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How To Communicate Better Through Boundaries
Want to learn how to communicate better? One of the most common relationship problems is setting boundaries incorrectly. Let’s talk about how setting boundaries appropriately helps you communicate well. Setting appropriate boundaries can be tricky and seems counterintuitive.
Most people want to set boundaries with their partner because they, personally, are feeling uncomfortable in some way. They do this, erroneously, through telling their partner what they need to do. “I am not ok with you using pornography, so don’t use it in the house”, they might say. They deal with their own uncomfortableness and pain by telling someone else what to do. They try to be their ‘boss’.
This is not the appropriate way to set a boundary, even though what they are addressing in this example is important to figure out with their partner.
Dealing with a partner who is using can be painful and difficult. However, assuming that you can control your partner and make them do something different is not going to work. Some people would also deal with their uncomfortableness and pain by essentially giving their partner an ultimatum. “If you use porn again, it’s over. We will get a divorce”. This is not going to be helpful either, as ultimatums are ineffective.
The appropriate way to set a boundary involves 1) observing, 2) reflecting and 3) informing.
Share the raw data of what is going on. Not your interpretation of the raw data, but the uninterpreted data – just the facts. For example, instead of saying, “You use porn all the time because you just don’t care about me and the kids!”, you could say, “You have been using pornography more days that not in the last month and beyond. I find out about it when I stumble upon your search history on my own instead of you telling me about it”. This is raw data. You don’t have to conclude anything from it, just share it. Avoid trying to be your partners ‘expert’ and telling them about them, or interpreting them for them.
Share what your emotional experience is with the raw data. Not your thoughts about the raw data but your emotional experience. Instead of saying, “I’m so sick of you doing this” (thought), you could say, “When you use it hurts me and when I have to find out on my own without you bringing it to me I feel unsafe and nervous” (emotions). This puts you in a position to connect to yourself and to let your partner see and to some degree experience you and your emotions.
You want them to see this part of you so that their humanity can rise up and respond. Trust in their ability to have compassion for you and want to either change or start talking about it. This is a vulnerable place to be for you, however. A competent couples counselor can help you navigate this part.
With a genuine and humble heart, share with them how you will have to naturally react if a certain behavior continues. This is not an ultimatum, but rather is a disclosure of your limits and desires. This can, however, easily become an ultimatum if done with malice or frustration. Make sure that you are in a genuine and humble place as you do this.
You can hurt, but do not have to be mad and frustrated as you share this. You can say, “As I continue to find out about your pornography use on my own, without you coning and telling me about it, it puts me in a position of distancing myself from you and that isn’t something that I want.” If you want to learn how to communicate better, this is one to make sure you get right.
Those are the basics of a healthy boundary and can help you fix relationship problems. It takes two for this to work because it requires your partner to respond in a healthy, emotionally safe manner. It is a lot scarier to do it this way – thus most couples don’t. If it is too difficult to apply this and find your way through it, we can help. We have highly trained couples therapists on staff.
Learn how to set appropriate boundaries and fix your relationship problems. A couples therapist can teach you how to communicate better.
We also do online, telehealth therapy sessions for marriage counseling or individual therapy.