Often couples get caught up in arguments about who did what to hurt the other. People over step their limits and borderlines in the relationship to test the waters, or even as an impulsive response to the current situation. But what couples don’t see is that some of these arguments could be avoided if boundaries are set in place. But how do you set boundaries? Well, you could tell your significant other that you expect him never to cheat on you. Or, you could tell your wife that nagging you will not get anything done and that you will get defensive the more she gripes at you. While these expectations and annoyances are important to discuss, it may not help you argue less, or aid you in avoiding troublesome situations.
In order to set reasonable boundaries with significant people in your life you must have two key ingredients: Freedom and Consequences. Freedom allows your spouse/partner to make his own choice in the matter. Once you have made your opinion and expectations heard, the other person must be able to choose if he wants to follow these requests. The next critical piece of boundaries is consequences. This is a crucial and often times omitted aspect within relationships. It will be up to the individual as to what types of consequences are valid for which behaviors. This is not to be misunderstood as punishment, however. Consequences should be developed in terms that they will help to benefit the relationship. For example, a husband continues to tell his wife that he is extremely embarrassed and hurt when she belittles him in front of his kids. The consequence may be that when she makes these remarks, he then tells her he cannot communicate with her under the hurtful conditions and that communication can reconvene in a private place away from the kids when she stops using derogatory language. He is not punishing her, but rather setting a boundary that will help the couple to communicate more effectively. Setting consequences takes creativity and objectivity. It is difficult to set productive consequences when you feel distraught about being hurt by the other party.
Counseling is a great avenue to help couples set boundaries. A counselor can offer that unbiased third party prospective that couples have a hard time accessing on their own.
For more information on effective boundary setting, check out our website at http://www.starpointcounselingtampa.com. Or to make an appointment in the Tampa/Brandon areas call Sam at 813-244-1251.