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As we shake off the holidays and prepare for 2013, we can jump-start our New Year’s resolutions by building lasting relationships.
Often people find themselves moving too quickly or too slowly when dating, and they don’t know how to develop a healthy pace for their relationship.
This article will help you identify your boundary state with others and give you methods to build healthy relationships.
As women, we may have an advantage over men when it comes to building close, emotional relationships.
This is because we have higher levels of bonding hormones that enable us to observe emotions in others and therefore build connections.
So it’s no wonder lesbians are stereotyped as moving fast in relationships (aka U-Haul syndrome), but this may not always be beneficial.
Many women find themselves jumping into one serious relationship after another, to later realize their partner isn’t who they thought they were.
Part of this is due to jumping head first into relationships and either ignoring red flags, or sometimes moving so quickly one hasn’t even had a chance to observe the red flags.
Save yourself a lot of headache, heartache and alimony by discovering one’s layers before solidifying a relationship.
If you’re living with your girlfriend and thinking, “If I knew they did ____, I wouldn’t have lived with them,” then I’m probably talking to you.
On the other hand, if you’re always in slow-paced relationships that never have a clearly defined boundary or title, you may need to become more assertive to get clarification in order to have your needs met.
Boundaries refer to the line between where one ends and another begins. In interpersonal relationships, it’s what separates one individual from another.
There are four aspects of boundaries:
Distance, touch and physical intimacy.
Making decisions, problem-solving issues and creating and protecting one’s thoughts, opinions, values and choices.
Feeling empathy for others and comfort with expressing emotions.
Actions congruent to one’s values, culture and rules for the world.
An individual’s boundaries can vary depending upon the type of relationship, situation or recent stressors one has experienced.
Most people fall into one of the categories listed below and may be more or less extreme, depending on how many characteristics they meet for each criteria.
If you read through this and discover many of the items under one category apply to you, that’s likely your overall boundary state with others.
This information can be helpful in understanding how you interact in relationships, help you pinpoint problem areas you’d like to work on or understand a “boundary type” of person you attract.
Of note, many cultures have norms for boundaries that are healthy and comfortable within one’s culture, but once applied to another culture, they can be difficult to understand and navigate.
If you find yourself in a different boundary state that’s not “intact” but is healthy for your culture, know there are many healthy norms, not just one.
“An individual’s boundaries can vary
depending upon the type of relationship.”
You are both protected and vulnerable. Your sense of self is contained.
You will make your boundaries clear to others, are sensitive to others’ needs and ask permission before touching others.
You can share your feelings appropriately, are direct when communicating and can develop interdependent relationships.
You can identify choices, make mistakes without damaging your self-esteem and have an internal sense of self.
You can both tolerate differences in others and accept different opinions without altering their own.
Overall, you’re described as being empathetic toward others.
You are protected and vulnerable with some people, some of the time. Your sense of self is contained at times and your boundaries work in some situations, with some people.
You may experience extremes in need for physical space and fluctuating boundaries, such as having rigid or healthy boundaries in some situations and fragile boundaries in others.
You may be prone to mood swings or are indirect when communicating (share problems with your best friend about your partner, but not with your partner directly).
You can feel wide open to the world with no protection and find it hard to contain your sense of self.
You may fluctuate from being a victim or an offender in different situations.
You may not like being alone and touch others without asking and/or allow others to touch you even if it’s uncomfortable.
You may not always be aware of your own need for privacy and/or impose on the privacy of others (i.e. reading your partner’s emails/texts).
You may experience strong reactions to others’ feelings or behaviors, personalize situations (i.e. “It’s my fault”), are easily influenced by others, and people may describe you as being unpredictable.
You can feel everything, especially the feelings of others. This makes it difficult to contain emotions and you may feel you’re responsible for the feelings of others.
In relationships, you may tell too much about yourself (too early), feel dependent on others for emotional well-being and get too close too fast.
You may feel like a victim in relationships and experience prolonged resentments.
Many people in this category are “yes sayers,” and their identity is linked to being in an intimate relationship.
You are completely protected and contained, so there’s no room for intimacy. You may feel nothing can go in or come out (especially emotions).
Many people in this category can feel isolated and use a wall when they sense another’s need to be close.
You may appear stone-faced, have a stiff posture, are stoic and appear/feel uncomfortable when being touched.
You may want to avoid showing affection to others and never really overreact or underreact.
Others would describe you as being predictable in nature.
You can come across as insensitive to the feelings of others, aloof and disinterested.
You don’t like showing your feelings. Even worse would be talking about them.
You attempt to meet your needs and wants by yourself and have difficulty asking or accepting help from others.
You are uncomfortable when giving or receiving.
Once you have identified specific behaviors within your boundary type that are unhealthy, ask yourself where did they develop from?
What beliefs do you have about yourself or others that influence your behavior?
Can you challenge these thoughts/beliefs and replace them with more “balanced” thoughts?
What would make your boundaries more intact (if culturally appropriate)?
Then choose a specific behavior from the “intact” criteria and begin practicing it today. You may find quick results if you focus on one behavior at a time, while catching yourself when falling into an old, unhealthy pattern of communication.
I wish all of you a wonderful New Year in the making and hope these tips send you off in the right direction so you can develop the relationship you deserve in 2013!
Photo source: theglobeandmail.com.