Your romantic relationship can be a wonderful source of companionship, support, and comfort, but sharing your life with another person does require effort. Even two people who are perfectly matched for one another need to frequently check in with themselves and the other person to ensure both of their needs are being met. One of the best ways to keep your relationship healthy and maintain your sense of self throughout your partnership is to set healthy boundaries.
Your boundaries are the rules or limits you put in place to protect your well-being. You don’t set a boundary to benefit your partner or anyone else in your life. The purpose of your boundaries is solely to protect yourself. With healthy boundaries, you take responsibility for your own actions and your own wellness, and you don’t assume responsibility for others’ choices.
If you struggle with saying no or communicating when you’re upset, setting boundaries in an unhealthy relationship may feel like a foreign concept. You love your partner unconditionally, and you don’t want to seem withholding or distant. This is an especially common struggle for people who grew up in families with a poor sense of boundaries. When you’ve never seen boundaries being set in a healthy, constructive way, you might worry that creating a boundary will cause conflict or drive your partner away. Boundaries are always a part of a healthy relationship, though, so learning how to communicate them may be your ultimate key to success.
Examples of Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries may look different in every relationship. Everyone has unique needs, so only you know how to set the boundaries that will help you maintain your mental health.
It’s also important to remember that your boundaries are a reflection of your own behavior and not your partner’s behavior. You shouldn’t set a boundary in an effort to control what your partner does or to change who they are. Your boundaries are the principles you put in place for yourself.
The following are some examples of boundaries in a healthy relationship:
Limiting Texting at Work
Some couples love having frequent communication and find that texting throughout the day makes their bond stronger. Others believe that constant texting makes the relationship feel more stressful and distracts from other responsibilities. You could set a boundary by turning your phone off or not responding to texts while at work. This way, you give yourself plenty of space to focus on your job, and you can have quality face-to-face conversations with your partner at home.
Scheduling Alone Time
If you’re an introvert, you need time by yourself on occasion to relax and recharge. While you might be tempted to spend every free moment with your partner, you’ll burn yourself out if you never get time to yourself. Building alone time into your schedule is a great way to take care of your own needs so that you feel happy and energized when you see your partner.
Protecting Your Privacy
Everyone deserves privacy, so deciding what to share and what to keep private can be a valuable boundary in a relationship. Although you shouldn’t lie to your partner or conceal information that affects them, you might decide to keep your phone passcode private or take your time when disclosing a past trauma.
How to Set Boundaries in a Relationship
Creating and upholding your boundaries may feel uncomfortable at first. However, like strengthening a muscle, setting boundaries becomes easier with time and practice. Here are five tips for creating healthy boundaries in your relationship:
1. Make a list of your priorities.
The first step in setting your boundaries is figuring out what you need in your life to feel happy and healthy. Brainstorm a list of your priorities, and determine which items are most critical for your wellness.
For example, you might regularly need time by yourself to recharge, or you might need to spend time with friends or family apart from your partner. Maybe you have certain hobbies or self-care activities that you need to regularly engage in, or maybe there are specific topics of conversation that you’re not ready to broach.
Your needs and wants are valid, and you owe it to yourself to honor them. By defining your priorities, you allow yourself to create space for your own needs.
2. Communicate clearly.
You can’t expect your partner to know your boundaries if you haven’t expressed them. Once you have an idea of the boundaries you need to maintain a healthy relationship, you must communicate them clearly and kindly to your partner.
The best way to communicate a boundary is to use “I…” statements. By focusing on what you need and what you feel, you can express yourself without shifting blame onto your partner or seeming accusatory toward them. For example, instead of saying, “You text me way too often,” you could say, “I can’t text much throughout the day and prefer to talk in-person.”
3. Expect some discomfort.
If you’re not used to setting clear boundaries, you should expect the process to feel somewhat stressful and overwhelming. You might feel anxious to tell your partner what you need, or you might feel guilty for prioritizing yourself. In this case, though, the discomfort is not a sign that you’re doing something wrong. You’re challenging yourself to become a stronger and more self-assured person, and sitting with your discomfort will help you grow.
4. Consider what happens if your boundaries are disrespected.
Hopefully, your partner will uphold your boundaries as soon as they understand them, but some people do struggle to respect others’ wishes. If your partner starts pushing back against your boundaries despite your repeated efforts to communicate them, you need to create some type of consequence.
Consider the effect that having your boundaries crossed will have on your mental and emotional health, and think about what you need to recover from that issue. Maybe a repeated boundary problem will require you to take a break from the relationship, or maybe you’d suggest working through the conflict with a couples counselor.
5. Respect your partner’s boundaries.
When you’re working on setting your own boundaries, you should also be receptive to your partner’s needs. If your partner isn’t very up-front with their communication, you could ask them directly for feedback or check in to make sure their needs are being met. Remember that your partner’s boundaries may differ from your own, but this doesn’t make them more or less valid or worthy of respect.
Setting boundaries in a relationship allows you to continue living a full, healthy life alongside your partner. Learning to create and communicate healthy boundaries can be a long-term process, but it will have lasting results on your relationship. If you’re struggling with boundaries with your partner, you could discuss your concerns with a counselor at The Beverly Hills Therapy Group.