How To Set Emotional Boundaries In Your Relationship (And Stick To Them)

Finding someone with whom you can share your heart — now that is the stuff of romance novels and movies about true love. For many of us, a sense of relief accompanies letting your inner thoughts and deepest emotions be heard. But depending on where you and your partner are in a relationship, what you might think is a groundbreaking conversation about your feelings and experiences may come off as trauma dumping. This is not just a factor in romantic relationships, either. Friendships and familial ties often come with the push and pull of figuring out how much venting and emotional intimacy is just right. We all know that person who unloads every emotional burden onto you, even when the time, place, or your relationship would deem it to be inappropriate. It can be a struggle just figuring out how to respond.

Setting clear boundaries in a relationship can be intimidating and difficult. If you are looking to improve your emotional boundaries with your partner — and to really commit to them — we have some practices that will make your emotional intelligence in your relationship soar.

Identify what you can — and can't — control

Emotional boundaries are all about determining what responsibilities and burdens are yours and which ones are not. When someone has poor emotional boundaries, they often dump their emotional worries onto others, making their partners, friends, or families have to deal with the underlying issue, too. Not respecting a person's emotional boundaries is a form of disrespect like any other violation of one's boundaries. "Boundaries are the separations that humans need — mentally, emotionally, and physically — to feel safe, valued, and respected," said Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of "Date Smart," in an interview with Real Simple. Separate the problems that are yours to deal with and the ones that are not.

This goes both ways, too: If you find yourself often emotionally unloading onto others — like snapping in anger, making snarky comments, or picking at their insecurities — check yourself and try to discover the root cause of your emotional turmoil. Other people should not do the emotional labor for you.

Be clear about what is and is not okay to do in your relationship

No matter what relationship you are in — whether it is a workplace environment, romantic partner, or friend group — making known what behaviors are and are not acceptable may come up, especially if emotional boundaries seem to be breached. If a certain habit is making it difficult to engage with another or trust them fully, be honest about it. For instance, if your partner has a habit of constantly being on their phone during your dinners and it bothers you, set a boundary for no phones on date nights. Or if your friend seems to be always gossiping about other people and it is making you uncomfortable, be upfront with them. It's okay to tell them if you don't want to take part in that kind of negativity.

Once you have established these boundaries, keep tabs on who honors them. If you have gotten into a relationship with someone who truly does not respect your emotional boundaries, the red flags will begin to present themselves. Toxic partners will look to put themselves and their needs above those of their significant other.

The fewer toxic people in your life, the easier it will be to stick to your boundaries. Surround yourself with people who don't unload their problems or emotions on you when the time and place simply aren't right. Do not be afraid to choose your own well-being over someone else's lack of emotional boundaries.