Couples run into trouble when the partners have different definitions of how things should be in their relationship. They operate under different assumptions, expectations, wishes and needs. One of the reasons for this is their Boundaries.

Individuals have two kinds of Boundaries that play into how partners relate to each other. These are internal and external boundaries. Internal boundaries have to do with the amount of disclosure and with owning own thoughts, feelings, views and attitudes. External boundaries have to do with personal space and time, communication/speech patterns, and physical relating.

Boundaries give people and couples definition. They are our encasings. The two main types of boundaries are too rigid or too loose. These boundaries create the partners’ MO, modus operandi. How they approach each other and life is directly influenced by their boundaries.

Individuals whose boundaries are too thick tend to be walled off and therefore have difficulties with intimacy. These individuals are the distancers, avoiders, and isolators in relationships. They want their space, they prefer solo activities, they are usually quite or have explosive tempers, tend to withdraw, and appear secretive or reticent. These partners have a hard time identifying their needs, feelings, and wishes. They are so walled off that even they have a hard time getting in touch with themselves.

Individuals whose boundaries are too loose tend to be the relationship concerned partner and people pleaser. They tend to be all over the place. They multi-task, speak for others, have all the answers, are martyrs, are care takers, get things done, prefer group/couple/family activities, prefer to be in company, and want to share and talk about everything. These individuals are the pursuers, clingers, and fusers in relationships. These partners might know what they want but have a hard time getting their needs met because they get lost in the shuffle, everybody else comes first.

Both these types of partners have a hard time having solid selves. They are either not in touch with themselves, or they are not contained and therefore are spilt all over and they are not there either. These partners have difficulties owning themselves, getting their needs met and functioning at their highest potential individually and as a couple.

Partners with poor boundaries don’t know where one ends and the other starts: they project their feelings and views, mind read, speak for each other, make assumptions about their partner’s wishes and needs, hear criticism and judgment in feedback or stances, have a hard time validating and empathizing, operate in crisis or reactive mode, etc. These partners are not having a satisfying relationship!!

There are a few terms in the clinical literature for this. Two off the top of my head that are very similar in their gist are: being undifferentiated or codependent.

When partners are not differentiated or are codependent, they are not being themselves in the relationship and the relationship is not working at its best (their LIFE is not all that it could be). At first glance, the descriptions mentioned above of how these partners operate might appear to be who the partners are, but this is not the case. The descriptions mentioned above are symptoms of poor boundaries, are coping mechanisms, which surfaced as a result of childhood dysfunction, wounds, hurts or unmet needs.

To heal or resolve this there is no need to go dwell in the past or confront childhood caretakers, but rather to get needs met in the present. The main way to do this is to clearly express your needs, wishes, wants, and expectations by owning them and not blaming, criticizing, playing martyr or other games and not at the expense of others.

The simple antidote is to respond to situations and contexts by processing feelings and thoughts, assessing the need and getting it simply met. In other words, kindly standing up for yourself consistently and efficiently.

Standing on your own two feet allows YOU to be a part of your relationship and a participant in YOUR life!!

Happy Standing Up!!!

Author's Bio: 

Emma K. Viglucci is the Founder and Director of Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC, a private practice that specializes in working with couples, is the creator of the MetroRelationship�" philosophy and a variety of Successful Couples �" programs and products that assist couples succeed at their relationship and life. To get your downloadable relationship enrichment insights and receive her weekly successful couples articles, nurturing nuggets (sm) and other resources visit: