How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

How To Set Healthy Boundaries In Relationships During and After The Pandemic

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

The coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to change how we work, live, and socialize. The work-life balance is a struggle for most of us, as we handle back-to-back Zoom meetings and emails, with barely any time for breaks and healthy meals. Enjoying privacy at home is challenging as all family members are home, and children are homeschooling. We have all been tested at how skilled we are at setting boundaries with people in our lives- our bosses, co-workers, family, and friends. It’s something everyone is experiencing one way or another.

What’s more, socializing with friends and family is harder because everyone has different comfort levels, and expectations vary when hanging out in a pandemic. If you feel like you’re drowning in work, exhausted at home, or experiencing more anger and anxiety in your relationships than ever before, you may need to take care of your emotional well-being by practicing boundary setting.

Unfortunately, setting boundaries in relationships may not be as straightforward because we often associate relationships with an idealistic open space, where we are both allowed to be open and honest with each other. I agree that being free and open with your spouse, friends, and families is crucial.

But what happens when your boss repeatedly schedules online meetings during your daily lunch breaks? What happens when your parents insult your spouse? What do you do when your friend shares a secret you told them in confidence?

All your relationships, whether platonic, romantic, or family, need personal boundaries. Without healthy boundaries, your relationships often become problematic, and in many instances, you become frustrated.

Do You Have Boundary Issues?

While boundaries often create healthy relationships, it’s essential to know that you need to be emotionally healthy to develop them. How can you tell if you have boundaries in your relationships? Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do you feel like you spend most of your energy saving people from their personal problems?
  • Do you often overcommit only to feel overwhelmed soon after?
  • Do you feel like the people around you take advantage of your kindness and openness?
  • In your relationships, are you the person who apologizes for being wrong, even when a partner makes a mistake?
  • Do you have to defend your values all the time?
  • Do you often find that your friends, family, or partners drag you into pointless arguments?

If you answered yes to the questions above, then you have boundary issues. The good news is, you have the power to change your life by setting personal boundaries.

What Are Personal Boundaries?

As earlier mentioned, organizations create a code of conduct or rules that govern how we interact to stay functional and ethical. Personal boundaries are rules that you make for yourself to determine how you and the people around you navigate a relationship. Boundaries are behavioral rules for people in a relationship.

It’s not about betraying the other person or not caring enough. Personal boundaries recognize that you care enough to know when to be there for someone and when to stay away and care for yourself. In fact, personal boundaries are a form of love.

Cases where friends and parents attempt to separate couples without sound reasons or where a person avoids meeting friends to appease a jealous partner, are all situations with unhealthy boundaries. Others may include giving up a job to stay close to emotionally needy parents or failing a class to appease a friend who refuses to study.

I could give endless examples, but the bottom line is that the absence of boundaries in relationships often encourages disrespect, abuse, and a lack of progress from both parties. Instead, both parties remain in a sticky pool of negative feelings but are unwilling to change because they want to retain control or are afraid of disappointing the other party.

What’s worse is that your boundaries affect your self-esteem and identity. If a person is continually taking advantage of you and abusing you, they lower your self-confidence to stay in control, which causes you to think negatively of yourself. The result is often a vicious cycle of codependency where both the victim and the savior derive an emotional high from each other.

Usually, people with poor emotional boundaries in relationships fall into two broad categories:

The saviors: Those who take on too much responsibility because they believe that “fixing” their partners gives them the love and affection they want, and

The victims: Those who want other people to be responsible for their emotions and actions and believe that someone will eventually come and save them.

Note, none of the participants in the cycle have healthy emotional boundaries, hence the need for change.

How To Set Personal Boundaries

We’ve established that setting emotional boundaries in relationships fosters healthy interactions, builds your self-esteem, reduces negative emotions, and generally keeps you happy. But how do you set personal boundaries?

Ask Yourself What You Want

Are you in an unhealthy relationship with a parent, friend, partner, or colleague? Sit down and literally write down what your current relationship is like, and write down what you want. Be as thorough as possible because it helps you analyze everything over time.

Say It Literally

The confidence to say what you want increases as you start saying what you expect. If a colleague calls you at 10 p.m., decline their call and respond the following morning. If your parent insults your partner, tell your parent directly that if they insult your partner again you will ask them to leave, and again after that, then you will no longer be able to invite them over. If a coworker is still scheduling work meetings during your lunch break, tell them that if they schedule during that time you will have to cancel the meeting, in which they can reschedule at an appropriate time of the day. Likewise, express gratitude to a person who does something thoughtful for you, and ask them for help when you need it, instead of taking advantage of their kindness.

Protect Yourself

In most cases, the other party will be ready to give an explanation for their behavior and expect you to “understand.” Put your foot down and shake off the shame and humiliation, and see how amazing it feels to be in control. It doesn’t matter if they are family, friends, or partners- remind them that they have crossed a line.

Exchange Information Gradually

Setting boundaries for a long-lasting relationship takes time and effort from both parties. Over time, exchange information with the other party to discuss how to navigate your relationship in the future. Remember to be kind, honest, and appreciative of one another.

Resources That Can Help You

Learning to set healthy boundaries is life-changing and the Guide to Setting Boundaries is the best place to start. It has more in-depth information to give you a full understanding of boundaries, as well as a guided writing meditation for your daily practice. Try it out and see your relationships begin to thrive.

In romantic relationships we often think of boundaries as a bad thing or simply unnecessary. Isn’t our partner supposed to anticipate our wants and needs? Isn’t that part of being in love? Aren’t boundaries callous? Don’t they interfere with the romance and spontaneity of a relationship?

Many of Ryan Howes’s clients assume that having boundaries means not having loving feelings toward their partner. But it’s actually the opposite.

