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-   -   Can setting boundaries be unreasonable? (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=22621)

mostlyclueless 03-26-2012 06:07 PM

Can setting boundaries be unreasonable?
My partner and I are having some conflicts about boundaries that I have asked for. He feels that I am being too controlling and not respecting his feelings/desires.

I can talk more about my specific situation, but I would be really interested in hearing a general discussion about setting and respecting boundaries. Do you set boundaries for what your partner(s) can and can't do? Is it controlling to do that? How have you resolved conflicts between a boundary you feel you need, and respecting your partner's rights and autonomy?

km34 03-26-2012 10:47 PM


Originally Posted by mostlyclueless (Post 130367)
Do you set boundaries for what your partner(s) can and can't do?

To me, setting boundaries is a group activity. Whoever the requested/suggested boundaries would affect are a part of it. I can't make anyone do anything that they aren't willing to do. I can, however, request that my partner do x, y, or z to make me feel more comfortable. It is their choice whether to indulge me, compromise the boundary to something more easily done, or flat out refuse.


Is it controlling to do that?
If I expected him/her to do whatever I asked/demanded every time with no consideration for how he/she felt about it, yes, it would be controlling. The way I approach it, though, I don't think is controlling.


How have you resolved conflicts between a boundary you feel you need, and respecting your partner's rights and autonomy?
Discussion, discussion, discussion. Generally, if I am truly uncomfortable with something my partner(s) see that and are willing to adjust. If it is just me or a partner being insecure, we adjust behaviors until we can work through it.

Whether or not it is controlling or insensitive would really depend on the subject matter and what behaviors prompted your request for these boundaries, I think.

redpepper 03-26-2012 10:50 PM


Originally Posted by mostlyclueless (Post 130367)
Do you set boundaries for what your partner(s) can and can't do? Is it controlling to do that? How have you resolved conflicts between a boundary you feel you need, and respecting your partner's rights and autonomy?

There is much on this forum about boundaries if you do a tag search for "boundaries" "lessons" "foundations" and anything else that looks interesting. Its a big topic as it directly falls under one of what I and others consider the pillars of poly. The pillar it fall under would be open and honest communication. The other three, to me, are consideration/empathy/compassion, consent, and integrity.

Boundaries are not set by partners, they are negotiated. Rules are set by partners that can either be agreed upon or not, depending on the situation and the context in which they are made. Compromise is what happens if a boundary can not be agreed upon and there is an uncomfortable and awkward agreement to disagree or just see how it goes until an agreement can be made.

I have made requests that something happen or not happen in situations with partners, as a request for a boundary I have to be respected. I've waited to hear if its a possibility or not. My partner will offer me as much as they can give without jeopardising their own boundaries and I either agree or ask for a modified version of the first request.

The biggest boundary negotiation I had was with my mono boyfriend around my wanting to have sex with my new boyfriend. Its all in my blog during December 2010 onwards (maybe a bit earlier).

Kemie 03-26-2012 10:58 PM

As an example:
Boundaries are necessary in any relationship, but they seem to relax as the relationship goes on. I've found that the more rules there are, and the more specific those rules are, the more strain is placed on the relationship. I prefer to have as few boundaries as possible, but for those boundaries to be very strong.

In my two relationships, the boundaries are different. Especially because I swing in one of them, but I'll disregard that for now.

The others include:
No lying/complete honesty
Discuss before emotional/romantic ties with others are made
Always practice safer sex (condoms etc.) outside of fluid bonding
Discuss issues as soon as they develop
Schedule things ahead of time.

But everything is "to each their own." This is just me.

I wouldn't say asking for what you want/need is manipulating or controlling, but make sure that you're asking for it to solve an issue, not just because it makes you feel better momentarily. I mean to say, make sure it's not an arbitrary request. And make sure it is never a demand unless you are willing to lose the relationship for it. Either way, those who have written above me are correct: it's all about compromise, negotiation, and development of needs and wants. You and your partner(s) need to work together to figure out what works for each and all of you.

Emm 03-27-2012 09:12 AM

Have you thought much about the why of the boundaries you want? I quite like the Xeromag article on How to fix a broken refrigerator for looking at the difference between having boundaries and needing them.

strixish 03-27-2012 11:31 AM

Yes, setting boundaries can be unreasonable. That's not really your question, though-- you want to know if *your* boundaries are unreasonable.

What sort of thought process led to the creation of your boundaries? What are you trying to prevent? What are you trying to maintain?

Safe sex is a simple enough area, and most of my boundaries are related to that. Those rules keep me physically safe, and give me a way to show respect for my partners and their other partners.

Scheduling is another thing that comes up in my relationships-- certain times, certain days of the week, are devoted to specific relationships. I don't schedule time with X if it's Y's night, and that creates a sense of security for Y (and let's Y know he's important to me). Also, if I make a date, I don't break it unless something really unexpected has come up (sickness, for example). These rules are a way to show respect for a relationship, and to provide emotional security.

I don't have any boundaries in place that restrict who my partners might spend time with, who they might be sexual with, who they might fall in love with, and how intense their other relationships may become. I protect the time and space that they have with me, but I don't restrict what they do when they're away from me (outside of the safe sex agreements).

So what are the specific boundaries you're trying to figure out?

mostlyclueless 03-27-2012 02:59 PM

Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

strixish, since you asked -- the boundary I asked for was for neither of us to date for a while. The first person my partner tried to date as a secondary was a disaster, and it ended due to an important deception on his part. It ended about a month ago, and my partner raised the issue of trying again with someone new.

I am still too hurt and scared to do it again. His feeling on the matter is that I can do whatever I want, but asking him not to date indefinitely is too controlling.

I feel like it is a necessary boundary. I wish that I did not need it, but unfortunately at this point it is either that or leave the relationship.

nycindie 03-27-2012 07:02 PM

It sounds like you two really need to talk more about your fears and how you can avoid a disaster again. Asking him not to see someone else doesn't really address the problem of you being scared.

It's okay to be afraid and still move forward. Perhaps some better boundaries would be around how he approaches finding potential other partners, and how quickly he moves forward in those relationships. Something reasonable might be to say you want to meet any potential gf's early on, or that he will not have sex until a time that you two agree on, things like that.

For some ideas from other folks on what kinds of boundaries seem to work for them: What are your boundaries?

SNeacail 03-27-2012 07:31 PM

Set a definite time limit, like a month or so and then that particular boundary is up for re-negotiation after that month. Gives you some breathing room and time to figure out what the real issue is and it gives him a light at the end of the tunnel.

mostlyclueless 03-27-2012 08:53 PM

Emm, I just got around to reading that link. I think it is not an exaggeration to say it will change my life. I feel like this whole experience has been like drowning and I just got a life raft.

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