Setting boundaries in relationships takes courage, and if I’m honest, sometimes it takes more courage than you’ve got.
What if they say no? What if they get mad? What if it just makes things worse? What if they leave you because you’re more trouble than you’re worth?!
Yeesh! Boundaries might seem scary but only because you haven’t learned how to set them yet.
The delightful surprise here is that they are actually key to intimacy. You can’t have one without the other.
In this post, you’ll learn about the three boundary and intimacy blockers, how to set a boundary so a man will hear it, what to do if you get a negative reaction and more!
Come join me as we explore everything you need to know about boundaries in relationships.
How do I set a boundary in my relationship? And what do I do when I get a negative reaction to setting a boundary?
Boundaries in Relationships
First off let’s explore what stops us from setting boundaries in relationships — conscious and unconscious. Because if you’re not setting boundaries regularly, then there must be a reason.
- Fear of being rejected and/or left.
- Fear of upsetting your partner.
- Fear of hearing the word “No.”
Now let’s explore why those Boundary Blockers are actually Intimacy Blockers.
Boundary Blockers Are Actually Intimacy Blockers
Fear of being rejected and/or left.
If you don’t ask, you’ll never know if he can meet your needs. Setting boundaries and making requests in relationships is a door you have to walk through in order to see if he’s capable of being your special someone.
Otherwise, you’re just taking what you can get, taking what’s offered, taking what’s convenient for him to give when it’s convenient for him to give it. When you date without boundaries, you’re not even giving the relationship a chance.
Your fear of rejection is keeping you from starting an intimate relationship.
Fear of upsetting your partner.
In the beginning of the dating process, it’s about putting your best foot forward and seeing if you like each other at your very best. Relationships aren’t meant to be bought “off the rack,” they’re meant to be customized. After the first few dates, it’s about customizing your relationship to what you want and need. You do this by setting boundaries and making requests.
Trust that while you’re tailoring, you’re going to accidentally prick each other with some sharp pins. Someone might say “ouch!” That’s an opportunity to learn more about each other and improve communication.
Accidentally triggering each other is an inevitable truth of customizing your relationship and growing in intimacy. If you stay in a people pleaser role, then you’re not being true to who you are. Intimacy = into me see.
If you’re not even on the table, how is he supposed to see you to love you?
Fear of hearing the word “No.”
“No” feels dangerous until you start saying it. We walk around on eggshells dreading the word “No” because of false beliefs around it, like they must be mad at us, they think we’re greedy, they think we don’t deserve it, etc. Once you start saying “No” you realize it’s not about the other person. It’s about you and your capacity to give in that moment.
Plus, if you’re in a relationship, you better get cozy with the word “No.” “Yes” — the very nature of consent, of receiving love, of opening up to your partner, of being vulnerable and intimate — doesn’t mean much if you and your partner don’t feel free and easy about saying “No.”
How can Yes mean anything if you’re not allowed to say No?
Hopefully, I’ve shown you or at least validated for you that boundaries in relationships are essential for intimacy to exist. You can’t have one without the other.
Now let’s look at how to set a boundary:
How to Set a Boundary so He’ll Hear It (3 Concrete Examples)
First of all, “Respect,” “Honesty,” and “Better listening” are all uncooked boundaries, as in, they’re not ready to go out to the diner. They are ideals and needs but not yet in a form a man can hear it and take action to be successful.
And unless he hears it and can take action to be successful, then communicating these uncooked boundaries is really an exercise of cathartic complaining. (A great activity to do with your girlfriends over a cup of tea; not a productive activity in your romantic relationship).
So how do you effectively set boundaries in relationships?
A man can hear a request because it’s not a criticism of how he’s done things up til now; it’s a request for how to please you in the future. A man can take action to be successful with a request because it’s actionable, it’s a specific request; the more specific, the easier he can succeed at it. The more he succeeds, the more testosterone is produced, the more addicted he gets to pleasing you. Sounds pretty great right? Hormones! They’re powerful stuff!
Here’s the formula I invite you to use:
Journal these 3 steps and write em out.
- Step one: I don’t like or I don’t want…
- Step two: I’d like or I want…
- Step three (convert into a request): “I’d love and/or Would you…”
I went on Facebook the other day and asked people what boundary they wish they could set in their relationship but are too afraid to attempt. I created these three examples based on the feedback I got from them.
Example 1: Boundary for Space
Step one: I don’t like feeling smothered, you’re texting me all the time, and I’m literally cringing at your touch.
Step two: I’d like space, just a day where you don’t text me or call me or touch me or ask me for anything. A day to myself to do whatever I want without having to take care of anyone!
