Boundaries, defined as “lines that mark the limits of an area; dividing lines”, are a powerful resource as we nourish our ability to create healthy experiences in the world. In regards to unsafe situations, boundaries are set to clearly establish separation. If you are in an unsafe situation in any way, your “no” is a clear proclamation meant to keep you from emotional or physical harm. Accessing our power and voice in this way is paramount. However, in healthy, thriving relationships I’d like to look at boundaries through a different window. Rather than viewing boundaries as a way to disconnect or protect, I’d like to establish a premise that cultivating the art of communicating boundaries lovingly, can serve the purpose for sustainable and vital connection. In fact, as we navigate building the kinds of relationships that allow us to be more fully ourselves, we have the opportunity to utilize boundaries as a way to co-create inspiring, passionate, balanced and pleasurable experiences with our beloveds. Over the years boundary violation builds wounds in our individual lives and preserving healthy boundaries in sustainable relationship, is a great bridge to healing those past wounds.
In romantic relationship, one of the issues that can create conflict is when one partner tries to move things forward sexually and the other partner says no. A common reaction in partnership during sexual intimacy when a boundary is set is that the partner given the boundary, immediately pulls all touch away. Sometimes it isn’t easy to receive a boundary because a “no” or a “slow down” may not be said in a conscious loving way, adding to our sense that we are doing something wrong. Learning how to express our needs and desires in regards to boundaries is a balance between conscious communication and attunement. Both partners can change the quality of intimacy when they are willing to integrate these aspects of healthy connection. On another level, in my work with couples and individuals, what I hear from them is that there is a risk to saying “no” to sex or sensuality because it sometimes causes an immediate gap in closeness. Sometimes a sexual partner will override their own boundary because their desire for some form of intimacy is high enough that they don’t want to risk an upset. This can also happen in new burgeoning romantic relationships as well. The level of acceptance and touch we long for can cause us to inhibit our voices and diminish our pleasure. One of the things I do in my work as a Sex and Relationship Counselor is help clients experience connection with one another while setting or responding to a boundary. Learning to stay present to one another while honoring and voicing your boundaries and desires is paramount in heightening intimacy in relationship.
When setting boundaries in your romantic relationships, imagine the possibility of doing so to strengthen connection, both with yourself and the one with whom you are setting a boundary. This takes presence and curiosity. While letting yourself experience the emotions that may arise because you may feel you have done something wrong or your partner doesn’t want you to touch them, let it be a place where you turn your gaze more fully towards them, slowing down your touch to stillness. Return your touch to the territory you were already exploring and become curious about your partner’s desire. Attunement to your partners needs is potentially an area that growth can occur. As with any art form, there is always room to grow. Allowing and encouraging your partner to teach you how they want you to touch them, what they want to hear, how they want to be seen and what turns them on, expands the playground for pleasure. When boundaries are honored as a way to enhance connection, what follows close behind is a new realm of possibility and a deeper intimacy you can dive more playfully and passionately into within your partnership.