Boundaries are just like the wind: we know they exist, but they can be hard to detect. Without awareness or consideration, they can be crossed, forgotten, overlooked, or rejected. This, in turn, can make us feel invalidated, confused, hurt, or all of the above. And if this happens long enough, these moments can alter our reality and affect the relationship we not only have with ourselves but with others as well.
Thankfully, with time, you can develop the boundaries that are considered non-negotiables to create a healthy and happy life. According to Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear, you want to set boundaries to create a sense of internal and external security. “Boundaries allow us to be clear on our own needs and preferences, and this helps us maintain clear limits with others,” Manly said.
But what exactly is the difference between non-negotiable boundaries and regular ole boundaries? “Our non-negotiable boundaries are those that we must have in order to feel safe and secure in life,” Manly explained. “While some boundaries may be rather flexible in nature, our non-negotiable boundaries are absolutely essential to our sense of being honored and respected.”
Having non-negotiable boundaries become a part of your life will transform your world. While it might take time to figure out and incorporate them into your everyday routine if this is something you may not feel comfortable doing from the start, just know that developing these boundaries will benefit your present and future self. And that’s a pretty cool thing to consider. Below, Manly provides a general list of non-negotiable boundaries you can consider for your personal life and how you can maintain them for the long haul.
Non-negotiable boundaries about romantic relationships
- Clear, open, and respectful communication
- Honesty and accountability
- Transparency with an awareness of agreed-upon respect of personal privacy
- Emotional and physical fidelity (unless agreed to in advance by both partners)
- Respect of personal needs with an absence of controlling and domineering behaviors
- Sexual intimacy that is safe and pleasurable to both parties
Non-negotiable boundaries about work
- Maintaining a workplace that is free of sexism — including sexual harassment and equal pay
- Ensuring that communication is open, appropriate, and clear — without fear of “being fired” for speaking honestly to a superior or co-worker
- Keeping the workplace free of gossip and invasion of personal privacy
- Leaving work in the workspace so that one can rest and recharge when away from work
Non-negotiable sexual boundaries
- While this is completely up to you, take the time to know what is important to you and then hold fast to your own standards
- You need to be very clear with yourself and your partner(s) as to your own expectations and desires
- Take a time-out and evaluate the situation if your boundaries are not being respected
Incorporating these non-negotiables into your life can help you protect what matters most to you. You’ll be able to feel more in control and practice learning how to feel comfortable with the uncomfortable. But how exactly how can you create and adopt these boundaries into your own life? Dr. Manly provided a few ways on how you can develop and implement them into your daily routine.
How to establish a routine with your non-negotiable boundaries
1. Consider what you want your boundaries to look like
“Creating solid, appropriate boundaries can be difficult if a person was not raised with healthy boundaries,” Manly said. “As such, it’s first important to take the time to look at what you want for your own boundaries. Every relationship may require different boundaries, yet all should feel safe and appropriate.” For example, Manly explained that while your boundaries at work might be strict (i.e. no sexual contact), boundaries with a romantic partner you feel safe with might be flowier in nature. Either way, feel free to use the above boundaries as a reference when you’re establishing your own.
2. Practice implementing your boundaries every day
While it might take some time to figure out what kind of boundaries you want to put in place to create a safe and healthy life, you also want to make sure that the boundaries you’re creating feel appropriate for each relationship, according to Manly. But once you figure that out, Manly suggested to “simply strive to put your boundaries into action a little more every day. You might find yourself ‘training’ others to respect your new boundaries, but — in time — you will find those clear boundaries serve to keep you feeling safe and respected.”
3. Don’t let your fears get in the way
It’s natural if there are a few minor hiccups along the way. Just try not to let your fears dictate how flexible your non-negotiable boundaries can be. “Many people don’t uphold important boundaries due to a variety of fear-based concerns, including fear of confrontation, a fear of being disliked, or a fear of being rejected,” Manly said.
For instance, Manly explained that “some of the most commonly-abused boundaries involve the acceptance of unhealthy communication, emotional abuse, financial manipulation, and dishonesty.” Just be aware of these as you navigate implementing new boundaries in your life. Before you know it, you’ll begin to feel extremely comfortable putting them into action.
What to do if your non-negotiable boundaries have been disrespected
1. Be clear and calm when you talk about your boundaries when they have been violated
“In general, non-negotiable boundaries are those that allow a person to feel safe and respected; every person may have specific needs in this regard,” Manly said. “However, if a person does not respect the key boundaries that are generally seen as appropriate (e.g., honesty, faithfulness, kindness, respect of physical, emotional, financial, and sexual limits and needs), then the relationship can become very unhealthy.”
Before this becomes a consistent issue, it’s important for you to address it right away. Be clear and direct but calm. You want to make sure this person understands where you’re coming from so you don’t have to address this issue again.
2. Let them know how it can be corrected
When you’re addressing this issue, inform them on how you would prefer your boundary to be respected. “For example, a partner might say, ‘I feel really disrespected when you pat my butt in public, and I ask that you not do that again,'” Manly explained. “Or another example might be, ‘Last week, you took $50.00 from my wallet, and you’ve not paid me back. That feels really disrespectful to me. Please repay me right now, and please don’t go into my wallet in the future.'” Whatever the situation, make sure to clarify what boundary they’re violating and why it bothers you so nothing is lost in translation between you and the person.
Retraining yourself to incorporate boundaries into your life is truly an empowering move. Not only will you feel more in control of your surroundings, but you’ll also have more of an idea of what matters most to you.
Just remember to be patient and kind to yourself. While it might not be smooth sailing in the beginning, the more you practice implementing these boundaries, the more confident you’ll feel using them.