Boundaries are essential to every relationship, even platonic relationships with friends and family. Without boundaries in relationships, you can easily become a rug that everyone else walks over or accidentally find yourself taking advantage of another person’s kindness. Setting boundaries helps keep your relationships happy and healthy while making disagreements easier to solve.
WHY BOUNDARIES IN RELATIONSHIPS ARE A MUST
There are some great reasons to set boundaries in a relationship, especially from the start. Even if you and your man are reasonable, boundaries can make things go more smoothly. Benefits of boundaries in relationships include:
- Preventing your significant other from dominating all your time.
- Ensuring you don’t become burned out (emotionally or physically) from your relationship and man.
- Leaving time for you both to spend with others.
- Making sure neither of you feels disrespected.
- Ensuring you don’t move too quickly in your relationship.
- Protecting your privacy.
- Feeling empowered.
- Having a model to work toward, so both you and your man are on the same page.
- So on and so forth.
Even assuming that your relationship is pretty good, specifying boundaries can be good practice for discussing potentially tricky topics that will pop up in the future.
Sex, in particular, can be difficult to discuss. Learn how to talk about sex with our guide to sexual communication.
If you don’t set boundaries in your relationship, there are a lot of possible negatives including but not limited to:
- Growing resentful of your man and relationship.
- Feeling guilty about your emotions.
- Weakened relationship with friends and family.
- Losing sight of yourself.
- Not being able to stand up for yourself.
- Not having your emotional and sexual needs met.
- Stifling your growth as a couple and person.
Once your relationship becomes full of strife and you either fail to set or obey boundaries, it might be time to take a break.
TYPES OF BOUNDARIES TO CONSIDER
The benefits to relationship boundaries may have you considering the type of boundaries you can set. Boundaries fall into a few different categories.
- Time: How much time you spend with one another, with other people, on certain hobbies, so on and so forth.
- Sexual: The things you are willing to do, frequency, types of sex, etc. Sexual boundaries allow you to say “No.”
- Digital: How you’ll deal with cell phones, laptops, the Internet, social media and password sharing.
- Emotional: How you need to express love and feel loved, when to say “I love you” (read more here), how you express your feelings and more.
- Possessions: Regards the sharing of material belongings.
- Physical: Is it okay to invade one another’s personal “bubbles”?
- Spiritual: You must respect one another’s spiritual and religious beliefs even if you do not share them.
- Intellectual: An intellectual relationship boundary creates a respectful atmosphere for other points of view, no matter how different that POV might be from your own.
As you can guess, many boundaries fall into multiple categories, and some may define categorization overall.
HOW TO SET RELATIONSHIP BOUNDARIES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
First, you must figure out how you feel. If you feel any discomfort, anxiety or dissatisfaction, it may be due to a lack of boundary. For example, you might feel suffocated because your partner is clingy.
Determine what you need to be happy. In our example, you probably need time and space to yourself to feel balanced and to prevent resentment from growing in your relationship.
This leads us to our next step, which is to figure out what your ideal relationship looks like. This is a good step for dealing with any strife in a relationship, and relationship boundaries help you get closer to your ideal relationship.
Related: 9 Signs of a Healthy Relationship
Next, it’s time to discuss those boundaries, which might be a little tricky. If you set the precedent of talking about boundaries early on, it’s easier than if you try to implement them at a later point. But if the two of you are dedicated to your relationship, then you can work to add boundaries to your relationship. It can be difficult to curb bad behaviors, so you should try to be patient.
Once you specify boundaries, you’ll need to compromise. Perhaps something you think is reasonable – having two hours to yourself every day, for example – might not actually work. You and your man can discuss realistic ways to set boundaries; although, those boundaries might not look exactly like what you were imagining.
EXAMPLES OF RELATIONSHIP BOUNDARIES
The following are a few examples of relationship boundaries you may choose to implement. You don’t need to apply any of these boundaries, but you can use these for inspiration. Your specific needs and situation may warrant boundaries that we don’t suggest, too.