Step three: I’d like to have a “Me-Day:” a day where I get to hang out with myself and connect with myself. Would you support me in this goal by not texting me or calling me or touching me? Just pretend I’m away on a vacation and think happy thoughts for me. That’ll really help me explore this time with myself. I think it’s exactly what I need.
Share your request with him verbally (or write him a note if you’re too nervous and hand it to him). Smile to soften it, your smile reassures him of your love and acceptance.
Example 2: Boundary for “Not in the Mood”
Step one: I don’t want to go out on a date this week. I’m not in the mood, and I don’t feel like it.
Step two: I want time to myself, but I also want you to ask me out again sometime soon, and I don’t want to have to make the next move.
Step three: I’d love to come out with you, but I can’t this week. Would you text me this weekend, and we’ll come up with another plan? (Share with him and smile!)
Example 3: Boundary of Attention
Step one: I don’t like it when you talk on the phone with other people while I’m in the car. It’s loud, noisy, and rude.
Step two: I want you to be present when we’re together and just pay attention to me. I like the quiet.
Step three: I love our special time, just the two of us in the car. When you get a call, if it’s at all possible, would you tell them you’re busy and you’ll call them back later? (Share with him and smile!)
What If He Has a Negative Reaction
He might. He totally might. He probably won’t but depending on the day he’s had or the particular button you’ve pressed, he might.
It’s fear of the unknown that’s scary, so let’s explore the three main “negative reactions” a man will have to a boundary request:
- Immediate anger/defensiveness
- Pouting/moping/taking it personally
Now let’s look at what to do in these circumstances so you’re prepared with a conscious response and you’re not just fear reacting to his reaction:
Immediate anger/defensiveness – He’s stuck in a fear response and will only fight if engaged. Walk away. Come back and approach it later like it’s the first time. He needs cave time to come back to his senses.
Mockery/putdowns – Oy vey. He’s triggered and not thinking clearly. Straighten your spine, puff out your chest and say calmly, “Speaking to me like that is not okay. I’ll give you space, and we can discuss this later when you’re ready to speak kindly to me.” Be calm, be cool, and do not second guess yourself. Walk away. If he’s resorted to the communication style of “monkey brain” throwing feces, you’re not going to have a productive conversation. Let him go to his cave, try again later.
Pouting/moping/taking it personally – Use buffers. If he’s moping, you can try buffers such as: “This isn’t about you doing something bad, it’s about my need for ___________ independence, space, self-expression, reassurance, understanding, predictability, etc.).”
The main thing is: don’t get sucked up into this too deep. Ultimately, you’re a partner, not a mother, and it’s not your job to take care of his feelings. It’s your job to communicate your needs to him in the most loving and considerate way you can. Beyond that, walk away.
When in doubt, walk away and go do something nice for yourself. Do NOT judge the success of your boundary-setting on his reaction. His reaction is a result of his life experience and his own insecurities about the relationship and his capacity to make you happy. Don’t even go down that road, it’s not yours to travel.
Depending on your previous experience with boundaries in relationships, you probably just climbed Mt. Everest and deserve a celebration for your courage. Go do something nice for yourself.
The Best “Something Nice for Yourself”
Setting a boundary is like the tip of an iceberg. It’s just that tiny thing you see on top. If you try lifting it, you might find it’s too heavy.
That’s because there’s actually a huge bottom section that is the entire foundation of a successful relationship. Down in the depths is where you develop your backbone, where you hone your communication skills so they’re at the ready, where you learn about your subject (both your unconscious and your partner’s) so you can make conscious choices that address it in a way where you get what you want with confidence.
I created the most AMAZING step-by-step, paint-by-numbers, fun, and empowering online course where you develop the whole foundation of a successful relationship. The Boundary Lift comes easy when you develop the muscles of a “Me-Timer.” It’s a 6-week bootcamp for your relationship, and according to my students, somehow, it’s actually “really fun!”
One student applied her boundaries and within three weeks discovered her 6-year relationship was abusive and in her language “she left him and never looked back.” She then applied her new smarts and backbone to her love life, and within a year, created the love of her life! She had all the tools to customize a relationship and none of the fear that holds someone back from giving a relationship the boundaries it needs to succeed.
Most of my students apply their boundaries only to find out that their partner has been wanting them to be happy this whole time and all they needed was this program to unlock it. “He actually wants me to be happy” and “Getting what I want is easy now” are things I regularly hear from my graduates.
Do something nice for yourself. Join How to Get More Me-Time. Six weeks from now you’ll thank yourself for taking the leap. If you want to learn more about these inspiring women and their journeys with boundaries in relationships, click here and scroll down to their smiling faces.