When it comes to relationships, the setting of boundaries is a subject that frequently comes up. These boundaries center specifically on how to be respected for personal preferences and be heard within any given relationship.
In relationship coaching, the necessity for the setting of boundaries becomes evident after an explosion or implosion within that person’s relationship. Not being heard or respected for personal preferences adds up over time and eventually produces a “tipping point” or the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. One partner is past their breaking point and the other is oblivious as to why.
This does not have to occur!
A gentle boundary is a relationship construct that is gently placed and does not result in an implosion or explosion within that relationship. There is not the “fall-out” that reactionary boundaries (barking back at a breaking point) tend to cause.
In relationships, boundaries are constructed and fortified over time, with every authentic “no” or “yes” that a partner voices. You see, we do build our relationships over time, creating our own, distinct culture within each.
The “hearing of each other’s voice” is absolutely essential to long-term happiness in any partner (or other) relationship. In the best relationships, the voices are authentic. There is no “people-pleasing aspect” going on.
If someone is consistently acquiescing, their partner never realizes how much they truly disagree. Over time, the two partners begin to experience two very different impressions and two very different relationships.
This “people-pleasing” aspect is also known as tacit consent.
Tacit consent is the unhealthy phenomenon of quietly going-along-with someone when your own gut is telling you otherwise. This can occur in partner relationships around financial decisions, decisions in home and family culture, as well as other things of significance or when values come into play.
Tacit consent tends to show up when one partner’s temperament is bossier or more assertive than the other’s. One “rolls right over” the other’s ideas or opinions and asserts their own. Early in the relationship this pattern gets developed, just by the temperaments of the individuals involved. This phenomenon rarely creates a relationship that survives the test of time.
When each partner owns a shared and equitable voice, that respect component leads to the relationship being a happy and fulfilling one. No relationship will be happy long-term without a relationship culture where the partners can freely voice their opinions and be respected for them.
Creating a culture of respect is central to this discussion about boundaries – but I’ll save that lengthy discussion for another day. Just know that mutual respect has to be the backbone of the relationship for it to thrive over time.
Improving people skills aids in the gentleness of any boundary being placed, as does the consistency of the partner making his or her voice heard. Speaking up consistently and with people skills on the smaller things paves the road for being heard on the bigger issues.
No one exists happily in a relationship where they are required to always go along with their partner, in order to keep the peace. That internal suppression of honest thoughts and opinions creates an emotional discontent in the quieter partner. Staying in a relationship where the other partner refuses to be open to receiving a differing perspective becomes highly uncomfortable to the one always acquiescing.
In the happiest life-partner relationships, partners thrive when they know their viewpoint is expected, accepted and respected.
How are you doing in your relationship?
Is this something to course-correct yourself?
If you are the more assertive one, begin pausing and encouraging your partner to offer their input, outlook, or opinion. You’ll have to stand guard against your default of just deciding everything, but that discipline will pay you back in priceless relational rewards.
If you are the less assertive partner, it might be time for you to begin to gently assert yourself on the smaller things. This starts creating that “muscle” for the bigger things that will come up and you will then more naturally own your voice. It might also mean having a conversation in which you gently express your thoughts on this subject with your partner.
There is a saying that a mentor of mine is known to say: You can’t complain about what you allow. It’s always better to do the course-correction than to be complaining or be unhappy.