- You share passwords and can look at the other’s devices when necessary (when making plans, for example). Or you don’t share passwords or look at the other’s device.
- You won’t say “I love you” until you’ve been together X amount of time. You won’t say it during/after sex. Saying “I love you” is something you should do every day when in a serious relationship.
- You must speak at least once per day. Alternatively, you may not mind not speaking on a daily basis, especially if the two of you are busy.
- You won’t spend one-on-one time with friends of the opposite gender or, if you do, you’ll always let your significant other know ahead of time.
- You won’t raise voices, insult or name call during arguments (Learn how to handle disagreements with the speaker-listener technique).
Discover 10 relationship rules that can easily become helpful boundaries in your relationship.
WHAT IF YOUR PARTNER DOESN’T RESPECT YOUR BOUNDARY?
We do need to pause to discuss partners who don’t respect our boundaries. In some instances, it may be that boundaries are impossible to respect. But it may also be that your man simply doesn’t respect you, especially if he hasn’t had to follow your boundaries before now.
If your man refuses to respect the rules you set, it’s probably time to consider breaking up with him. Otherwise, you’ll just wind up compromising your values and happiness because he’s not willing to be in an adult relationship.
BOUNDARIES ARE DIFFICULT
It’s important for you to maintain your own boundaries. If you are a selfless person who likes to help others or is easily swayed by others’ words, feelings and needs, you might find yourself backtracking on a relationship boundary. Not everyone realizes that they have rights, but everyone deserves basic human decency.
However, this only allows other people to mistreat you. After all, if the relationship boundary were necessary, you wouldn’t be so lenient. More malicious people may attempt to take advantage of your good nature because they know these things about you.
Imagine the type of advice you’d give to someone in a similar position. You’d reassure them of their right to be treated kindly and the necessity of relationship boundaries. Doesn’t the same advice apply to you?
Another reason why setting and enforcing relationship boundaries can be tough to abide by stems from our childhood. If you weren’t raised to respect others’ boundaries or encouraged to specify your own boundaries, you might have trouble as an adult. The good news is that boundaries are learned, and you can learn them now and teach them to your partner.
Boundaries are intended to encourage positive and healthy behavior, not used to punish people. Discuss boundaries in a situation where you can be calm and level-headed. This includes any violation of relationship boundaries. You may need to implement consequences to any relationship boundary that you set, but these consequences shouldn’t be punitive.
Boundaries in relationships can fail if you don’t believe you need them. This mistaken opinion is easy to come by, especially if your partner is good at respecting boundaries without the need for discussing them. However, imagine if your partner wasn’t respecting a relationship boundary or if your boundaries will need to change for some reason.
Finally, we can take boundaries in relationships as a personal attack. However, it’s important to remember that everyone needs boundaries. Your man’s needs aren’t necessarily because you’re doing something wrong or not a good pair.
AS YOUR RELATIONSHIP CHANGES, SO WILL THE BOUNDARIES YOU NEED
You see, boundaries in relationships are ever-changing. Like your situation, relationship and needs change, so, too, must your boundaries. For example, the rules you set as a new couple may be more stringent than those that come up later because you’re just establishing your relationship. You may not explicitly set boundaries as the two of you become more knowledgeable about and comfortable with one another.
Boundaries can also change if you move in with one another or if one of you relocates for work or school. Did you know much of our tough long-distance relationship advice revolves around relationship boundaries? Learn more here.
The decision to try new things sexually, whether it’s rough sex, bondage or a threesome, is one that requires you to specify boundaries. In fact, we recommend setting boundaries before you try something that could potentially upset your relationship.
Once you’re comfortable with establishing boundaries, you’ll be able to update them as you need to. It should become easier to specify boundaries and to follow them, even if it was difficult for you in the beginning.
While boundaries in relationships may seem odd to you as first, especially if you have a more romantic view of how relationships should be, you’ll see how boundaries can help your relationship once you implement them. And boundaries are useful for more than just romantic relationships, so you can use this advice to improve all your relationships.