Drawing the line

Sheetal Shaparia – life coach, astrologer and tasseographer – on maintaining healthy boundaries in our relationships. 

Setting boundaries early on in any relationship – be it a friendship, a romantic relationship or even a familial one – is healthy for your mental health and the relationship as well. The way people treat us is not inherent but learnt, and we set the precedent with the way we allow ourselves to be treated during initial interactions. If we do not assert ourselves, it becomes difficult to do so later on… and might make taking a stand feel awkward and uncomfortable – and that’s not healthy. 

The traits of a healthy relationship in any form include respect, asking for permission, and being mindful, honest and responsible. 

Setting the tone

It might not be our go-to move, especially since we are often taught at an early age to be accommodating, but it is important to set clear boundaries. Here are a few must-haves to help nurture relationships and ensure that we feel safe in them. 

  1. Respect each other’s time

Have you ever been stood up for a coffee or lunch date by a friend or a romantic partner? We all face unavoidable situations at times; however, if this is a pattern with a particular person, it shows a lack of respect for our time. When we mutually agree on a time and place but only one of us takes the trouble to clear schedules, brave the traffic and reach the venue only to have the other arrive late or cancel at the last minute, it gets frustrating. 

We must respect the number of calls we make, the time we take on calls, and how often we meet people. If we don’t like being on the phone too long or meeting too frequently, we need to say so and/or accept if the other person feels the same. 

  1. Respect each other

Since we aren’t carbon copies of each other, there will be differences of opinion. Our family backgrounds and values, and our responses to situations will also differ. This isn’t the end of the world, and neither does it mean you are not compatible. We must be mature enough to accept these differences and work through the relationship. 

  1. Use ‘I’ statements in a conversation

When having a conversation regarding expectations and boundaries, we have already lost if we start the conversation using ‘You’. For instance, “You made me…” or “You are always…”. This is the surest way to raise defenses and guarantee that the conversation will go nowhere. 

Instead, lead with the ‘I’, like “I feel…” or “I was…”. Letting them know how we feel about things will ensure that we are heard. 

  1. Be clear about what you dislike

We need to be clear about our views; however, this doesn’t mean rattling off everything we dislike. For example, we get ticked off when someone isn’t good at time management; might feel like we’re in an interrogation room when people question us; hate unsolicited advice. When these scenarios present themselves, it is important to push back and make how we feel known,  and to do so in a gentle but firm manner. 

  1. Share only as much as we are comfortable with

What and how much we share about our life with loved ones is a personal choice. The number of years we have known a person doesn’t define how close we are. Therefore, it is up to us to decide how much we let them know. And if such a time arises when a family member/friend doesn’t want to share certain things with us, we need to respect that and step back. 

Nurturing bonds that last

Making friends or getting into a relationship is easy, but cultivating the same is a challenge. We can only bring our best to a relationship when we have a healthy self-image and are willing to say “No”. It is a healthy, reciprocal relationship when we can clearly communicate what we feel and want, and are respectful towards others. Any relationship that lacks boundaries will fizzle out and can potentially be harmful to our mental health. So, stay strong and know that it is okay to take things at your pace; your relationships will be stronger and healthier for it. 

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