I'm sharing the simple way I teach my clients and participants to communicate boundaries, especially when their partners are struggling with the concept of boundaries and why they are needed in the first place.
They're just facts.
Boundaries are really simple. They're just facts. That's it! Boundaries are you deciding what are you okay and comfortable with and what are you not okay and uncomfortable with.
There are a lot of cultural issues that get in the way of creating boundaries within marriage. The first is because women have been taught to ignore their comfort. We've been taught to push through discomfort, to ignore the signs, to not pay attention, to question, and diagnose ourselves all the time. Plus, we have been culturally conditioned to put others above ourselves.
Men, on the other hand, have been taught to never be uncomfortable and they aren't usually in the position of feeling unsafe. They're also taught to question, to persist and pursue with women in their lives. You can see how, from a cultural perspective, this can add additional tension and challenges when it comes to setting boundaries.
How misinterpretations get in the way
Trying to communicate a boundary to your husband may feel like you’re talking round and round in circles, with him feeling like you’re rejecting him or him questioning what your boundaries mean about your marriage. For example, if a boundary is around your body, he may misinterpret and feel like he’s a perpetrator or not a good guy.
For women, we tend to lean towards criticism. If we don’t feel safe and comfortable to express what feels safe and comfortable, the next best step is to blame somebody, possibly saying something like, “Well, if you wouldn't do…” or “If you weren't like that…”, triggering the man in this scenario to become defensive.
The one and only question you need to ask your husband is, “Are you on board with both of us feeling comfortable 100% of the time?”
I have never found that men say no to this. They say, “Yes, I want you to be happy. I want you to be comfortable."
If your husband says no, that is a big red flag of something greater happening in your relationship. You need a partner who is on board for your comfort and safety.
Once you’ve established the baseline of 100% comfort, you can then share your boundaries.
Some examples of boundary setting
I set a boundary with my husband around camping. He loves backwoods camping but I am not down for camping deep in the wilderness with no people around in a tent. My boundary is that we can go camping, but it needs to be in a Provincial Park, in the trailer, with people around.
He may misinterpret my boundary to mean that his needs aren't important, I don't want to spend time with him, or listening to his needs aren't a value of mine. None of those interpretations are true. All I'm trying to do is figure out how I can go camping and also feel safe and comfortable 100% of the time.
With the baseline already established of him being on board with me feeling comfortable at all times, I can just go to the fact: that makes me feel uncomfortable. It's just a fact. There's nothing malicious going on. There's no ill-intent. It's just a fact that makes me feel uncomfortable.
Another example is setting boundaries around your body. Maybe you don't like to be surprised with a hug from behind. You're just not down for surprise hugs when you're doing dishes or sitting on the couch watching a show. It’s just a fact. You've assessed what makes you feel comfortable and what doesn’t. It's your body and you get to make these decisions.
Once you express your boundary, your partner may misinterpret or make up a story about it and say, "But I'm a nice guy! Why wouldn't you let me hug you when I want to? What does that even mean about our marriage?"
All you need to say back is, "You know what, it just makes me feel uncomfortable.”
Who is the knower of your body? You are!
Who is the knower of what makes you feel comfortable and uncomfortable? You are!
Who is the knower of what makes him comfortable or not? He is!
Who is the knower, if you have children, of what their comfort level is? They are!
We don't determine comfort levels for other people.
Go forth, set boundaries, and it will bring you closer, I promise.
Leave me a comment to let me know of a boundary that you’ve set that’s made a big difference. Or, let me know of a boundary that you’d like to set but are struggling to do so.