Understanding and setting boundaries are critical social skills that benefit young women throughout their lifetime. Love Is Respect, a National Domestic Violence Hotline project, asserts that all relationships exist on a spectrum from healthy to abusive, with unhealthy ones somewhere in the middle. Here are talking points to discuss with your daughter what relationship boundaries are and how to establish them.
What Are Relationship Boundaries?
Let’s start with the big question: what are boundaries? Boundaries can either be emotional or physical. According to Love Is Respect, emotional boundaries are premised on trust and rely on both partners to support each other’s decisions.
Healthy emotional boundaries require both partners to be consistent with both their actions and behaviors. Issues related to co-dependency are also essential to bring up. Partners should be able to spend time away from each other while also maintaining that trustworthiness.
Physical boundaries rely on respect, and it’s often a key indicator for a healthy relationship. There needs to be open communication about what each partner wants and what they don’t want to establish these boundaries.
Love Is Respect recommends making sure there is a right time and place for these conversations. Have the conversation in person (often, lack of body language and eye contact can lead to a disconnect in digital communication). Remember that it is an open conversation and to avoid attacking one another.
Social media can make navigating relationships messy, so it’s important to set up digital boundaries to create a healthy arrangement for sharing your relationship online. Digital boundaries can include posting about each other, tagging each other in posts, and/or using each other’s devices.
The great thing about boundaries is that it is perfectly normal for them to change. Before setting new boundaries, there must be an open channel of honest communication to decide what is working and what is not.
Why Should Girls Assert Relationship Boundaries?
When healthy boundaries are not set, your daughter risks neglecting herself and her needs. By setting healthy boundaries, she is actively protecting, while also preventing people from manipulating and taking advantage of her.
According to Psychology Today, these brief statements can indicate when boundaries skew towards being unhealthy:
- “Give as much as you can for the sake of giving”
- “Take as much for the sake of taking”
- “Feel guilty when you say no”
- “Don’t speak up when you are treated poorly”
- “It’s okay to touch a person without asking”
Establishing boundaries will help your daughter live for herself and not just for other people. Making sure that her emotional, physical, and mental needs are met should rank equally, if not sometimes more, than the needs of those around her.
Setting Relationship Boundaries
Conversations surrounding boundaries can feel uncomfortable if it’s her first time to have them. The website Healthline offers the following tips:
- Identify your wants and needs. If it makes it easier, you can write these down to process your feelings. Everyone has different boundaries, and they can often be a personal choice.
- Listen to your body. Often, our bodies send us messages about how we’re feeling through our heart rate, sweating, tightness in the chest, stomach, and throat.
- Make a list of your values. By understanding what you value, you can better understand your relationship to assess whether they are being compromised.
Other People’s Relationship Boundaries
When it comes to recognizing others’ boundaries, it’s helpful to know body language cues. For example, these cues can help your daughter identify whether someone is uncomfortable. According to Healthline, hints could be “avoiding eye contact, turning away, backing up, nervous gestures, etc.”
Interpreting body language can certainly be difficult. Tell your daughter it’s okay to ask someone if she can give them a hug or pose a personal question when in doubt.
Creating and establishing boundaries is one of the most impactful ways your daughter can protect herself and her personal space both mentally and emotionally. There are numerous resources and organizations that specialize in developing healthy relationships. Explore their recommendations together.
Written by Mia Bustillos
Top image by Yehor Milohrodskyi on Unsplash