In our work, we talk to people all the time about the importance of knowing their desires and boundaries. It seems obvious why knowing one’s desires would be important – the more we know about what we want, the more likely we are to pursue self-affirming life experiences and enjoy and grow in our lives and selves. Boundaries may be less obvious to people – we have even heard some people say that they “don’t have any boundaries”. There is no question in our minds that we all have boundaries. For example, if your friend asked if they could cut off your leg with a rusty saw, we are guessing everyone would pretty much say, “no”. In general, boundaries are less well understood and we feel it is important for you to know why boundaries are essential to the health and longevity of our sex lives and relationships. In the next few blogs we will be defining boundaries, talking about why they are important to relationships and how to share them with your partner lovingly so that they can be heard.
What are Boundaries?
Boundaries are a set of personal limits that each of us has as a result of who we are and our life experiences so far. Boundaries do not need to be justified or explained, they aren’t logical, they just are. You know that you have hit one of your boundaries when something that you are doing or that someone is doing to you feels uncomfortable – the discomfort can be emotional or physical. Knowing your boundaries is an imperfect process. There will be times when they are very obvious and other times when you won’t even realize they have been crossed until well after it has happened. Also, our boundaries are not fixed and can change based on everything from our mood in the moment to permission, trust, safety, feeling heard, etc. One example of a place you might have a boundary in the relationship realm is in how much you are willing to listen to your partner vent. One day, you might be feeling relaxed and curious and have plenty of room, then, three days later, you have had a terrible day and your partner starts to vent and you suddenly realize that listening is making you feel frustrated and annoyed. Sexually, you may find that some days you want sex and others you don’t – in other words, some days you don’t have a boundary about having sex, other days you do. You notice that, if your partner tries to talk you in to it on a day you don’t want to, you feel angry and, if you do it when you don’t want to, you are less interested in sex for a couple of weeks afterward.