Whether you’re in a new romantic relationship or have been married for twenty years, creating (or re-evaluating) boundaries will allow you to maintain a happy and healthy partnership. For most people, setting healthy boundaries seems unnecessary because of the unpopular opinion that boundaries keep people apart. But creating boundaries sets a healthy foundation for any relationship.
Unhealthy boundaries often cause emotional pain, leading to dependency, anxiety, depression, and sometimes stress-induced physical illness. Setting healthy boundaries in relationships is the first step, but it doesn’t stop there. Both partners should respect these boundaries to make it work. Whether it’s emotional boundaries, sexual boundaries, or boundaries about your time, you have to set them early in the relationship.
What Are Boundaries, and Why Are They Important in Romantic Relationships?
Boundaries in romantic relationships explain where one thing ends, and another begins. They define how you treat each other. Because of that, they are crucial in establishing trust and safety in a relationship and help you create a sense of ownership.
Setting rules also support relationship satisfaction. When you place limits that honor your needs, limitations, and emotions, you set yourself up for a more comfortable and fulfilling relationship. Healthy boundaries in a romantic relationship mean accepting responsibility for your actions and feelings. If there are healthy boundaries, it also means not taking responsibility for your partner’s actions and emotions.
Personal boundaries are about the kind of relationship you have with yourself. Limitations mean loving yourself first before you can love another. They are all about knowing what is good for you and not allowing the other person to define or dictate your happiness. As long as there are healthy boundaries, you can stay true to yourself, honoring your needs, feelings, goals, and values.
Healthy boundaries work both ways. You and your partner respect each other; it’s not one-sided.
Healthy Boundaries in Relationships
Healthy boundaries in a romantic relationship can take any form, from emotional, sexual, physical, time, and communication. Here is what that means for your relationship.
Emotional boundaries come above everything else in a relationship. They are all about separating your feelings from those of your partner. Ultimately, your feelings shouldn’t depend on your partner’s moods, feelings, and thoughts—it’s unhealthy. You need to own your feelings. As long as you treat your partner with respect and honor, you shouldn’t carry the weight of their feelings.
Sex is an integral part of any romantic relationship. But even then, it doesn’t mean doing things you are uncomfortable with to make your partner happy. It also doesn’t mean giving in to sex early in the relationship if you are uncomfortable. Setting sexual boundaries means owning your sexuality and sexual satisfaction by being open about what you like and where and when you feel comfortable having sex. Setting healthy sexual boundaries strengthens your bond with your partner because you both know what lengths to go to and where to draw the line.
Being in a romantic relationship doesn’t mean spending each waking hour together; that’s where most people go wrong. Having a life of your own to do the things you love away from your partner doesn’t mean you feel less about them. Setting time boundaries can strengthen your bond. Time boundaries define how often you want to see each other, how much time you spend together, and how you honor the time you set aside to spend together.
The whole point of setting healthy boundaries is so you and your partner can understand how to treat each other in the relationship. Therefore, communication is vital when establishing and maintaining those boundaries. Without communication, you leave your relationship open to conflicts. So, sit down and define what is and isn’t okay, and commit to respecting each other’s boundaries and treating each other with honor. When communicating about boundaries, be open and realize that compromise is part of maintaining a healthy relationship.
How to Set Boundaries in a Relationship: Actionable Steps to Create Boundaries
So, what are some actionable steps you can take to build a strong relationship through boundary setting?
Identify Your Own Wants
You cannot set boundaries when you don’t know what it is you actually want. Are you the kind of person who gives and gives in a relationship without receiving or expecting anything back? That’s not healthy.
Take some time and check in with yourself and recognize how you feel. To maintain a healthy relationship, consider your interests, wants, and feelings. Also, think about where your limitations lie. What are the things your partner does that make you uncomfortable or angry? Only then can you come up with healthy boundaries where you are not just giving without receiving anything in return.
Now, Ask for What You Want
Once you know the boundaries you need to set, it’s time to sit down and have that conversation with your partner. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship that meets your needs and respects your boundaries, so permit yourself to ask for that.
The biggest issue when communicating needs and wants is that most people are afraid to ask for what they want because they think the other person will get angry or upset. Don’t let this stop you from communicating. And when you do, express your needs in a way that is respectful to the other person. So, rather than make demands, make requests.
Don’t Apologize for Asking for What You Want
Two things happen in a relationship when boundaries become weak. When you request boundaries, there will be a backlash from the other person, or you will feel guilty even requesting it in the first place. Stay grounded. Your boundaries are important to you, so don’t compromise them to please the other person. You aren’t responsible for your partner’s feelings or happiness.
Take Care of Yourself and Don’t Have Expectations
Go into the conversation without any set expectations. Things could go either way; your partner may accept your requests or react negatively. So set yourself up for either outcome. And if they respond with backlash or bring up feelings of guilt in you, remember to put yourself first.
Take care of yourself and do something that calms your nerves. Whether exercising or spending some time in nature, do something that helps you recenter your emotions. Don’t spend too much time and energy focusing on the conversation’s outcome.
Through it All, Respect Each Other
Throughout the conversation, ensure that you respect and honor each other’s needs and limitations. The whole point of setting boundaries and having conversations is to find a place where both of you are respectful and content.
Personal Boundaries: How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship
A relationship is a two-way street, and no one partner needs to feel that they are giving more than they are receiving. Creating and maintaining boundaries is necessary for healthy relationships. You must intentionally and repeatedly enforce boundary setting to see the benefit within your relationship. It’s a great way to set you up for a long and happy life together.