I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Lambros, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Director of Stories Counseling, a local private practice in Gilbert, Arizona. At Stories Counseling, Jessica and her Co-Founder, Tony Ziolko, specialize in trauma, anxiety, depression and other mental health matters. Jessica speaks about why boundaries are so important in relationships -especially marriage – and gives examples of how we can start to implement them.
Why are Boundaries Important?
Boundaries are incredibly important for all relationships. They are not meant to keep others out, rather they’re meant to keep you together as individuals.
Boundaries are where we exist when it comes to our personal space and the areas where we need to assert ourselves or be flexible. Therefore, it is important to know what your space or zone is, as well as what your partner’s space is.
In order to have an expectation or understanding of where you and your partner exist in this space, there needs to be conversations and awareness around this.
Understanding your Boundaries from your Childhood
What were your boundaries like in your home growing up? Did your family have an open-door policy? Was it private? Could you do whatever you wanted? Was it strict?
It is important to understand the boundaries that you have been accustomed to while growing up before you enter into a relationship such as marriage. In other words, what we bring to our marriage is similar to what we learned when we were growing up.
What are some boundaries that need to be set?
Boundaries can be physical, emotional or time oriented. They are what you need at any given moment, and they’re expectations that help keep us safe and at ease in our relationships.
Often, a person does not really know what their boundaries are until it’s been crossed.
If you grew up within a family unit where boundaries were violated or totally absent, you may not know what to ask for.
Jessica used these examples of a brick wall, a doormat and a yoga bouncy ball to describe boundaries.
- ‘Brick wall boundaries’ are boundaries that are clearly understood by others. These boundaries are rigid and firm.
- ‘Doormat boundaries‘ are essentially a lack of boundaries. People don’t even know they are violating you or crossing the threshold of what you need in any given moment.
- ‘Bouncy ball boundaries’ gently reminds you that it is there, and you can’t walk through it. It means you bump into it, but you are not hurt. You can either move it or keep it there.
Some people are highly intuitive, and are able to sense when they have overstepped someone’s boundaries and made them feel uncomfortable.
It is key to identify how you feel emotionally and physically in your body when you are uncomfortable with what someone has tried to do or say.
- Physical boundaries might be how much space (physical or emotional) I need from you or how much time you need to complete a task.
- Emotional boundaries could be you are comfortable with what someone is saying or not saying to you.
- Noise level boundaries could be the sounds you are comfortable or not comfortable hearing in your surroundings.
Boundaries in Marriage
Most conflicts in marriage arise because you have a boundary and your spouse has a boundary, and both your boundaries violates the other’s. Both of you have to come to a compromise and co-exist peacefully within that space.
The instant that someone feels discomfort or notices a boundary being violated, they must communicate with their spouse before it escalates further. Time and place is important when having these conversations, so touch base with your spouse on a daily basis to check-in and reconnect.
Some of us have never sat down with our spouse and asked them about their boundaries. Follow-up with your spouse by communicating what you’re feeling. Use “I” messages instead of “you” messages.
Boundaries with our Spouse and our Business
Sometimes our spouses may not be supportive of our business and they place unrealistic expectations on us. Check-in with yourself and make sure you’re not shaming yourself. Give yourself grace. Giving yourself positive encouragement and feedback that you believe that you are doing the best that you can do.
If there are a lot of seemingly placed expectations on you, ask for clarification from your partner on what their expectations are. Don’t assume. Conversations about expectations, will develop into a conversation about boundaries.
You can set a boundary with your spouse and state what you can give and what you are comfortable with, which then gives rise to a conversation about compromise. Unwillingness to communicate or compromise can be borderline unhealthy and a further conversation is needed.
Boundaries and Emotional Abuse
Boundaries and emotional abuse can be heavily influenced by how a person was raised. For example, if someone was raised in a family where one parent frequently belittled or shamed the other, that behavior may seem normal. The child will grow up, get married, and bring the same behavior into their own relationship, unaware of the impact it has on his/her spouse.
Your spouse may be unaware that they were being hurtful. This is a raw spot that needs to be communicated. If the offender has acknowledged the wrong-doing and expressed their remorse, the relationship can be repaired. There’s safety and you can let that person in again.
When setting boundaries, you must take yourself seriously in that space, believe that you are worthy of that space. You are worthy of not being shamed or belittled.
If you’re the spouse that is trying to set a boundary and the other person is defensively turning it back around on, then you must seek help. This is not healthy.
It is so important for us to set these boundaries with our spouses so that we can flourish and have an enjoyable marriage. We will be able to parent with confidence and with purpose.
If you feel like a boundary has been violated, determine the safest way to communicate this to your partner so that it doesn’t trigger you.
Don’t passively aggressively enforce boundaries – it’s unhealthy and creates more tension, conflict, and pain. When you feel uncomfortable, communicate that discomfort and seek help from others when this happens.
All of these spaces are our boundaries and you should never be ashamed or afraid to ask for what you need to keep yourself safe, whether it’s physically or emotionally.
As always mama, I’m rooting for you!