Everyone has personal boundaries. These boundaries are like limits or guidelines that you use to determine the safe, allowable ways that people will act around you. When someone crosses those boundaries, you react. When a guy says that he has boundaries, he is trying to tell you that he has limits for how you can act around him and what to expect. It is up to you to find out what those boundaries are and to decide if they are appropriate for your relationship.
Even if you do not realize it, you probably have boundaries already. Imagine you go to a bar with friends. A drunk man comes up and tries to hit on you. Instead of standing near you, he brings his face so close that you can smell his breath and see how glassy his eyes are. Instantly, you step away from him and look around for your other friends.
You did this because you have boundaries. When a complete stranger stood too close to you and was obviously intoxicated, he crossed those boundaries and you backed away. Everyone has boundaries like this. Your boundaries and limits help you to know who is safe and when you should be concerned about a situation.
Your relationships may also have boundaries. At a basic level, these limits may determine how far you are willing to go sexually and in what circumstances. They may also include things like how your boyfriend can act in the relationship. Is he allowed to stay out all night with his ex-girlfriend? Can he show up at your house at 2 a.m.? Can he eat your food or look through your phone without asking?
Most likely, you have a very clear idea about what he can do in these situations. Over time, of course, some of these boundaries change. Initially, it would be uncomfortable for him to show up at 2 a.m., walk in your home and eat the leftovers in your fridge. In a few months or years, you might start living together and these behaviors become perfectly normal.
Listening to Boundaries
When a guy says that he has boundaries, you should listen. If he brought up this conversation, it is probably because you crossed those boundaries and he felt like he should tell you what to expect. These boundaries could be entirely reasonable, or they might be excessive. If he wants you to call before you show up, then it might just be a courtesy and he might just like to have some alone time. If he says that you can’t walk up to him when you run into each other at a bar, it might be excessive.
To start with, you should listen to your boyfriend or friend describe what his limits are. If he is bringing this topic up, then it is obviously very important to him. This does not mean that you have to agree with him. If you disagree or don’t understand his boundaries, create a dialogue with him. Try asking him what he means, why he has those boundaries and what you can do to make him more comfortable.
If the boundaries seem reasonable (at least, for where you are in the relationship now), then listen to them. Good relationships are based on respect, so respect his need for limits. If the boundaries are odd and he can’t justify them, then you might need to continue the dialogue or consider a break up. For example, not wanting you to come over because he is tired after a long day at work and just wants to play video games is one thing. If he tells you that you can never come over and he doesn’t want you to go to bars with him, then you might start to be suspicious. After all, that sounds a lot like he is trying to keep you away because a) he doesn’t view you as a girlfriend or b) he is seeing someone else. It is up to you to decide if the boundaries he needs are fair and reasonable.
Some people are not particularly good at describing their boundaries. In the previous example, the boyfriend asked you not to come over after work. If he is not in touch with his feelings, he might not be able to voice that he just needs time to decompress after a long day and would rather spend time with you when he is at his best. Because of this, it is extremely important to create an open dialogue and get to the heart of the matter. It takes time to learn how to understand and express your emotions. He might not be able to at first, so be patient. Once you understand what his boundaries and limits are, make sure to respect them.