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Thai-Indians discuss how healthy boundary setting has benefitted their relationships

by Ashima

This Valentine’s we’re embracing healthy love and healthy love ONLY.

By Rubani Sethi

As February is the month that celebrates giving and receiving love, we’d like to put focus on boundaries. All relationships should have healthy boundaries, whether it’s between a parent and child, partners, or even friends, as they allow us to respect time emotions, needs, and more.

The act of respecting each other’s boundaries can lead to connections that are mutually beneficial and rooted in healthy love and appreciation, while a failure to recognise boundaries can lead to feeling depleted of your energy, being taken advantage of, and feeling unsafe in our partnerships.

So in order to normalise boundary-setting, I spoke to Thai-Indians and asked them to share some boundaries they’ve set, and how doing so has benefitted their relationships.

Academic Supervisor and Researcher

When we are born, the umbilical cord is cut, severing us from our mother. But a metaphorical umbilical cord remains, which keeps us attached to them emotionally. Growing up, I sought my mom’s approval on most things. I hated upsetting her, a common worry with people you love unconditionally, but I felt unable to be myself.

This was most apparent in my relationship with my body. Being from a Sikh family, having a loving relationship with one’s body can be a challenge, whether it’s physical appearance or even exploring physical intimacy. My mum always tried ingraining in me that I needed to treat my body with respect, but her idea of respect differed greatly from mine. That’s the biggest boundary I have had to set with her. I needed to establish that I have sole ownership over my body, something that understandably hurt her considering
she carried my body on her own for nine long months.

But it’s important for me to have autonomy. It’s more than just “my body, my choice”, it’s an integral part of establishing a strong sense of identity and loving yourself. The clothes I wear (I’ve always been more inclined towards masculine clothes, which is something my mother does not like), the haircuts I get, the tattoos on my skin (both controversial as a Sikh), and what I choose to do with my body in sexual contexts all help me love myself more. If I were to always please my mom, I would resent her, this was something that I could feel building up in my teenage years.

Establishing this boundary has helped our relationship. She sees me as my own person, it helps me avoid the blame game, and it sets clear expectations that while she can always offer insight, ultimately, I must listen to my own wants and needs and decide for myself. The greatest gift coming from this is that I don’t have to hide things from her, go behind her back, and I can openly communicate with her despite our disagreements.

Business Development Manager

Having boundaries is essential in any type of relationship, especially in a marriage! Learning to respect each other’s space has been a challenge as we are both new to this and are learning more about each other everyday. One boundary that is important in a marriage is to respect each other’s time and work, as we work in very different fields (I’m in corporate and she’s in education). For example, if I’m not responsive during working hours, I expect my partner to understand and vice versa. If I have a late night meeting or if my wife has meetings during weekends, it should be all right.

Other boundaries that are important in a happy marriage is intellectual boundaries. My wife and I think differently about certain things, and to be honest we were not coming to terms with it initially. However, over time, we learned to “agree to disagree” on a healthy note and move forward. I would not want to push my partner to have the same mindset as me as we have been brought up differently and have differing opinions. It’s important to have a talk with your partner about boundaries and actually practicing them will definitely be worth it for a good married life! Remember, happy wife = very happy life!

Licensed Trauma Therapist, Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master Teacher, Intuitive Counsellor

As a therapist working with many people around the age of 23 and above, I see a lot of my clients struggle with setting boundaries with their parents. Asian kids tend to still live with their parents, and it has been observed that boundaries are often overstepped, with parents not giving space to their adult children. A lot of the time this can become controlling and can be rooted in the parents’ own unresolved insecurities and fears which they end up projecting onto their children.

It’s important to have boundaries when you have reached a certain age. It’s good to have your own space by choosing to move out of your parents’ house as this will help you gain freedom, discover yourself, and know what you really want in life without the influence of your parents as a lot of times they can project their own unfulfilled dreams on to you. As Eckhart Tolle says in his book, A New Earth, when parents expect their child to make them happy and fulfil their wishes, it is in their own ego. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness, and this is not to say that we need to be selfish, but rather we need to know and respect each other’s boundaries and limits.

