Relationships can be difficult. However, if you know how to set boundaries in a relationship, then it can be a lot easier. Here is how to set them.
All healthy relationships have one thing in common—boundaries. But, what are boundaries? Well, they differ for every couple, but there are some basic commonalities for how to set boundaries in a relationship.
Boundaries can be set so that fights don’t go too far. They can also be in place so you or your partner doesn’t overstep and include themselves into something you want to handle alone. So, depending on your relationship, the boundaries you set will vary, but they should always benefit your relationship as a whole, not just one person.
What are relationship boundaries?
In a nutshell, a boundary defines ownership and responsibility. When you are in a romantic relationship, the “things” that are yours are not usually tangible. The boundary line helps you define where you and your partner start and stop.
It is about creating limits between the two of you. Ideally, these limits will benefit both of you and help you understand your partner and vice versa.
In other words, boundaries define what is your responsibility in the relationship and what is your partner’s. It shows who you are as an individual, and who your partner is as an individual, without turning into one new identity as a “couple.”
The boundaries can vary a lot – from your body, words, actions, attitudes, values, preferences, and emotions. For example, if you don’t want to be touched in a certain place because it doesn’t feel good, then you can say no. Or, if you become rude to your partner, you need to take responsibility for that and apologize to them – and don’t do it again.
One of the biggest reasons for creating boundaries in a relationship is to eliminate blame and frustrations. When you have healthy boundaries, you reduce the chances of blaming your partner and them blaming you for something.
People usually blame others when they want to deflect responsibility onto someone else. When you take responsibility for your part in the conflict, misunderstanding, or whatever other problem you have, then your partner should be willing to take responsibility for their part too.
If both people do this, then your can resolve your issues a lot easier.
When you have clear boundary lines, they help you determine where you start and stop. You can define your responsibilities in the relationship as yours, and which are theirs. It’s a way of saying, “I will take full responsibility for what is mine.”
This is the beginning of forming strong emotional bonds with your partner. Without them, problems can easily arise.
Why do relationships need boundaries?
You may think a healthy relationship should have no boundaries. You may assume that everything should be on the table and shared equally because you are both now equal partners. But boundaries and rules are not the same things.
Boundaries are there to help you and your partner work through struggles and come out stronger rather than weaker. They are not there to limit your relationship or limit each other.
In other words, boundaries are guiding points for a successful relationship. Without them, staying together can be much more difficult because no one takes responsibility for anything.
The most important types of boundaries to set in a relationship
When it comes to learning how to set boundaries in a relationship, it all starts with openness and honesty. If you can’t be true to yourself and truthful with your partner, boundaries won’t help.
But, what boundaries should you set? This is up to you entirely. But to start off, maybe these are things you haven’t even thought of and now you’ll consider them.
We all have baggage from past relationships. Whether you have trust issues, self-esteem issues, or dealing with mental or emotional abuse. Having boundaries set in place in your new relationship is a great place to start.
Make sure your partner knows what you’ve been through and what sort of behavior is off the table. If cursing in a fight brings up bad feelings for you, let your partner know how it makes you feel so you can move forward in a healthy way. And vice versa.
Boundaries are not just stopping points in a relationship, but also expectations. What do you and your partner expect from one another? We’re assuming neither of you is a mind reader, which means you have to tell each other what you want from one another.
Let your partner know if you expect to talk or meet every day. Let them know if you expect them to do certain things, like have dinner with your family once a week.
If you don’t communicate about what you both expect from one another, you will both begin to resent each other for not living up to your expectations.
You may think having boundaries set for fights is jinxing it. But, all couples fight. And having boundaries set for the inevitable will help your fights end amicably rather than in a rage.
A great time to set this boundary is before you even have your first fight. Talk about what behavior is okay and what isn’t. Will you go to bed angry or work things out before laying down? Will you give each other space to calm down or talk it through? Is it okay if one of you leaves?
Discuss what behaviors are okay and not okay in an argument. And decide the most appropriate course of action for your relationship moving forward.
4. Social media
In today’s day and age, your social media status can really affect your relationship, so having boundaries set here can prevent future misunderstandings. Are you going to be official on social media? Are you going to post cute couple pictures?
Or are you both more private and want to keep things on the DL? This is something you should discuss. Ensuring you are both on the same page with the online PDA will make sure you don’t push someone’s boundaries.
