When you meet a wonderful person and fall in love, it feels like fireworks bursting in the sky.
It feels like you’ve opened the door to your soul and let someone in.
It feels like you’re not alone anymore. Two have become one.
You don’t want to be apart from him for even a minute.
You feel what he feels.
You do what he does.
And in that merging, which is such a beautiful part of new love, you can sometimes lose yourself.
Boundaries in Love
Many of us have good boundaries in our friendships and professional lives.
We don’t let other people treat us in ways that are disrespectful or uncomfortable.
But when we’re in love, we throw those boundaries to the wind.
Why would we want boundaries?
We want to get closer. We want to remove all barriers between us and our beloved.
We want to leave our old, boring selves behind and jump into our new identity as a couple.
This is a natural part of the honeymoon stage.
But as a romance progresses, you start to slip back into the sense that you are really two separate people.
Is that a bad thing, or a good thing?
Is it something to celebrate or a sign you aren’t meant to be together?
In healthy relationships, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the two of you are more different than you originally thought.
You never expected this person to be a clone of you. Of course you’re not going to be in sync about everything.
You aren’t going to change yourself for this person, and you know there’s a hard limit on how much you can expect them to change for you.
This is when the work of relationships really begins, as couples figure out what to do about their differences.
But in some relationships, that separation doesn’t happen.
One person overinvests in the other person.
They leave behind their identity as an individual, in order to merge with their beloved.
They take on the goal to feel everything their partner feels.
If their partner isn’t happy, they can’t be happy.
They try to manage their partner’s life to help them be healthier or more successful.
Their life is the relationship.
And that isn’t healthy, even though it’s done from a loving place.
What they need is the sense of separation provided by strong internal boundaries.
You might be in a relationship where you are completely wrapped up in the man you love.
You don’t need to talk about boundaries with him, because he’s respectful and careful with you.
But there’s another type of boundaries you need:
These are the boundaries that keep what you think, feel, and do separate from what he thinks, feels, and does.
You know you have good internal boundaries when:
- You can let your partner express stress or pain or anger without taking on those feelings yourself.
- You can witness your partner behaving inappropriately and not feel as if you are personally responsible for or culpable in his actions.
- You can own how you feel without blaming your partner for making you feel that way.
When you have strong internal boundaries, you know who you are.
You are you. You are not him.
No matter how much you love each other, you are still two separate people.
And being two separate people is a wonderful thing, because it enables you to dance.
Improving Your Boundaries
You can start improving your internal boundaries today by saying to yourself:
“I accept responsibility for everything that happens within my own skin.”
You don’t have to feel how he feels.
You don’t have to think the way he thinks.
You don’t have to do what he does.
In practice, this can look like:
- Not getting upset even though he’s upset.
- Not agreeing with his opinion even though he’s adamant he’s right.
- Not going with him even though he’s chosen to do something.
For some of the women I speak with, it feels like a betrayal to do this.
They feel a responsibility to their partner to merge in every way possible as a couple.
Never realizing that sometimes the best thing we can do for each other is to retain some aspects of our individuality.
Have you ever felt this pressure in a relationship?
If so, what did you do?