In a BDSM relationship, boundaries are important. They're discussed, adhered to, and there's a safeword to ensure things stop. And although all that relies on trust, hopefully you've built that or established that, or are working in it safely.
In other relationships, there aren't really any 'rules' regarding boundaries. In general, they aren't discussed. People assume others are the same as them, when sometimes this may not be true.
Personal space is one boundary that is often different among people. It's never discussed. No one's ever asked me how much personal space I need. And it's something that does fluctuate - I accept less space on a crowded train than in an empty park.
If someone encroaches on my personal space, I tend to distrust them. Makes no difference at all that they may not even know they're doing it, my distrust is instantaneous. And if I move back and they follow, then I move from distrust to dislike. And if they crowd in even further, then whoa, I'm out of there, if not physically then at least mentally.
A relationship is kind of like the personal space thing, in my mind. I have boundaries, which usually aren't discussed, but I expect them to be understood and adhered to, or negotiated if they don't suit. But people can take advantage of others and push their boundaries - sometimes, unnecessarily, or for their own gain.
One example is with a new relationship. If someone wants a relationship with you, and you aren't feeling the same, you're entitled to say "No, thanks." You've set the boundary for you. They can push, but each time they do, I'd be trusting them less.
Respecting a boundary is all about courtesy and trust. Sure, you can be forced outside your boundary, and some people like to be pushed outside their comfort zone, but others don't. It's personal. Boundaries are personal. I feel they need to be respected, in all relationships.
I don't know how we learn about boundaries. I think it's something we learn as a child and extend it throughout our life. As a kid, if we overstep our parents' boundaries, we're usually pulled into line. If we overstep another adult's boundary, the same. As we tussle in the playground, we're learning to respect others' boundaries. Maybe people stop learning this, or think they're beyond it, or think they're more important than another, so their boundaries don't matter.
I'm realising how important boundaries are, yet how much we don't even think about them.
Do you have any thoughts on boundaries?