Boundaries create intimacy.
Say what, now?
I’ve been working on my ‘stuff’ for over a decade, and I still find the idea that you need to have good boundaries in order to be truly intimate kind of mind-blowing.
Maybe you relate to this (many women do): I used to think that boundaries were the total opposite of intimacy. That by having clear, firm boundaries, I’d be putting up a barrier that would stop someone – usually a partner – from getting close to me.
Turns out, the opposite is true. Here’s why.
Good boundaries mean you know who you are
I thought that for someone to love me, desire me, value me, and just want to be with me, that I had to be who they wanted me to be, do what they wanted me to do, think the way they thought. On a date, in bed, over text message. Anywhere.
Turns out, that led to some not-so-fun dates and not-so-enjoyable sex. I wasn’t telling these guys what I liked, what I wanted, what was and wasn’t okay for me. I wasn’t making my boundaries clear, because I didn’t even know what they were.
To have good boundaries, you have to know yourself. You have to know what you like and don’t like in your relationships. You have to work out what feels okay for you – honestly, truthfully, and authentically – whether the other person still approves of you or not.
And then you have to be courageous enough to be true to those boundaries, and communicate them, as often as you can.
Being who you really are means others can love you for you
Here’s the awesome thing that happens when your boundaries are rock-solid: you give someone else the chance to fall wildly in love with you for exactly who you are.
There’s a really cheesy saying about intimacy: that when you pull apart the word, it reads ‘in-to-me-see’. That’s exactly what communicating your boundaries allows – the opportunity for someone to see you fully, exactly as you are.
You can create relationships based on an inauthentic, boundary-less version of yourself, for sure. But they won’t feel good, or happy, or easy, because you’ll be showing up in that relationship as someone that you’re not. And that is exhausting. Trust me, I did it for years, I know!
But by working out your boundaries, and communicating them with a partner, you are showing yourself fully and truthfully to another person.
That’s true intimacy. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Here are three tips to help you work out your boundaries and create deeper intimacy with the people you love:
1. Think back to your last date or your most recent hook-up
Which parts of it felt great to you? And which parts didn’t feel so good?
If anything comes up that didn’t feel right to you, see if there’s a boundary in there that someone else overstepped. For example, maybe kissing on a first date isn’t okay for you?
Forget about what other people might think of it, or whether it’s ‘cool’ to feel that way or not. If it’s true for you, that’s what matters.
2. Other people won’t know what’s okay for you if you don’t tell them
So, start practising setting boundaries.
Start small. Is there something minor that’s not feeling okay for you at work or in a friendship, perhaps?
For example, I have a boundary around not replying to work emails after 6pm as I’m with my family. So I tell people they can email if they want, but I won’t get back to them until the next day.
3. Every time you set a boundary, reassure yourself
Working out your boundaries and telling other people about them can feel really uncomfortable, especially if other people don’t like that you’ve set them.
So each time you set or hold a boundary, especially one that feels uncomfortable or gets an unhappy reaction, affirm yourself.
Tell yourself it is okay to have boundaries and to ask others to respect them. Remind yourself that even if others don’t like your boundaries, it is still okay for you to set them.
This article was written by Nikki Allen and originally published on A Girl In Progress.