5. Me time
Relationships can be all-consuming, but having time for yourself is vital. Discuss that with your partner. Make sure they know it isn’t that you don’t want to spend time with them, but you need time alone too in order to maintain your identity separate from the relationship.
You can even schedule a few times a week for you two to go off on your own.
6. Date nights
When you first meet, dates are how you get to know one another, but once the honeymoon phase is over, dates can turn into falling asleep watching a new Netflix series on the sofa.
Set boundaries in your relationship. Maybe you agree on one date night per week or one per month, where you actually go out and do something new and exciting. Not only does this help keep the spark alive, but it can prevent a rut from forming.
Just because you’re a couple doesn’t mean every part of your life is shared. You may want to be independent with your money. Are you willing to bail your partner out of a jam by lending them money or lying for them?
You and your partner need to discuss what you are willing and not willing to do in these situations. This way, if something does come up, you will already have a plan in motion.
What happens in the bedroom is not always fun and games. Some people have off-limits zones. If you want to try something new or don’t want to try something new, talking about it is vital for a healthy relationship.
Set boundaries with your partner about what you want to do and don’t want to do so you both go into every sexy night feeling safe and heard.
Just because you are in a relationship doesn’t mean being faithful is a given. Boundaries need to be set in a relationship when it comes to commitment.
Are you all in or are you still testing the waters? You don’t want to assume you are monogamous to later find out your partner has been seeing other people.
So discuss your relationship boundaries. Talk about everything from sex, to kissing, and even flirting. What is off-limits outside of you two?
10. The future
This won’t be for everyone, but if you are looking to develop a long-term relationship, you need to set boundaries for the future. Do you both want kids? Do you want to travel?
Discussing what you both want out of the future together can help you move forward, or press the brakes.
We’re not just talking about marriage and kids here, but how involved will you be in each other’s extended family? Can your partner reach out to your siblings or parents on their own?
Where are you spending the holidays? Some people are very protective of their families and others don’t get along too well at all. Knowing where you and your partner stand with each other’s families is important to prevent anyone from stepping on each other’s toes.
Something that can break up even the strongest relationship is distance. Are you both willing to commit to a long-distance relationship? How long will it last before someone moves? Are you willing to move to be with your partner and are they willing to do the same for you?
Some couples share a friend group while others have their own separate friends. Setting boundaries for friendships are so important. Do you want to see your friendships somewhat separate from your relationship?
Do you have male or female friends that your partner is comfortable with you hanging out with alone? Discussing anything friend-related can diffuse a fight before it even begins.
This is a tough one. In every relationship, changes will arise. You cannot foresee how to face them because you won’t know what they are. Is one of you going through something, maybe you’re stressed or lost your job?
Setting boundaries for how to handle unforeseen issues will help you both remain calm when things arise.
Talking about a break-up while you are still happy can really feel scary, but if you live together, share close friends, a pet, etc. it is something you may want to bring up.
This is probably the weirdest and scariest of them all, but discussing how to handle a potential break-up can save time and pain later on. And if you stay together, at least you made a boundary just in case.
How to establish healthy boundaries – The right steps to follow
Now that you know what areas to establish and set your boundaries in a relationship, how exactly do you do it? Here are some tips for you to do it successfully.
1. Communicate your thoughts and feelings clearly
You have to be honest with your partner. Be respectful and clear when you share these. Sometimes it can be difficult to know what you thinking and feeling at the moment.
If that’s true for you, ask for some time so you can sort it out. But don’t think so long that you end up avoiding problems.
2. Don’t guess your partner’s feelings
Instead, you need to ask them directly. You’re not a mind reader, and if you try to be, you might get it wrong. Don’t put your words to their feelings.
3. Take responsibility for your choices
Don’t blame your partner for how you feel. You have the choice to feel and do what you want. It’s not their fault. You own yourself – they don’t own you.
Ask yourself how your choices, whether they are accidental or on purpose, might have contributed to the situation you are in.
4. Take ownership of your feelings
You can say things like, “I felt hurt and misunderstood when we talked yesterday.” This is “I” language and makes your partner less defensive than if you said, “You hurt me because of how you raised your voice.”
Remember knowing how to set boundaries in a relationship is important, but these are only boundaries. They are set to help guide you through the up and downs and handle any issues if they ever crop up down the road.