I am writing this post for teens to read, and for parents and caregivers of teens to read. It can be difficult for teenagers to set boundaries in relationships, whether it is a friendship or an intimate relationship. It is hard for teenagers to know what their personal values and beliefs are, and furthermore, to stand up for those values and beliefs when they engage in a relationship. However, it is a very important thing to do. With alcohol use, drug use, and the growing population of young people engaging in sexual activity, it is easy to let their guard down and give into peer pressure or “what’s cool and popular”. It could be hard for teenagers to be leaders, especially if they feel like they are outnumbered in their beliefs.
Anyone in a relationship has the right to stand up for what they believe in and say “no” if they don’t agree with something. If you tell a friend or a partner how you feel, and they decide not to listen to you or understand your opinion, then it may not be a good relationship. A true friend or partner would listen and respect what you are saying.
Some qualities of a good friendship or relationship are:
Listening- Actively listening to the person who is talking means using eye contact, body language such as head nodding to show that you are paying attention, and rephrasing pieces that they talk about when responding.
Talking to each other- Not yelling, taking turns, expressing yourself.
Respecting each other- Actively listening, giving feedback, and understanding each other’s perspectives even if they are different.
Compromising- If you have different beliefs about something, find a way to make both of you happy.
Trust and honesty- You want the other person in the relationship to feel like they can tell you anything, and you won’t share it with others if they ask you not to.
Sharing- In any kind of relationship, it is important to share time together, things that each of you have, and communicate about things that happened to each of you.
Being supportive- No matter what the other person in the relationship says, show that you support their opinion or belief.
Not teasing them- If they have a different belief or opinion, you should listen and respect their viewpoint, not tease or make fun of them for it.
Apologize if you are wrong- We all make mistakes, and that’s ok, it’s part of life! It is important to apologize when we are wrong if the relationship is important to you.
In romantic relationships, whether it is an emotional or physical attraction, it is also important to express how you feel about something. If your partner does not respect your word or your belief, then it is not a healthy relationship to be in. Talking about your beliefs and boundaries is a great way to communicate with your partner, to make sure the relationship will be healthy and that you feel safe in the relationship.
Setting boundaries defines what your property is- physically, emotionally and mentally. It defines what is yours. You have control over your body, mind and heart. Boundaries protect you. They keep the good in and the bad out. You have control over how others treat you. And, you have control and choice over what boundaries to set. You deserve to be yourself and be respected for who you are and what boundaries you choose to set. You have the right to be treated with respect, no matter what your values, opinions and beliefs are.
Some values to set boundaries around about are:
How physical or intimate to get with each other- In a healthy relationship, your partner should respect you if you do not want to “go all the way”, or become sexually involved.
How fast to say “I love you”- One partner may feel this way faster than the other, but that does not mean the other partner has to say it. Say it when you are ready, not just because you feel like you need to.
Time together vs. time apart- It is important to have time away from your partner, even when you are in a relationship. If your partner wants to be with you or talk to you constantly, this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
Being around alcohol and/or drug use- Whatever your values and beliefs are about alcohol and/or drug use, communicate them and your partner should respect them. Do not give into peer pressure! Communicate how you feel about alcohol and/or drug use, and being around others that use these substances.
Social media use and sharing- With all of the social media out these days, it is important to set boundaries and express how you feel about being “tagged”, following each other’s friends, commenting on each other’s posts, posting pictures, and sharing passwords, etc.
If you are a teenager, or a caregiver of a teenager and you want help identifying your beliefs and values, there are some activities you can do. You could do role playing where you act out a situation where the teenager is put in an uncomfortable situation, and talk through what they would do and say. You could look at your values, beliefs and opinions and how you can use them to set boundaries in relationships. You could watch or read something, and talk about the relationships in that movie or book, and discuss if they are healthy or unhealthy, or what boundaries are being set between the two people.
Do you have any personal stories or advice for teens having difficulty setting boundaries in their relationships?