What Are The Boundaries In Relationships? Tips To Set Them

Because drawing healthy lines between a pair can strengthen the bond and sustain the relationship

Reviewed by Ellen J.W. Gigliotti, LMFT Ellen J.W. Gigliotti Ellen J.W. GigliottiLMFT facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English) Asmita De MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
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Maintaining healthy and realistic boundaries in relationships can solve many relationship woes such as feeling hurt, unheard, or being taken for granted. These boundaries protect you from mental abuse, trauma bonding, and losing your sense of self. Lack of boundaries often leads to codependency, self-doubt, and low self-esteem. Setting healthy boundaries can safeguard the emotional and mental health of the couple. Your boundaries are deeply personal, but we have devised a complete guide on setting boundaries for a happy, healthy relationship. Keep reading!

What Are Relationship Boundaries? Why Are They Important?

What are relationship boundaries and why are they important
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Boundaries define what is acceptable and unacceptable to us in our relationships. They protect us by setting limits on what others can do to us or get from us.

Most of us take relationship boundaries for granted. Many people have a vague sense of what constitutes a boundary. And if they are aware, they let others cross their boundaries because they are afraid of conflicts. This causes resentment in relationships.

Here is an example:

Suppose your spouse is a spendthrift, but you never discussed the issue with them or asked them to be responsible with money. They go on with their shopping spree.

You feel resentful and angry but don’t say anything. Why? Because you are afraid of a conflict and argument. However, you feel resentful of their habit.

In such situations, boundaries define what is permissible and what is not. If we let others overstep them, they will continue to do so. Thus, boundaries are essential to maintain our relationships.

Having firm boundaries can help keep both partners from feeling hurt or angry, avoiding potential issues in a relationship. Seeking compromise in order to meet each other’s needs and a strong commitment built on loyalty and honesty will help form the foundation for long-lasting love.

There are many types of boundaries in relationships, and they can often be confusing. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Types Of Boundaries In Relationships

1. Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries in relationships
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Physical boundaries in a relationship include limitations about touch, personal space, and physical needs. They dictate how or when a person is touched. Physical boundaries may differ for every person. For instance, your partner may prefer snuggling, but you do not like it. Discuss with your partner and set expectations regarding physical boundaries.

2. Sexual Boundaries

Physical intimacy should be consensual, and setting boundaries may ensure both of you are on the same page and there is no discomfort or unhappiness regarding sexual expression. Both partners should know exactly how much room for sexual experimentation lies in their relationship.

protip_icon Quick Tip
It is important to consider that sexual preferences and desires may change over time. So keep room for discussion around sexual boundaries. You may be ready for more experimentation as you grow more comfortable with each other, and pre-set boundaries should not be a limitation. Instead, keep them flexible enough to accommodate for growth and new experiences.

3. Time Boundaries

Couples also need to take out time for themselves. They might juggle work, family, kids, and multiple other tasks, but not spending quality time may affect the relationship. Time boundaries help the couples manage time and ensure that they reserve at least a day or a few hours for themselves to unwind outside work and family obligations.

4. Social Media Boundaries

Social media boundaries in relationships
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Social media can impact a relationship and trigger insecurities. For instance, your partner may prefer to share your relationship details online, while you like to keep private. Or they may still be friends with their ex on social media, which might be uncomfortable for you. Social media habits and activities can be overbearing, so discuss with your partner and set social media boundaries. This will protect your privacy and also prevent trust issues and misunderstandings.

5. Technology Boundaries

It is also important to set boundaries regarding technology. Both partners should understand what works best for the other. Setting technology boundaries includes focusing on spending phone-free or gadget-free quality time. Set a time for such activities (like scrolling through social media or playing online games) or make your bedroom a tech-free zone.

6. Emotional Boundaries

Emotional boundaries are about validating the feelings of both partners. They ensure that people respect others’ abilities to process emotional information. Emotional boundaries give an understanding of:

  • The amount of emotional energy that each partner is capable of handling.
  • Knowing when and what to share.
  • How to limit sharing in the case a partner responds poorly.

Here are some tips for setting healthy relationship boundaries.

Tips To Set Healthy Boundaries In Relationships

1. Be Tolerant

Be tolerant to set healthy boundaries in relationships
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It is crucial for partners to work together. Forcing someone to tolerate something that they are not comfortable with can negatively affect relationships.

To be more tolerant, take a step back and focus on the problem. Understand the feelings and perspective of your partner and process these emotions. This can help one make better decisions in life.

