I am not sure if there are many skills in the interpersonal communication as important as the art of establishing your own physical and mental territory – probably not. Establishing boundaries is a fundamental part of the development of every healthy relationship in your life.
But what exactly is “establishing boundaries” and why do I call it art?
One person’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins. This is why it is essential to establish our own psychological “territory” and express in a healthy and positive way your desires, wishes and ideas about living among your beloved human beings.
For instance, in your love life you should express what you expect from life and relationships in general, what you desire and what you are not going to put up with. It is not necessary to give a list to the other person on your first date, but when you communicate on daily basis soon you will have the opportunity to give clear information about all the things that are dear to you – dreams, values, etc. Then you will be also able to define some basic rules for the relationship and hopefully the other person will agree.
The boundaries that you will put will be as unique as yourself. For some people infidelity is a huge deal breaker, for others it is the opposite – they can’t live without their freedom to have sex with anyone they want and are willing to give the same freedom to the person they are dating. Some people will just hate when the other person is lazy or not punctual, others will find it cute and live with it. What about you?
And this is valid not only about your love life. You establish your limits when you define your relationship with your parents, family and friends too (usually during and after puberty when you are old enough to negotiate). YOU decide if they will have a word in your love life, your career decisions, not them. You decide if their opinion will be as important as yours or not and why. Remember that people who love you will try to convince you to live your life according to their values because they believe that this will make you happy. This is good, this means that they care, but the decision is yours and it is your responsibility to communicate it to them.
Why do I call this art?
First, because it requires hard work, skills and a little talent. It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to find the right way to explain every single desire and wish that you have to the people who matter to you, sometimes with the risk offending them. Try not to be too harsh on them, explain everything you anticipate or fear, be open for their opinion.
You shouldn’t be selfish and just demand. It is a two way process of agreement and understanding, after all your beloved ones will know much more about you and this is great prize, but remember that if you can’t agree on fundamental stuff, your relationship will be in assessment. It could even end. But this is good too. You don’t want to waste someone’s time just as you don’t want someone to be wasting yours.
And last but not least, after you succeed in defining your clear boundaries, define what you want and communicate it to the people you love, the result will be a real masterpiece. People will know what to expect from you and what they can’t ask you to do for them; they will know that even when you are busy you still love them; they will start giving you their love just the way you want to receive it and you will be surrounded of the right people for you.
I am not saying that it will be easy. If you are natural born talent maybe you already do all of this unconsciously and you have great relationships with the people you love. If this is the case, great! If not, remember that you CAN do it, just give it a try.