One of the biggest challenges that introverts face is learning to set healthy boundaries. We might have grown up feeling shame about our need for solitude. For many of us, asking for space stirs up feelings of guilt and unworthiness.
This can make it difficult for us to set healthy boundaries in our relationships. We might so desperately want to please the person we love that we set aside our own needs. Many of us keep our true desires hidden like a dirty secret – as if it were unethical to want some time alone. Or a lot of time alone.
The other tendency we have is to be so dependent on the few people we care about that we smother them. I’ve struggled with this one. My boundaries are pretty unshakeable when it comes to acquaintances and even most friends. But if I really love and trust someone, I want to be with them. And only them. A lot.
So, how do we go about setting healthy boundaries in our relationships? Here are three crucial tips:
Do it early
The big mistake most introverts make is waiting too long to talk about boundaries. This usually has to do with shame. You feel guilty about asking for what you want, so you put it off.
Then, when you do express your needs, the other person feels confused and hurt. They don’t understand why it was okay for them to call you out of the blue three times a day before, but now it drives you nuts. They can’t figure out why you all of a sudden need space, when a couple of weeks ago you spent every waking moment together.
The moral of the story: prevent future confusion by setting boundaries early on in the relationship.
Spread the love
If you’re anything like me, you feel really excited when you stumble upon that rare unicorn of a person who you can spend oodles of time with without feeling drained. When you find such a friend, or lover, you might be tempted to focus all of your attention on him or her.
Be sure to schedule in time for yourself and the other people in your life, so you don’t completely smother your favorite playmate.
Give yourself permission
Some of us are still stuck in our childhood mindset of constantly needing permission. We expect others to tell us what is acceptable behavior. But the truth is, part of being an adult is learning how to give yourself permission. I’ve listed some examples of permissions below.
I give myself permission to …
• spend one day of the weekend completely by myself without feeling guilty
• say no to couples and group activities that I don’t enjoy, provided that I do so in a polite and considerate way
• go on one trip a year without my partner
What about you, innie friend?
Do you struggle with setting boundaries in relationships? Do you have any additional tips to add to the list?
P.S. We dive deep into how to make and maintain meaningful relationships in my Fulfilling Connections For Introverts Course. Learn more. >>