2. Communicate Effectively

Open communication is the best way forward in relationships. To last through difficult times, partners need to communicate what they feel without being hurtful or insulting. Communication is a key factor in setting healthy boundaries, and no one should feel pressured. Whenever facing an issue and dilemma, discuss it with your partner.

3. Proper Financial Management

Proper financial management to set healthy boundaries in relationship
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It is common in relationships for one partner to control all finances. Thus, partners need to set financial boundaries together so that both of them are aware of where the money goes. Each person should be mindful of spending habits and be honest regarding the inflow and outflow of money.

Address issues like borrowing, debt, loans, mortgages, and other financial issues with the partner. Plan accordingly and set a monthly budget.

protip_icon Quick Tip
In relationships where both partners are earning, it may be a good idea to have a joint account for common expenditures and mutual savings and individual accounts for individual expenditures and savings. The contribution may be set at a percentage of each person’s income that both are comfortable with. However, there needs to be an open and honest discussion regarding the same to avoid resentment regarding contributions later on.

4. Conflict Management

It can be difficult for one partner in a relationship to shoulder responsibility when the other partner blames them outright. Hence, partners must acknowledge this pain and deal with it in a healthy manner. Conflict management is all about supporting the partner to overcome the issue and not hurt them. Listen to each other and empathize with their feelings. Acknowledge the issue, discuss it, and try to resolve it amicably.

5. Be Respectful

Be respectful to set healthy boundaries in relationships
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There is a difference between being assertive and being pushy and disrespectful. Be mindful of the tone and word choices while talking to your partner. Let them express themselves freely without being judged. Respect their wishes and privacy and acknowledge their feelings. This will help strengthen the relationship and set healthy boundaries.

Understanding and implementing healthy boundaries are essential for building and sustaining a relationship. But it is also important to distinguish them from unhealthy boundaries. Check out the next section for more.

Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries involve respecting your partner’s limits, needs, and wants in the relationship and actively communicating the same to your partner. It means you know your self-worth and are in touch with yourself and your emotions and feelings.

On the other hand, unhealthy boundaries involve a disregard for your own needs, wants, and feelings, being unable to say ‘no’ to uncomfortable requests, and feeling responsible for other people’s emotions and happiness. They have the potential to turn a romantic relationship into an abusive one. That is why learning to say ‘no’ and respecting yourself is key to building positive self-worth and a healthy relationship with your partner.

Setting boundaries in a relationship may help keep your bond stronger. They define your acceptance and nonacceptance in the relationship. This helps you maintain balance and give you personal space. Additionally, they are about respecting your needs and each other’s choices. Hence, while setting boundaries in the relationship, you must be more tolerant, open to communication, listen to each other, acknowledge the issue, and be respectful. These may help you understand your partner, strengthen the bond, and improve your relationship to function effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are unhealthy boundaries in relationships?

Unhealthy boundaries in relationships can manifest as controlling or submissive behavior, inability to express oneself, lack of private space, manipulation, excessive reliance on each other for feeling happy or complete, abuse, and excessive self-compromise.

What to do when your boundaries are not respected in relationships?

Try to clearly communicate how you feel about violation of your boundary without getting into an argument or fight and have an honest conversation about it as respectfully as possible. If that does not work, seek help from an expert and if all else fails, walk away and distance yourself.

What are dysfunctional boundaries?

Dysfunctional boundaries refer to the boundaries which are set but not followed by the partners. These may be into invading privacy, emotional abuse, or even technology boundaries.

What is the difference between boundaries and ultimatums?

Boundaries are the limits set to maintain a healthy relationship and they help in building a bond between the couple. Ultimatums are specifically targeted to control the partner and put a lot of pressure.

Are boundaries manipulative?

No, boundaries are not manipulative. They are set for both partners and help in developing a clear understanding of what is permissible and what is not.

What are rules vs boundaries in a relationship?

Rules in a relationship are generally used to control the other person, whereas boundaries are the ones set for yourself to avoid any unwanted mishappenings in a relationship.

What are open relationship boundaries examples?

Disclosure of information regarding other relationships, public visibility, sexual boundaries, time management, and emotional boundaries are a few examples of open relationship boundaries.

Key Takeaways

  • Boundaries define what is acceptable and unacceptable to us in our relationships.
  • Social media boundaries will protect your privacy and prevent trust issues and misunderstandings.
  • Set financial boundaries together so that both of you know where the money is going.
boundaries in relationships

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Embark on a transformative journey to build healthy relationships with the 5 foundational boundaries. Discover the keys to long-lasting love and meaningful connections in this insightful video.

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Ellen J.W. Gigliotti is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 20 years of experience and the owner of a private practice therapy group in Pennsylvania, US. She is a former journalist and is currently finalizing her first book.

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