Boundaries and Compromise is the Key

In the immortal words of the late, great Jimmy Buffet, “Relationships: We all got ‘em, we all want ‘em, but what do we do with ‘em?” And he’s right: We all want relationships, often not knowing the best ways to manage them once they tend to stick. And that’s where boundaries and knowing when to compromise come into play, as both serve as tools for identifying who we are individually and as half of a whole. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are tips for creating boundaries, types of healthy boundaries, and advice on when you should and shouldn’t compromise.

Boundaries are methods of protecting and preserving ourselves and the relationships precious to us by promoting balance, respect, and physical and emotional well-being. When we set and maintain boundaries in a relationship, it gives our partner a clear understanding of what makes us feel safe, respected, and cared for, and because of this, we show up better for that relationship. And when coupled with compromise, they also help to prevent arguments and avoid negativity while fostering feelings of appreciation and validation.

Creating and maintaining boundaries involves knowing your needs, effectively communicating your needs, and enforcing your boundaries. You can’t have your needs met if you don’t know what they are, so start by reflecting on your core values and beliefs. Express your needs gently and clearly, using “I” statements to convey your feelings. Not everyone in your life will respect your boundaries all the time, so it’s important to have reasonable consequences for crossing a boundary, like telling someone you feel disrespected when they talk over you and if they continue to do so, you’ll have to end the conversation.

Healthy boundaries allow you to say no without fear of rejection or judgment, to take time for self-care, to leave an uncomfortable situation, and to prevent others from disrespecting you. Healthy boundaries include physical boundaries, like expressing what you need to feel secure in any given moment with regards to your personal space, emotional boundaries, which ensure that others are respectful of your emotional well-being and internal comfort level, sexual boundaries, like asking for consent before physical intimacy or ensuring your partner’s comfort level during sex, material boundaries, which extend to your money and personal belongings, and time boundaries, which allow you to focus on your priorities without feeling crowded by others’ needs and wants, and to say no to anything when you’re feeling stressed.

Compromise should always be mutual and comes into play when a balance is needed to bridge a gap so both partners feel heard, understood, and can agree on an effective solution. It’s the key to each partner’s happiness, well-being, and mental health, and to respecting each other’s feelings. Compromise when the issue is important to your partner and doesn’t infringe on your core beliefs/values, when the compromise is fair, meaning it involves give and take on both sides, and when the relationship is balanced, meaning both of you are considerate of each other’s needs. Never compromise when your core values and boundaries are being violated, or when you’re the only one willing to compromise. Compromise shouldn’t be confused with sacrifice; it involves honest communication and mutual respect and giving for the betterment of the relationship. Jimmy Buffett says, “The right word at the right time … could be the difference between lightning and a harmless lightning bug.”

With February being Heart Health Month, don’t forget to take some time to acknowledge your emotional heart health as well as your physical health. Set boundaries and allow compromises to appreciate the ways in which they enhance your relationships, especially with your significant other!