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Two Questions to Ask Before You Begin Relationship Work

Being clear about your boundaries helps people succeed with you.


When I teach about boundaries, I always emphasize that being clear about your boundaries helps people succeed with you. The question then becomes, do others really want to succeed with you?

When a student asks about problems in a relationship, I always tell them, “Before you can even think about enforcing boundaries, you need to go home and ask your partner two questions: Number one, ‘Do you want to be in this relationship?’ And number two, ‘Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make this relationship amazing?’”

I've had some students report, “My partner said ‘yes’ to the first question and ‘no’ to the second question because they think everything is fine.” I then ask, “Is this a boundary? That this person isn't willing to do what it takes to make the relationship amazing.”

Years ago, I had to face the fact that my relationship of 14 years was done. Neither of us was willing to do whatever it took. We had tried everything we knew. The only thing that we hadn't done is shifted our values, and neither of us wanted to change the other person at that level. Both of us thought the other person was amazing, we were just not amazing for each other anymore. We realized we were good people but not good for each other. The only option was to clarify our boundaries with each other while wanting what is best for ourselves and each other.

If your partner, your employee, or your family member wants to be a part of your life, they’d want to listen when you tell them, “Here is how you can win. Here is how you can succeed with me. And here is what would be unacceptable.” They would want to hear it because they want to succeed, and they want to be a part of your life. When you do that, you set your client, your friend, your employee, or your partner up for success because you have given them the formula to be successful.

And if they don’t really want to win with you, setting boundaries can clarify that for both of you.

Dr. Matt



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