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boundaries in relationships

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For many, the word “boundaries” carries negative associations. Maybe you grew up in a home where there weren’t enough boundaries, so when you hear the word, you think of a lack of them and immediately feel suffocated or smothered. Maybe you had an emotionally withholding family member or partner at some point in your life who set a lot of rigid boundaries that only benefited them and were ultimately to your detriment. The truth is, by the time the word “boundary,” comes up, it’s often because a line has been crossed, or an incident has occurred that has prompted the creation of a new boundary. With that being said, it’s no wonder we can have negative associations with the word. It’s also a shame though since boundaries can be healthy tools that actually improve relationships and can make everyone involved feel respected and safe.

Setting boundaries, however, can feel in direct conflict of another desire many of us have: to be agreeable. We have to remember though that being agreeable and being a doormat are not one and the same, even though they’re often mistaken for each other. You can still be kind, thoughtful, and gracious, all while upholding boundaries that are important for your wellbeing. We spoke to an expert on this topic. Relationship therapist and eharmony expert Nedra Tawwab recently released a book all about this subject and imparted some of her wisdom with us here.


Young couple talking

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How the pandemic improved boundaries

Our friends may joke about their spouses and partners driving them crazy in this pandemic while they’re quarantined together, but research shows they’re probably just teasing. An eharmony poll found that 71 percent of people in relationships said they were glad to have somebody to share the pandemic with. One thing that may have contributed to their happiness, says Tawwab, is the ability to create boundaries – something the pandemic spurred on. Having to share a (possibly small) space with a partner may have encouraged couples to finally get comfortable speaking about their needs.

“To be happier in relationships, we have to get more comfortable with expressing our needs,” Tawwab says. Suddenly having to work, eat, relax, and socialize (on Zoom) all in the same place, with our partners, prompted us to get good at asserting our needs. It was the only way to get through this thing. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for “increasing the communication in our relationships,” according to her.

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