This first appeared as a guest post on DarlingMagazine.org. It is part 3 of 3
In my last article, we came up with the WHY behind our relationship boundaries, discussing how the WHY gives purpose, lays the foundation, and keeps us committed to the boundaries each of us sets for ourselves.
Today, we’re discussing the HOW.
Building healthy, effective boundaries begins with envisioning where you want these relationships to go and what you’d like them to become. As Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, so wisely says, “begin with the end in mind.”
In order to know what sort of framework you want to have, you first need to know what you’re trying to build. Think through your friendships and your romantic relationships. What do you ultimately want out of them? For your romantic relationships, is it marriage? If so, what kind of marriage? Are the friendships that you ultimately want long-lasting and authentic? Are they people that build you up, challenge you, have everything in common with you and/or bring a totally different perspective into your life?
Once you decide where you’re trying to go, it’s time to create the game plan to get there. Every day you’re making decisions in relationships that will either strengthen or weaken them. A good way to determine which boundaries are best for you is by asking yourself what would happen to you and that relationship if you DID implement it, and what would happen if you DID NOT.
The suggested boundaries listed below focus on romantic relationships, but some of them could apply to friendships as well (such as respecting each other’s time, and having a balance of how much time is spent together versus including others). Hopefully, some of these points will get you started on creating your own practical, specific boundaries:
-Making sure you are balancing time spent together and time spent with other friends or family.
-Respecting one another’s personal time.
-Going on “intentional” dates to see each other in various situations–ie: going out with groups, double dates, volunteering together, picnics, concerts, etc.
-Perhaps becoming friends first before dating.
-Limiting alcohol consumption (If you’re 21+).
-Having a clear idea of your sexual boundaries: what will best protect your body and your heart?-Paying attention to what your clothing says about how you view yourself and how you want others to view you. Our wardrobe can speak volumes about our expectations and boundaries without us ever opening our mouth.
-Guarding your heart by limiting the amount of time spent communicating each day/week.
You’ll want to add or remove items for your own list according to what you’re trying to ultimately build. I encourage you not to compromise on what the boundaries look like, and not to let others tell you that they’re unrealistic, too narrow, or that you have set your bar too high. Remember, this is about helping you have the best relationships possible. At the end of the day, it is you that is going to be most affected by what you decide, so choose wisely.
The final part of your boundary equation is accountability. Find people who will support you, who you give permission to call you out, who will help you stick to what you’re building, and who will remind you of your WHY when it becomes difficult.
Your recipe for success, in a nutshell: Decide why boundaries are important to you, envision what kinds of relationships you’re trying to build towards, create the game plan for getting you there, and find someone to hold you accountable.