No matter the nature of your relationship, setting boundaries is a critical component to maintaining a healthy connection with your partner.
Seeking a close partnership should not have to conflict with your needs.
Becoming one as a couple means holistically knowing yourself, understanding your personal and emotional needs, and being able to communicate them to your significant other effectively.
It isn’t always easy to understand what your boundary issues are and how to communicate them.
We’ve created a relationship boundaries list to help you on your path to a loving and healing cohabitation.
[Side Note: You might consider the Couples Communication Course. In this online course, learn healthy communication skills and build the intimacy you’ve always wanted in your relationship.)
- What Are Healthy Boundaries in Relationships?
- 21 Examples of How To Set Healthy Boundaries in Relationships
- Examples of Emotional Boundaries To Set
- Examples of Personal Boundaries
- 12. Your Right to Privacy
- 13. The Ability to Change Your Mind
- 14. Your Right to Your Own Time
- 15. The Need to Handle Negative Energy
- 16. The Freedom to Express Sexual Boundaries
- 17. The Freedom to Express Spiritual Boundaries
- 18. The Right to Remain True to Your Principles
- 19. The Ability to Communicate Physical Needs
- 20. Your Right to Your Material Possessions
- 21. Your Ability to Manage Your Own Time
- How to Set Boundaries in Relationships
What Are Healthy Boundaries in Relationships?
The health of your communication defines healthy relationships.
Understanding your partner’s boundaries will transform your ability to communicate and help nip issues in the bud before they overwhelm you.
Healthy boundaries are a reflection of your principles, rules, and guidelines that you have set for yourself. A break in those boundaries arises when your partner disrespects, ignores, or isn’t aware of those principles or personal needs.
Having a lack of boundaries can often lead to emotional manipulation from your significant other, whether or not it’s intentional.
You may have issues with saying no when someone asks you a favor, or you may dislike public displays of affection.
If so, you must speak up and communicate those needs to your partner.
Learn to recognize the signs that someone has crossed your boundaries.
These include feelings of anger, resentment, or guilt.
The conversation you have with your partner may be tough at first, but it might be the key to a happy relationship.
21 Examples of How To Set Healthy Boundaries in Relationships
There are many types of boundaries in relationships, as well as boundaries in a marriage, that can establish better communication and intimacy.
Some conversations may be easier than others, but it’s better they occur with preparation rather than during the tense moments after an argument.
It may also be helpful to enlist a personal therapist or a couples therapist to discern where you most need them.
Examples of Emotional Boundaries To Set
1. Saying No
You may find it easier to sacrifice your own needs for your partner’s out of a fear of upsetting them.
However, if they ask something of you that goes against your principles, disrespects your time, or forces you to sacrifice something important, it’s okay to say no. It doesn’t have to be harsh, but learn to say it assertively.
2. Refusing to Take Blame
Sometimes, your partner may place the blame on you out of hurt or guilt. This behavior does not mean their anger is your fault. Do not let them skirt responsibility by manipulating your emotions. Acknowledge their pain, let them know you are there for them, but assert that you will not accept responsibility for their actions.
3. Expecting Respect
You deserve kindness and loving communication. If you feel your partner is speaking from unjustified anger or with a disrespectful tone, you are within your right to remove yourself from the scenario.
Let them know that if they want to have a conversation, it must come from a place of respect.
4. Dictating Your Own Feelings
When you’re part of a couple, opinions and emotions can feel blurred. Learn to decipher your feelings from your partner’s and their perception of your feelings. If they speak for you, correct them and kindly ask that they do not dictate your emotions for you.
5. Finding Your Identity Outside of the Relationship
Codependency can lead to a melding of identities. “I” becomes “we,” and the “you” gets lost in the mix. Remember that you are not just one half of a whole but your own person with passions, interests, and vibrant intelligence. It’s okay to have a sense of self separate from your partner.
6. Accepting Help
Some people are more independent and find difficulty relying on their partner in tough times. If you need help, it can be good to establish where your boundaries are and what you do and do not want help with.
You may ask for help with finances but need space when dealing with family issues. This balance can be a delicate tango, but open communication leads to a smoother rhythm.
7. Asking for Space
Sometimes we just need to be alone in emotional upheaval. In a relationship, it can seem like you never are. Asking for space may feel to your partner like you are pushing him or her away, even though that’s not your intention.
Alone time is perfectly healthy and a key to maintaining your own identity and sorting through your problems. If you aren’t clear about needing space, your partner might feel neglected or that you’re avoiding them. Establishing upfront that you like to spend time alone will help later on.
8. Communicating Discomfort
Whether your partner tells a hurtful joke or crosses a physical line, learning to articulate your discomfort clearly will help in setting your boundaries. Let them know what you will not tolerate, and plan a course of action if he or she crosses that boundary.
