How to Set Healthy Boundaries

16 June 2021

One thing Covid-19 has massively altered in our societies is boundaries and personal space. Over a year of social distancing outside our own bubbles has embedded social boundaries we would never have imagined before.

What are healthy boundaries? Here’s some advice from Relate Northants counsellor Sharon.

Sharon on Healthy Boundaries

Our preferences around personal space actually change over the whole of our lives for a variety of reasons. But this particular season has enforced boundaries for us, and broken habits of physical closeness.

So how do we find our way through lockdown easing? Do we throw ourselves headfirst into the physical connections we had before? Do we hold back? Where do we want to be?

These are very important questions, especially for couples and families. Different household members building new boundaries at different points is likely to stimulate a lot of arguments!

Where do you want to set your boundaries?

Exploring boundaries as a couple starts with understanding yourself. The exercise below will help you notice how different circumstances affect you. You and your partner should work on this separately, then come together to discuss what you found out.

  • Think about the different things you did over the last week or two. Where would you place yourself on the spectrum of feeling safe to feeling unsafe?
  • If you felt unsafe in a situation, where do you think that feeling came from?
  • Which situations do you want to include within your boundaries and which do you still want to avoid? Some situations may feel too difficult, but there may be others you’d like to readjust to.

You can draw this out if it helps you. Draw a ‘fence’ in a square. Write on the outside places you didn’t feel safe in blue. Write on the inside places you did feel safe in green. Are there any blue places that you’d like to extend your boundaries to? Perhaps places or activities that you want to readjust to? Connect these up with your boundary line.My boundaries diagram

Working together

The next thing to do is compare your drawing with your partner’s drawing. This should be done without judgement – respect how your partner feels. When you’ve understood the other’s position, you can then negotiate something that satisfies both your desires without compromising the other.

Over the coming months, revisit this boundary map as your own feelings and desires adjust. Keep being honest and realistic with each other and above all keep communicating!

Growing Together

Couples have been under pressure throughout the pandemic in hugely significant ways. Coming out of lockdown will produce its own pressures, some of which may reveal weaknesses in our relationships. But, time and time again at Relate Northants, we have couples leaving counselling saying things like “you saved our relationship”. If you need an impartial guiding voice to bring your relationship back to full strength, you can book a conversation with us.

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