Do you have an example of how this can play out in a romantic relationship?
Sure—take Patty and Greg. Greg's boundary style is more permeable and less flexible than Patty's. So when she's wrapped up in a work project, he feels shut out and even threatened. That’s when he picks fights about money, her housekeeping, and the in-laws. But the conflict isn't about those things; it's about him feeling distanced by her. She's learned to head off those conflicts by reassuring him of her love—she'll put notes in his briefcase or send him flowers at work.
Do people carry their boundary behavior from relationship to relationship?
I think they do. You find women who say they’re never going to open up to somebody and get hurt that way again, and they go right into the next relationship and do the same thing. Unless there's awareness, boundaries tend to stay the same.
How can couples work towards healthy boundaries?
Relationships need breathing space. It's OK to have moments when you feel very close to your partner and moments when you don't. It could be a period in your lives when other things are taking precedence, like a job or kids. Boundaries shift and change, so intimacy is only moments in a relationship.
What is most important for couples to know when discussing boundaries?
Flexibility is key—it allows couples to open or close the shutters as the circumstances warrant.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT?
Answer 1 for always, 2 for sometimes, 3 for never.
1. Do you go into your partner’s purse or wallet?
2. Do you use your partner's possessions without asking?
3. Do you leave the door open when using the bathroom?
4. Do you make plans for both of you without consulting your partner?
5. Do you discuss your relationship with other people?
6. Do you disclose information about your partner to outsiders?
7. Do you tell your partner what not to eat, wear, and do?
8. Do you criticize your partner's appearance?
9. Do you restrict or are you jealous of your partner's friendships with other men?
10. Do you restrict or are you jealous of your partner's friendships with other women?
11. Do you criticize your partner's family?
12. Do you make reproductive or contraceptive decisions alone?