Personally, I moved out when I was 24 and I have learned so much more about myself. I embarked on a whole new journey and it has made me trust in myself rather than seek external validation. Living your own life without being in anyone’s shadow is very liberating. You can still love and be there for your parents by having healthy boundaries and learning how to voice yourself with love and compassion. However, the other side
might not understand, and you will need to make hard decisions for your own mental health and cut ties without holding any grudges.

Having your own space in relationships will also allow others space to reflect more on themselves, and it can actually be better for everyone. Not being in each other’s space all the time can help with having better, healthier relationships with less arguments and fights. When there are no boundaries in a relationship, you betray yourself by pleasing people and are being untruthful to both yourself and others.

Professional Makeup Artist

I believe that life is much happier with friends around, however, friendships take a back seat to unavoidable responsibilities in life. Being in the service industry, I do experience dull moments in life and calling a friend always helps. However, there are some days when you do not want to speak with anybody and be in your own space without hurting the other person’s feelings, that’s where I feel boundaries are important, it is a way of expressing self-care and protecting your own mental wellbeing.

In all kinds of relationships, we are bound to have expectations. We expect our friends to be there whenever we need them, but while most of the time things are doable, sometimes they are not. That’s where boundaries come in place. It stops you from assuming and judging your friends and their actions, while accepting them and their circumstances without being hurt.

I respect setting boundaries as they help me maintain my calm, without hurting myself or anyone else. I believe you can love someone and still have healthy boundaries, and it’s important, because everyone needs space. Having unrealistic expectations can be hurtful and traumatic. Setting healthy boundaries lets everyone in the relationship be free. We are all human beings after all.

Director of Operations – House of Ravisara 1999

An essential component in the building and maintaining of healthy relationships is boundaries. The term in of itself may seem pretty strong, or harsh, as the Oxford Dictionary defines boundaries as “a line that marks the limit of an area.” However, not all boundaries are clear cut and rigid; some are more open and blurred than others. The purpose of having boundaries is to put yourself in the driver’s seat of your life – allowing yourself to be in control of what you will accept and what you won’t, in order to avoid feelings of hurt, resentment, disappointment, and even anger.

Do you ever have that friend who calls you every single day to talk even though there really isn’t anything to talk about? Or that friend who forgets your birthday but seems to remember to call you when they need something? As a result of the pandemic it can feel as though everybody around you is in need of help, while all the while you could be struggling too. Boundaries are therefore essential as they serve as a reminder that you cannot pour water from an empty bottle. Much like when you are on an airplane and are told in case of an emergency you must put your own oxygen mask on first before tending to others.

While friendships do not necessarily have to be a sharp slash 50/50, they should eventually balance out over time. It’s vital to alter the expectations that you are always available, and to learn and understand the difference between being agreeable and flexible, with being a people pleaser. Being able to tell your friend “no” should not be difficult and should not be taken as disloyalty. However, it’s imperative that you have compassion in your delivery to ensure that the focus is on you and not blaming the other person.

Perhaps you and your friend have different preferences when it comes to communication. I know I do. For instance, I dislike speaking on the phone and prefer texting as an alternative. Find what works for you and make sure you’re clear. Don’t expect people to read your mind.

Content Creator

Respectfully NO. From my personal experience, I believe this is something which needs to be normalised more in the community and used as a means of fostering healthy relationships. Let me elaborate on this with example scenarios:

Have you ever been to family gatherings or parties with friends which are just a drag, where you wished you spent that time differently? Be it on a time crunch university project, wrapping up that report to submit to your boss, or just spending it on your precious ‘me-time’ binge watching your favourite show? At this point you probably understand what I’m trying to convey here. So why is it that your friends or families are making you go anyway? It’s probably because they don’t understand the degree of urgency that a task has towards you or they value their time differently than you do. If there is really anything that we have, it’s ‘time’ so we should be able to create healthy boundaries and spend it in our best interest without having to feel like we are letting someone else down by doing so. How about the next time you are invited anywhere that does not align with your schedule you respectfully tell them no?

Personally this year, I plan to use this a lot more to avoid being anywhere that doesn’t align with my priorities. I hope to see boundaries become more normalised in the community so elders won’t feel offended when someone younger to them tells them “no” to something out of respect.

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