Romantic partners often struggle with an essential element: setting boundaries. Relationship boundaries can be difficult to establish and carry out. Social conditioning, not having the necessary knowledge, or worrying about the other person’s perception and response can compromise one’s boundaries.
Everybody responds to boundaries differently and many don’t want to risk having their romantic partner feel insulted or turned off by their need to set boundaries. At times adopting boundaries in a relationship may be perceived as rejection or dismissiveness.
While boundaries can be difficult to establish, they play an important role in healthy relationship dynamics. Fortunately, there are ways to build boundaries in a respectful way that don’t exclude mutual understanding. Healthy boundaries will earn you your partner’s respect and a personal space indispensable for growth and well-being.
No matter how you may feel, change is possible!
We'll work side by side to uncover the challenges and patterns that keep you from living the life you desire.
What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like
Defining a healthy relationship isn’t easy because each individual has their distinctive needs. Still, there are numerous signs that can indicate when a relationship is going in the right direction:
- There is mutual respect and the desire to tend to your partner’s needs
- Intimacy flourishes and it is based on vulnerability
- Communication is thorough and open
- You trust your partner enough to share your weaknesses, past, and desires (and vice versa)
- Both of you express lots of fondness and affection
- Both of you enjoy spending quality time together
- You enjoy alone time or spend time with your friends away from your partner
- You have your togetherness and your personal space
- You feel that you have both a partnership and a deep friendship
- There is shared responsibility in terms of growing and evolving as a couple and as individuals
As you’ve probably figured out already, most of these characteristics spring from healthy boundaries.
What Are Personal Boundaries
The term refers to setting healthy borders and letting your partner know what you feel comfortable with. In other words, a boundary tells them when to stop without crossing a certain line.
Boundaries in a relationship can define many things – one’s individuality, responsibilities, and emotional and physical needs. Essentially, boundaries are about the relationship that you have with yourself and the things you need in order to thrive. Your sense of identity and confidence are both heavily dependent on boundary establishment.
Types of Relationship Boundaries
There are various types of boundaries that will play an important role in a healthy relationship:
- Emotional boundaries: They are linked to your feelings and having your emotional needs met. What would you like to do when you feel upset? Or needy? Or angry? It’s essential to communicate this information with your partner so that they can respond adequately when the situation arises.
- Physical boundaries: How do you like your body to be treated? How important is your personal space? What about privacy? All of these elements fall under the physical boundaries umbrella. Are you comfortable with public displays of affection? Do you like to cuddle when you sleep, or would you like to be left alone? How do you feel about nudity? These are important questions pertaining to the setting of physical boundaries.
- Sexual boundaries: Define what you feel comfortable with during intimacy. While sexual boundaries can be very difficult to communicate, they’re essential if you want to have a safe and connected sex life.
- Other kinds of boundaries: Many people have additional boundaries depending on their character, lifestyle needs, and individual preferences. These may include financial boundaries, intellectual boundaries, time boundaries (setting your priorities and letting a partner know how much time you can dedicate to various aspects of the relationship), and material and spiritual boundaries.
Examples of Healthy Relationship Boundaries
Now that you know the various boundary categories, let’s discover a few actual examples to shed more clarity on how they look.
An example of an effective boundary in the physical realm may be asking your partner to touch you in a certain way or to give you privacy while you’re using the bathroom.
An emotional boundary would look like this: “I am very anxious and stressed out right now. Talking about our relationship isn’t a good idea for the moment. Could you please give me some time?”
Sexual boundaries come in many shapes. Asking for consent before trying something new is one of them. Discussing birth control or STD screening is also an example of a healthy sexual boundary.
How to Set Relationship Boundaries
Your happiness and the health of the romantic relationship both depend on healthy boundaries. In order to successfully establish them you’ll need to go through a few important steps:
- Know what you want in a relationship: There are certain non-negotiable boundaries you need to be happy. Start out with the “big” boundaries and inform your partner about them. The sooner you start the conversation, the easier it will be to build the kind of relationship you find fulfilling. Try to direct the conversation towards your partner’s boundaries, as well.
- Talk to your partner openly about your needs: This step often involves challenging conversations. Talking about sex, money or spirituality can be difficult because these are all sensitive topics. If you keep an open mind, you’re clear, and time the conversation correctly, however, you’ll be on the path to success.
- Understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries: Unhealthy boundaries tend to be very rigid and motivated by the wrong thing. The desire to control your partner can be a very bad motivator. The same applies to the fear of rejection. You should have a good understanding of healthy boundaries and the role they play in relationships. It’s also important to know that boundaries can change with the passage of time. Keep an open mind and work on addressing boundary issues or the overall lack of boundaries. By doing so, you’ll evolve alongside the partnership you’re building right now.
- Learn from your mistakes: Mistakes are inevitable. If you view them as learning opportunities, you can set healthier boundaries in the future.
- Listen to your partner: Setting boundaries is a bi-directional process. In other words, you have to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Understand their needs, desires, and non-negotiables. Try to find the middle ground between your needs and theirs. Remain open to further discussion in the future. Fulfilling your partner’s needs may sometimes be difficult but it’s the only way to build trust and happiness.
A healthy relationship takes into account the boundaries of two people. These are set with respect and clear communication. Learning how to set boundaries takes time. Start early enough in the relationship and address mistakes on the go.
Having a good understanding of each other’s expectations and handling challenges/opportunities together will result in the balance required for a relationship to become unbreakable and for you to fall further in love with each passing day.