What ‘guardrailing’ in a relationship means and whyyou need to practise it

It’s all about setting boundaries.

Harper's Bazaar India

When we get into a new romantic relationship, our minds are too clouded by love to be able to think about more practical things like connection. We think about how much time we want to spend with them but not about the boundaries we need to set to make the relationship a healthy one. 

Having boundaries in relationships, romantic or platonic, is essential for ensuring both partners feel respected and valued. Guardrailing is all about setting boundaries and establishing limits within a relationship to protect oneself and the other person from hurt. It's important because it helps build trust, increase intimacy, and maintain a healthy relationship.

It can take many forms and include setting guidelines for communication, physical intimacy, and emotional expression. And here’s why it’s so important.

Helps you establish clear boundaries and expectations

By setting clear guidelines for the various aspects of a relationship, both partners can avoid misunderstandings and conflicts that can arise from unspoken expectations or assumptions. It can help build a strong foundation of trust and respect, which is essential for a healthy relationship.

Creates a sense of security and trust

By setting boundaries around areas that may be sensitive or challenging, such as finances or dealing with extended family members, couples can avoid potential sources of conflict and work together to find solutions that are acceptable for both partners. This can help create a sense of safety and security in the relationship, which, in turn, can help build a deeper connection between partners.

Fosters mutual respect and understanding

By taking the time to establish clear boundaries and guidelines, both partners demonstrate a willingness to listen to each other's needs and concerns. This prompts a stronger sense of empathy and understanding between them and becomes instrumental in deepening their connection and leading to a more fulfilling relationship.

Prevents toxic behaviour

When individuals set and respect boundaries, they are less likely to engage in controlling or manipulative behaviour. If someone consistently crosses a boundary, it can be a sign that the relationship is unhealthy and needs reassessment.

De-escalates fights

When both parties know each other's boundaries, they can avoid crossing them, thus preventing potential conflicts. But when conflicts do arise, these boundaries can help both parties to focus on the issue at hand rather than devolving into personal attacks or hurtful behaviour.

Builds intimacy

When both parties know what the other is comfortable with, they can be more open and honest with each other. For instance, if one person doesn't feel comfortable discussing a certain topic, guardrails can prevent the other party from overstepping that boundary, leading to more authentic and meaningful interactions.