have boundaries means to maintain dignity in the relationship for both of you. It is not a list of rules that are used to manipulate or otherwise control your partner. 

These are a few examples. 

  1. She doesn’t talk down to you, or talk negatively about you. 
  2. She is openly enthusiastic about being with you. 
  3. She doesn’t take the good things you do for her for granted. 
  4. She doesn’t try to interfere when you try to improve yourself. 
  5. She doesn’t respect your role as the man and leader of the relationship. 

Before Things Gets Worse 

Failing relationships are difficult to put back on track. Arguments. Disrespect. The ugliest sides of ourselves can come out in the heat of the moment. At times like these, we can feel like if we could only convince the other person to see things differently, then all the issues in the relationship might be resolved in an instant. Most of the time this simply isn’t the case. 

Not having boundaries in a relationship is like not caring that your home has a mold infestation. For a while, you might be able to live with the mold, but eventually, it’s going to do a number on your health. In the same way, it is healthy to have standards about our living conditions, we also have to set and maintain a standard for our relationships. 

It’s Not About How Much You Care 

Going back to the mold analogy, it would seem the best solution is to get to work cleaning up the mold as soon as possible. This of course takes some effort (like taking out food items from cupboards, moving the oven away from the wall, etc). Whilst every relationship requires effort to maintain, when it comes to setting boundaries it isn’t about effort at all. It’s about being able to walk away when your boundaries are no longer being respected. 

You can’t pretend to walk away. You can’t make idle threats. You must sincerely be ready and willing to end the relationship should your boundaries not be respected. If your heart still skips a beat when you think about your ex, then the idea of walking away from someone who might be ‘the one’ might seem counter-intuitive. It really isn’t. In fact, for a healthy relationship to thrive and prosper, your setting boundaries and willingness to walk away from the relationship is how you give it every opportunity to work. 

Break the Cycle 

It’s said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. Suppose you’ve been in a relationship (or several) where you haven’t set boundaries and have been willing to walk away. In that case, you’re insane to think the following relationship is going to magically work out. It won’t because you haven’t changed. 

The reason men avoid (and sometimes don’t even consider) putting boundaries in a relationship is the fear that women will no longer stick around when they do. Low-quality women will run for the hills. That’s great because we don’t want them. High-quality women will respect and appreciate you significantly more because you have the self-assurance to set boundaries. 

Commit to Yourself 

Scarcity creates value. Your commitment to a relationship should not be given on a silver platter. When a woman feels she has you in her back pocket, that you’re smitten, that’s when she’ll feel comfortable overstepping boundaries you’ve set in the relationship. Here’s a secret: whether they realize it or not, women love men who set boundaries. 

First and foremost you must commit to yourself. The more fulfilling your life is, the more attractive you are to others. It all starts with being willing to do the work to be happy on your own terms first. Only then will you be ready to welcome others into your life the right way. 

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