May 162011

For many, the concept of setting boundaries can be incredibly scary. It’s as if boundaries is now a bad word, as if self care, and knowing your limits is now off limits. In some cases, it is considered bland and boring if you set boundaries — the attitude is that you should be open to and accepting of everything a sex partner or relationship partner might throw at you. In other cases, there are folks (not that dissimilar from me) who want to be the care taker, the fixer, the perfect partner, and are worried that establishing boundaries takes away from that.

But here’s the thing; boundaries and healthy, and to be honest, they are needed. It is pretty tough (although not completely impossible) to have a healthy relationship (sexual, romantic, familial, etc) of any sort with out setting at least a few boundaries. They don’t have to be huge boundaries, or a long laundry list of them, but they do need to be there.

Sometimes, it takes getting out of a relationship to know what boundaries need to look like in the future. I have dated alcoholics and drug abusers in the past — it wasn’t until I was out of those relationships that I realized how much time, energy and resources I had spent. Driving out at 2am to pick them up from the bars, filling out police reports for them because they were too high to talk to the officer, letting them stay with me because they blew their rent money on their addictions. It wasn’t until I was out of those relationships that I set a boundary to not allow myself in those type of caustic, one-sided relationships.

Sometimes, it takes getting into a healthy relationship to know what some of your non-negotiables are. It wasn’t until I got into my current relationship that I was able to figure out what my boundaries were around my disabilities. I had a lightbulb moment one night, as my partner brought me painkillers and ice packs, that I would never again allow a partner or family member to make me feel bad about having disabilities, because there were people out there who didn’t.

Sometimes, it is experimenting. Looking at poly and consensually non-monogamous relationships, those boundaries are often fluid and changing. Looking at kink relationships, those boundaries are also evolving frequently. Sometimes it takes experiencing something with a partner to realize that it is a hard limit. I know people who have to see their partners at least 3 times a week, while I know others who have a boundary of seeing each partner no more than once per week, or else they get suffocated.

Regardless of what your boundaries are, or whether they are physical, emotional, mental, kink, relationship style or otherwise, it is important to take and moment and think to yourself about what your boundaries for your ideal relationships might be. Perhaps it is telling a family member that you cannot lend them any more money. Perhaps it is telling your partner(s) that you need one night a week for yourself, to do your own thing. Perhaps it is something completely different. Regardless, setting boundaries is a completely healthy part of relationships, and not something to be ashamed of.