Phrases like “Please don’t do that, it makes me uncomfortable” or “I don’t like it when you ( ex: use that word, touch me there, use that tone)” are clear and concise.
9. Sharing Mutually
It’s okay to take things slowly at the beginning of a relationship. Don’t feel pressured to share everything upfront or feel you have to share first for your significant other to open up. Vulnerability should be mutual, with both partners checking in and creating a safe space for sharing.
10. Sticking Up for Yourself
In an argument, you or your partner may say things you regret that are mean or ugly. Establish that you won’t accept him or her speaking to you that way. You have intrinsic worth and deserve to be spoken to kindly. Make it known that you need an apology and that you need your partner to acknowledge the hurt their words have caused.
11. Choosing to be Vulnerable
Vulnerability should not be demanded. Of course, it is an important component of a healthy relationship, but you should never feel pressured to open up about a difficult topic in any stage of your relationship.
You share your feelings and experiences on your terms. You should feel safe to communicate that you may need time to discuss specific topics or memories.
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Examples of Personal Boundaries
12. Your Right to Privacy
There are many different levels of privacy. You may share a home computer, but keep your email password to yourself. This choice is reasonable. Your belongings, thoughts, texts, journal entries, and even topics as big as past relationships or traumas are yours to share or not share at your discretion. Infringement on those boundaries is not acceptable.
13. The Ability to Change Your Mind
Your choices are your decision, as is the option to make a new one. If you change your mind, your partner should not make you feel guilty for it. Be clear with your reasoning or simply state that you decided to change your mind. Of course, being open is important, but it should happen on your terms.
14. Your Right to Your Own Time
You get to dictate where and with whom you spend your time, alone or apart. Maybe you don’t love going to Monday night football. Establish that Monday nights are your alone time or your weekly wine night with your pals. Perhaps you need to be by yourself for a few days after a big fight; you are within your right to ask for that.
15. The Need to Handle Negative Energy
A personal boundary can also be one that you set for your own behavior. It is important to navigate unhealthy anger and resentment so you aren’t bringing negative energy into a shared space.
If you can’t let it out on your own, ask for help. Share your negative emotions and lighten those toxic feelings by being honest about your mood.
16. The Freedom to Express Sexual Boundaries
The beginnings of physical intimacy with a new partner is an exciting time, but navigating personal boundaries in sex can be awkward or even scary. Openly communicating your needs or discomforts is essential, though finding the words can be tricky.
Remember that every step you take requires enthusiastic consent from your partner, and you should never feel pressured into anything. Talk with each other regularly. Share fantasies and discuss boundaries. Honesty and vulnerability are powerful.
17. The Freedom to Express Spiritual Boundaries
Your beliefs are your own, no matter how much you may or may not have in common with your partner in terms of spirituality or religion. You and your significant other should respect each other’s beliefs, foster and encourage each other’s spiritual growth, and be open to learning about the other’s culture or faith.
18. The Right to Remain True to Your Principles
Set a boundary with yourself that your principles remain in place no matter who you are dating. Of course, you can change your mind as your conversations with your partner open new doors to new ideas. But you shouldn’t feel pressured to adopt his or her stances out of fear of upsetting them.
19. The Ability to Communicate Physical Needs
Learn to communicate what your body needs. Are you a vegetarian and don’t want meat in the house? Are you an early riser who needs to be in bed before 10:00 pm? Then make sure your partner respects your physical needs by not making loud noises or watching TV late into the evening.
On the other hand, learn about your significant other’s boundaries. If they prefer a later bedtime, work out an arrangement rather than pressuring them to go to sleep before their biological clock allows them to.
20. Your Right to Your Material Possessions
Deciding what to share and what to keep for yourself is never an easy task. Some couples open joint bank accounts, while others forego that for financial independence. Material and financial boundaries are commonplace in every relationship.
21. Your Ability to Manage Your Own Time
Another relationship boundary to set for yourself is learning to manage your time in a way that doesn’t disrespect your significant other’s.
When you’re single, you can put off doing the dishes as long as you want. However, in a relationship, your time is not just your own. If you agree to date at 8:00 pm, it’s essential to stick to your word.
That means learning to manage your time respectfully, even when you’re alone.
How to Set Boundaries in Relationships
It’s one thing to know what your boundaries are, but it’s a whole different ball game to establish them, especially if that means unlearning bad habits. Try to avoid reactionary anger when setting boundaries.
We often don’t know what our boundaries are until someone crosses them. However, there are better ways to communicate to your partner what they are.
Here are some thoughts on establishing your boundaries in a relationship:
How will you set boundaries in your relationship?
It may be scary to be vulnerable and admit what you need from your significant other, but you know yourself and what you need better than anyone else.
A loving partner, the partner you deserve, will respect and value the boundaries you have set.
Ultimately, you will find yourselves closer than ever. Showing your loved one that you are willing to set boundaries will help them share their boundaries with you. It may take time and hard work, but the best things always do.