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How to Set Boundaries In a Relationship Without Being Controlling?

“I often do things I don’t want to do.”

“I don’t know how to set boundaries.”

“If I set boundaries, people won’t hang out with me anymore!”

“I’m tired of people stepping on me!”

Could some of the previous statements apply to you?

Do you feel that the people in your life are overstepping your personal boundaries? 

Do you feel pushed to the limit but don’t want to speak up for fear of appearing insensitive? 

Does the thought of enforcing boundaries cause you stress and anxiety? People forget that some actions are forbidden when it comes to interpersonal relationships. 

Boundaries are vital to ensure proper socialization, but the question is how to set boundaries in a relationship without being controlling.

Boundaries have nothing to do with control. You need them for protection. Others who are not willing to respect them may perceive them as controlling, but that’s not your problem.

couple talking about problems

Constant violation of personal boundaries can cause depressed mood, anxiety, and even physical exhaustion or illness caused by excessive stress. 

Not setting boundaries is like leaving your home without a door – anyone, even an uninvited guest, can walk in whenever they want. 

On the other hand, setting too rigid boundaries leads to isolation because no one can get in, but we can’t get out either.

You don’t owe anyone your time, love, or even friendship. These are very abstract categories in which we rarely think about how to set boundaries, what we want in which relationship, and what we don’t. 

Many children watch their parents spend time and energy on people they don’t really want to be with, spend time with and give them emotions and quasi-understanding in order not to offend them. 

In this way, indirectly, and sometimes according to direct instructions, we learn to behave in the same way.

What is a Personal Boundary?

A boundary is an invisible line between you and another person. It is the line of demarcation between where your rights end and the other person’s rights, and vice versa. 

The purpose of setting boundaries is to protect yourself and your needs. 

Boundaries are about being clear about your values and setting boundaries for the people and activities in your life. 

Not understanding the needs of the person you are communicating with can lead to dangerous situations: you could end up getting hurt, feeling hurt, you might be blamed for behaving in a way you are not comfortable with, etc. 

Not only does this hurt you and put you in uncomfortable or toxic situations, but it can also destroy trust in the relationship and create a power imbalance.

3 Ways to Set Boundaries In a Relationship Without Being Controlling

 Boundaries are vital to your well-being, as well as the well-being of your social interactions. The problem is that many people feel guilt, stress, and anxiety trying to implement them.

Here are three effective and easy ways to set personal boundaries:

1. Determine and remember why you set boundaries in the first place

Stressed young married family couple arguing emotionally, blaming lecturing each other, sitting on couch

It is possible that you will feel the fear of distancing and alienating the people in your life if you show your boundaries. 

It’s a natural fear, but it certainly doesn’t mean you should let someone step on you or cross your personal boundaries. 

To properly implement boundaries, you first need to understand why you set them in the first place. 

If your boundaries are absurd and hurt others, there is a high probability that they are not based on legitimate values ​​and do not protect your rights but limit the freedoms of others. 

The first step in finding your core values ​​is self-reflection. What are you comfortable with? What’s bothering you? And what causes your fear, anger, or anxiety? 

These and other questions are vital when trying to understand your limitations. It’s also important to remember that boundaries can vary from person to person. 

You are likely to have looser boundaries in your relationship with immediate family than with friends or partners. Some friends will make you feel more comfortable than others, so they need fewer boundaries. 

You need to understand yourself and how you view and interact with others to truly understand your needs and values. You need to feel that you have the right values ​​as the basis of the boundaries. 

Boundaries should be based on self-worth, an attempt to strengthen the relationship, or other compassionate and meaningful reasons. 

Whenever you feel guilty about setting boundaries, instead of letting stress and anxiety overwhelm you, try to reconnect with the core value that shapes your boundaries.

2. Don’t worry about what your partner or other people will think of you

Whether someone will be angry with you if you behave and do things your way is a frequent question. 

Actually, the list of those questions is endless, and they will never leave your mind if you don’t try to solve them. 

In learning how to effectively set boundaries, you must also learn how to deal with all kinds of responses from people, whether positive or negative. 

You have to face the inevitable fact that some people will not like that you suddenly want to impose restrictions. And that’s okay. 

Stop trying to please others at the expense of your own well-being. Instead, try to learn that life is too short to desperately keep certain individuals by your side. 

No matter what you do, you will never be able to please everyone. The only feelings and well-being you have complete control over are your own, so you should always pursue your best interest. 

Letting people go is inevitable in your life. You have to learn to accept it instead of being forced to let them do the damage. 

You cannot change someone else’s behavior if they are not open to change. 

People who won’t accept the boundaries you have to set are the ones you shouldn’t have in your life. 

Instead of looking at the other person’s refusal to respect your needs, realize that it is just a red flag warning you to delete that toxic person from your life as soon as possible. 

The sooner you accept that some people aren’t worth your time, the easier it will be to focus on your own needs and set any boundaries you need to set without feeling stressed or anxious.

3. Learn to communicate

woman arguing with husband

While learning to set boundaries, most people make the mistake of setting them in their minds but failing to communicate them to others. 

This can lead to stress because you have certain expectations that cannot be met. After all, the other person doesn’t know what you need until you tell them. 

Don’t expect your partner to read your mind, be assertive and tell them what you need and why you need it. 

If you have a clear set of rules that the other person doesn’t know, you’ll be frustrated and stressed whenever they break them. T

The sooner you tell them, the sooner they will adapt to your needs. You will empower yourself to feel less anxious. You also need to be compassionate and ask others what their limits are. 

Demanding will make you feel guilty, but if you ask and learn to reciprocate, others will feel safe around you and more open to accepting your boundaries without pushback. 

You can’t expect someone to go out of their way to make you feel comfortable without you also respecting what they need. 

Boundaries can also be flexible and can be decided after talking with the other person. 

Respect is a two-way street; the more you communicate, the better your relationships will be and the less stress you will face when seeking to meet your needs.

Why Setting Boundaries is a Must?

woman talking with man in cafe

Sometimes the best way to help someone is to push them away from us, not to let them “hang” on us and drain our time and energy. 

Remember that whenever you say yes to someone and don’t mean it, you are actually saying no to yourself. 

By saying no, we help the other person face themself and their needs, rely on their own strengths, and develop independence, while helpfulness and helping would only increase the person’s feeling that it pays to depend on another. 

Most of the time, we are not even aware of how many forms helping others can take and that simply “giving a hand” can sometimes bring far more harm than good. 

After all, we’ve all heard the old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Not all people are meant to be a part of our lives, and that’s perfectly fine. But if you constantly say yes to people who you don’t really need in your life, you are leaving less room for people who you actually want in your life. 

Final Thoughts 

Women are especially at risk of not respecting their boundaries in relationships, partly because of their natural tendency towards harmony and avoiding conflict (which is conditioned by upbringing to the greatest extent). Partly because in our society, women are more often expected to do more.

They value their time and needs less than a man. Many people will find it much easier to ask a woman for her time or favors without giving anything in return than a man.

And that’s something you should also think about whether you are a man or a woman.