“Having and setting boundaries is more than saying no. It is about understanding, establishing, and maintaining your values, your limits, what is important to you,” says Dr. Yemi Lekuti, a licensed therapist at Amy Wine Counseling Center in Cypress, Texas. Check these tips for creating healthy boundaries with your boo.
Spend time apart.
It’s hella normal to want to spend every waking moment together, but that doesn’t mean you should. “When it becomes difficult to distinguish who you are from your partner, when it appears that identities are merging into one, when one person is overwhelmingly preoccupied or fixated on everything about the other person … it means that the person or the couple is having difficulties recognizing what makes them different,” Lekuti says. “Your partner does not need to like or do everything you do or vice versa.” When you give each other space to breathe and grow as individuals, you appreciate the time you do spend together way more.
Learn to argue the right way.
“Arguing does not indicate the relationship is bad, per se. What to look out for is how each person argues and how you recover or attempts made to repair any feelings that were hurt in the process,” Lekuti says. “A healthy argument includes, but is not exclusive to, one being able to clearly express their concern, worry, or frustration/anger, being willing to listen without interjecting or dominating the conversation, and hearing what is being said.” Stick with phrases like, “I do not know how to answer you when you yell at me” and “I see that you are irritated with me about…” Though it’s easy to go into full-on attack mode during an argument, resist the urge, and avoid phrases, such as, “You never…” and “You are acting like…” Remember: Not every argument calls for a back-and-forth debate. Sometimes, just listening is OK.
Establish sexual boundaries early on.
Dating someone new and the topic of sex hasn’t come up yet? Start the conversation. “If you are wanting to remain abstinent or celibate, tell them. If you’re religious and it is absolutely out of the question for you, tell them. If you are uncomfortable participating in any sexual activity, empower yourself to say it,” Lekuti says. “The sooner you tell them, the better you can determine how you want to proceed with the relationship.” Never participate in any activity that makes you feel uncomfortable. And to keep it all the way 100, if your partner tries to coerce, persuade, or manipulate you into thinking that sex is the only way to connect and make the ‘ship status official, that’s a red flag. Cut ‘em loose and keep it movin’.
Be clear about your expectations.
When you’re in a relationship, you should feel cherished, excited, respected, and valued. Anyone who makes you feel drained, scared, smothered, unappreciated, or insecure isn’t worth your time. Periodt. That’s why it’s super important to make it crystal clear to your partner what you will and will not tolerate. Be specific. Texting an ex? Lying? Cheating? Exhibiting controlling behavior? Fighting in public? Make a list of your biggest relationship dealbreakers and stick to it at all times. Setting high standards while you’re still in your teens means you’ll be less likely to settle for less as you start approaching more long-term relationships. Lekuti says, “The sooner [you] know [your] worth, the less likely [you] will be willing to be in or maintain a relationship that does not make [you] feel empowered.”
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