Establishing clear and healthy relationship boundaries can help you keep your romantic relationship – and other relationships with your friends, kids, or co-workers – strong. These boundaries are limits that you set to protect yourself, including your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Regardless of the type of the relationship, boundaries can only be effective if they are communicated clearly and have consequences if the other one breaks them (I know- easier said than done).
Today, we will dive into relationship boundaries. We will discuss why boundaries are good for you and which types of boundaries you need to consider to keep your relationship healthy.
Why boundaries are good for you and your relationships
When it comes to relationship boundaries, they are vital for keeping the relationship running smoothly. This is because they help you maintain an optimal balance between you and the other person. Also, they help minimize any kind of conflicts because it will be clear for both of you what you expect from each other. Chances are that your needs will be more respected due to the healthy boundaries.
Besides, boundaries are established through clear and open communication. Thus, setting boundaries can bring you even closer to each other.
Ultimately, all healthy boundaries are for us and serve our health and protection.
Related read: How to Choose Happiness for a Better Life
The main types of healthy relationship boundaries you may need in a romantic relationship
Now that you have a better understanding of why boundaries are important for a healthy relationship, it’s time to take a look at what kind of boundaries you may need. Although in the following we will focus on romantic relationships, we will also briefly mention friendships and relationships with family members and co-workers in the end.
The first category of healthy relationship boundaries is physical boundaries. These boundaries are related to the body itself, plus personal space and privacy. Understandably, the actual limits you can set in this category can be various and may depend on your needs.
However, it’s important to talk about your preferences and expectations with your partner.
Let’s see a few simple examples here:
Many people like to show their affection and love in public. This is why your partner may kiss you and hug you in public. While some people are completely okay with it, others may feel uncomfortable in this situation. If you are also uncomfortable with showing your affection in front of others, then you need to discuss it with your partner. Tell them that you don’t feel comfortable with kissing in public and ask them to respect your preference.
Another example can be slapping. Would you accept it if your partner slaps you when they are angry? Hopefully, no. – Remember, physical violence should not be tolerated in a healthy relationship! Then make it clear for them and establish a boundary with a consequence. Most likely, it will be something like this: “If you slap me, I will need to break up with you.”
Regarding your personal space, you may have some needs as well. If you would like to spend half an hour reading in bed before sleeping, tell your partner that it’s important for you and it helps you feel relaxed. However, if they don’t let you read and they are constantly disrupting you, you will feel more stressed and anxious. This way, they will be aware of your needs and they have the opportunity to respect them. But if you don’t communicate, how would they know about them? Open communication is the key when it comes to setting personal boundaries.
And of course, this is a two way street. So make sure to show respect for your partner’s requests as well!
Related read: Simple Self-Care Strategies that Work
The next category includes emotional boundaries. Several issues can come up in a relationship regarding your feelings and emotions. It’s your job to identify them and establish a boundary around them. To help you, I will give you 2 examples.
A common mistake in unhealthy relationships is that people don’t acknowledge each other’s feelings. For example, if you are upset because of something and you are crying, maybe all you need is a little cuddling and a few supportive words. However, sometimes your partner may react differently: “Why are you crying because of this?! It’s nothing!”. A reaction like this can make things only worse. This is why you need to discuss it with your partner. Tell them what you would like them to do when you are upset in order to help you feel better. If they think the issue that makes you upset is insignificant, they may have the right to say it. But they also need to acknowledge that even if the situation seems trivial for them, you feel differently. They need to understand and respect your feelings. If not, it’s better if they leave you alone because saying “it’s nothing” doesn’t help for anything either.
Another boundary can be about calling names. Let’s say that you get into an argument with your partner and they call you an unkind name in the middle of the fight. Of course, you would feel bad because of it. But what can you do about it? First, wait until both of you calm down. Then, talk about the argument and what happened. Also, don’t forget to take responsibility for your part in the argument that led to a heated fight. After that, tell them that you don’t tolerate name-calling in this relationship, and in the future, they should avoid it.
Intellectual boundaries are about beliefs, ideas, and views.
If you feel that you can’t share your opinion or views with your partner because you are afraid that they won’t respect your opinion (again) or they will make you feel bad about it, it’s a clear sign that you may need to set a boundary around this. You could explain to them that it hurts you when you share your opinion with them and they say that your opinion is wrong. You feel like they don’t respect your views at all and you can’t even have your own opinion. Then, establish the boundary and let them know that if this happens the next time, you will remind them not to do it. However, if they continue saying that your opinion is not valid, you will end the conversation immediately and leave.
Related read: Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships
Sexual boundaries are crucial in a romantic relationship. These boundaries are about your expectations concerning physical intimacy. They can be related to the frequency of sexual acts or which acts you prefer and which are off-limits for you. Also, these boundaries can include sexual comments. Are you okay with them or not?
Setting healthy relationship boundaries around intimacy is possible. You just need to talk about your needs, desires, and sexual limits openly and arrive at a mutual agreement with your partner.
Lastly, let’s talk about financial boundaries. Since many couples argue because of money, it’s necessary to establish some boundaries regarding finances as well. This can mean that you set a few financial limits such as how much money goes into savings each month, how much money you can spend on personal items, whether you prefer to have a joint account or separate ones, etc. It doesn’t matter what kind of rules you make, the important thing is to reach an agreement on them with your partner.
Let’s say that you would like to buy a new car next year. To do that you agree to put some money into a separate account each month. If you see that after one or two months your partner stops contributing to saving money for the new car, it could upset you. This is when you need to step up and set a boundary. You might say that you would like to buy a new car for the family but you both need to save some money to make that happen. This is why you want your partner to contribute every month. Every time he puts money into the savings account, you will add the same amount of money to the savings.
Setting boundaries with friends, family members, and co-workers
Although above we focused on romantic relationships, maintaining healthy relationship boundaries with friends, family members, and co-workers is equally important. You can apply the above-mentioned boundaries – except sexual boundaries – to these relationships as well.
If you feel that your best friends, parents, or colleagues often don’t respect your feelings, opinion, or decisions, you need to tell them how it’s making you feel- along with the consequences. If they don’t give you enough personal space, say that you need to be alone sometimes or you need to focus on your hobbies instead of spending all your time with them.
Setting healthy boundaries can also be effective with your children and can help reduce conflicts. For example, if they want to ride a bike but don’t want to wear a helmet, let them know that it’s non-negotiable and they always have to follow this rule.
Related read: 7 Ways to Raise Your Health Consciousness
As you can see, establishing healthy boundaries can be beneficial for you in many aspects. Strong boundaries can help any type of relationship – romantic, family, and work relationships- function effectively. Thus, it is worth setting boundaries to promote healthy relationships with your loved ones.
Do you often set boundaries in your relationships?