No matter how solid your relationship is, it still needs boundaries to be set — when there are none, it becomes impossible to have a healthy partnership. While every couple needs to define their own limitations, there are some that should apply across the board.
Why boundaries need to be set in a relationship
You might think that if you respect and trust each other, that should be enough and there’s no reason to put specific rules in place. That’s not the case. “Boundaries establish what we feel okay with and don’t feel okay with in a relationship. In that vein, boundaries are important because they serve a critical role in establishing safety and trust in a relationship,” says Janet Park, MS, LMFT, therapist at Healing Phoenix Therapy. Not only that, but without boundaries, you might find yourself feeling unsatisfied or unfulfilled with your relationship in the long run.
Given that boundaries improve your overall relationship and that a healthy, happy relationship can have a knock-on effect on your mental health, that’s a pretty good reason to make sure your standards and expectations are in place as early as possible.
Boundaries to put in place for a happier, healthier relationship
- You respect one another’s privacy. Generally speaking, a good relationship doesn’t involve snooping on other people’s Facebook conversations or text chats, reading their emails, etc. If you find it hard not to, there’s a serious problem. If you truly believe you can’t trust them, you don’t belong together.
- You don’t tolerate other people interfering with your relationship. If someone is posing a threat to your relationship or actively trying to come between you, they’re crossing the boundaries you’ve set. If that’s happening, both you and your significant other have to put a stop to that immediately.
- You maintain your independence. The “urge to merge” is a serious danger to a relationship, primarily because it promotes codependency. You should never be 100 percent dependent on a lover because that will make it nearly impossible to leave if things go south (and it’s just not healthy even if they don’t).
- Your finances are handled fairly and in a way that makes you both comfortable. Some people will see a woman who wants to be a stay-at-home mom as a dealbreaker. Others won’t be happy to share a joint bank account. Before you get too involved, you need to have a frank conversation about boundaries here.
- You don’t break each other’s boundaries. Someone who tries to get you to break boundaries that you have generally doesn’t have your best interests at heart. In fact, boundary-pushing is often the first step to an abusive relationship, so if you notice this behavior, it’s best to run.
- You treat each other with love, kindness, and respect at all times. Basically, people who are in good relationships will realize that they’re crossing a line if they treat their partners with disrespect. When someone shouts at you, insults you, hurts you, or intentionally ignores you, they’re crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed. A relationship that doesn’t have that boundary respected is an abusive one.
More important boundaries to set in a relationship
- You understand that sex isn’t a given. No means no. If they say they aren’t into what you’re doing, you need to stop. If you tell them to stop, they need to stop. Anything otherwise is rape. Also, you’re not “owed” sex regardless of whether or not you’re in a relationship. There need to be boundaries set in your relationship not only in regards to the types of sex acts you’re comfortable with but also in regards to not being pressured when you’re not in the mood.
- You accept one another’s dealbreakers. Dealbreakers are basically lines that you won’t allow someone courting you to cross. That’s a good thing! If you don’t have a list of dealbreakers, you’re setting your standards too low. Also, you shouldn’t judge your partner’s dealbreakers or vice versa. Everyone has things that they find unacceptable in a relationship. Just because your partner’s dealbreakers may not match yours doesn’t make them any less valid or important. Respect these boundaries that are set in your relationship without question.
- You don’t put up with your partner treating other people like crap. If your lover treats you like gold but treats your friends like dirt, they’re crossing a serious line. They’re disrespecting the people who were there before they even met you, and that’s not acceptable. You want to be with someone who’s not only kind to you and your family and friends but to the waiter at the restaurant, the mailman, and everyone else he comes across.
- You can’t stay with someone who’s hell-bent on self-destruction. This is one of the most important boundaries to set in your relationship and one you should never compromise on. No healthy relationship ever started with someone who sacrifices their well-being for the sake of everyone else around them. If you’ve done everything you can to help your partner and they’re still insisting on self-destruction, that’s your cue to get out.
- Decisions are made jointly, not by one person strong-arming the other. Giving all the power to one person is extremely dangerous. If you both don’t have an equal say, you’re in trouble. One of the most basic boundaries to set in your relationship is about being equals. There’s simply no other way to move forward.
- You try to be understanding and patient with your S.O. As nice as they are, waiting for them to finally change or come around isn’t healthy. It’s not even likely to happen. Set this boundary for yourself and know when to walk. However, don’t be so quick to walk away just because you don’t get where they’re coming from. Do the work to preserve your connection. However, set hard boundaries and recognize that you’re not responsible for their emotions or for solving their problems.
- Honesty is a must. Lying is never part of a healthy relationship; if you’ve caught your lover lying to you, it’s not a good sign. When you’ve set out this deal-breaker in your relationship and they’ve crossed a line and broken your trust, that’s one of the boundaries that can never be broken.