All healthy relationships have boundaries. Howes, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, Calif, defines a boundary as “the line where I end and someone else begins.” He likens boundaries in relationships to the boundaries around states.

“Without any line the distinction becomes confusing: Who owns and maintains this ambiguous space? Which rules apply?”

When the boundary is clearly defined and respected, you don’t need walls or electric fences, he said. “People can even cross the boundary occasionally when there’s a mutual understanding.” However, when the boundary is violated in order to do harm or take advantage, then you’ll likely need walls, gates and guards, he said.

In healthy relationships partners “ask permission, take one another’s feelings into account, show gratitude and respect differences in opinion, perspective and feelings.”

In less healthy relationships, partners assume their partner feels the same way they do (e.g., “I like this, so you must, too”), Howes said. They ignore the effects of violating their partner’s boundary (e.g., “They’ll get over it”).

Boundaries in romantic relationships are especially critical, because as opposed to other relationships, partners inhabit each other’s most intimate spaces, including physical, emotional and sexual, he said.

This is why communicating your boundaries clearly is key. But what does — and doesn’t — this look like?

Below, you’ll find insights on boundaries that don’t work and tips for setting boundaries that do.

Boundaries that Don’t Work

“Boundaries that often fail are those that include the words ‘always,’ ‘never’ or any absolute language,” said Bridget Levy, LCPC, a therapist who works with couples and directs business development at Urban Balance. Such boundaries are usually unrealistic and don’t last, she said. She shared these examples: “You can never” or “You must always.”

Other poor boundaries alienate you from your partner, have a double standard or try to manipulate an outcome, she said. She shared these examples: “If you aren’t home by 7 p.m. every night, I will not have sex with you,” “If you don’t do X, I will hurt myself” or “You are not allowed to do X, but I can do it when I please.”

Vague boundaries also don’t work. These include, she said: “Don’t spend a lot of money this month” or “Pick up the kids from school a few times a week.”

Many partners don’t even talk about their boundaries. They expect their partner to just know them. This is unfair, Howes said. For instance, you want your partner to recognize your accomplishments. Instead of expressing this need, you hint at it, play a game of “I’ll lavishly affirm you if you’ll return the favor” or mope around when it doesn’t happen, he said.

Not only is this ineffective, but it creates confusion and can hurt your relationship.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

According to psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D, healthy boundaries include everything from speaking up when you think you’re being disrespected to advocating for yourself to have time for your own interests.

Be self-aware. The first step in setting any boundary is self-knowledge, said Howes, who pens the blog “In Therapy.” “You need to know what you like and dislike, what you’re comfortable with versus what scares you, and how you want to be treated in given situations.”

Be clear about your needs. After you know what your needs are, tell your partner. Howes has found that many boundary violations stem from misunderstandings. One partner has a problem with certain behaviors, but they never let their partner know. Often this is because they worry it’ll trigger an argument, he said.

However, “it’s OK to have preferences, and it’s OK to let your lover know.” For instance, if you want to be treated as an equal with financial issues, tell your partner, he said.

Be specific and direct. According to Levy, the more specific you are with communicating your boundary, the better. She shared these examples:

  • “I want to hear about your day. I’ll be available to give you my full attention in 10 minutes.”
  • “If you put your dirty clothes in the hamper by 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, I’ll be happy to wash them for you.”
  • “I love you but am not willing to call in sick for you when you’ve been drinking.”
  • “Do not read my journal. I feel violated when my privacy is disrespected.”

Be clear about your love, while being clear about your boundaries. Communicate to your partner how much you care about them, said Becker-Phelps, author of the book Insecure in Love: How Anxious Attachment Can Make You Feel Jealous, Needy, and Worried and What You Can Do About It. If they’ve overstepped a boundary, mention this. “Say that you want them to respect the boundary, and explain the importance of this to you.”

She shared this example: “I need you to know that I love you and have every intention of us working through whatever issues come up. But I am not OK with you being verbally abusive when you get angry. If you want to talk about how it upset you that I ran into my old girlfriend, we can do that, but only if you don’t attack me.”

Becker-Phelps also suggested remaining open to hearing how the boundary affects your partner. Talk through the issue so both of you feel respected, heard and cared about, she said.

Use “I” statements. According to Levy, “I” statements “help you own your own feelings and allow your partner to feel more at ease and less defensive.” Rather than saying, “You need to do this,” or “You should always,” use such phrases as: “I feel,” or “I would appreciate,” or “I would like it if…”

Try the sandwich approach. This consists of a compliment, criticism, compliment. Starting with a compliment prevents your partner from getting defensive, Howes said. “This primes them for a little criticism, they feel connected and comfortable enough to take it, and then it closes with a compliment.”

Howes shared this example: “I love having sex with you, it’s an incredible part of our relationship. I find that I’m usually in the mood in the morning before work, and at night I just want to sleep. Can we keep having the best sex ever in the mornings?”

While there’s no guarantee this will always work, people tend to be more receptive to criticism when they first feel heard and understood, he said.

Ultimately, healthy relationships require clear-cut parameters. For instance, most couples agree that cheating is a boundary violation, Howes said. But what does cheating mean? Is it physical contact, going to lunch, sharing secrets with a colleague, fantasizing about someone or watching porn?

“When couples are clear about the boundaries for their own relationship, what the rules, goals, and expectations are, the relationship can be stable,” he said.

Last medically reviewed on February 25, 2015

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

You lock the door when you leave your apartment, set a glorious out of office message when you go on vacation, and almost always say no to party invitations that start after 10 p.m. (JOMO Is the new FOMO, after all). But when it comes to your relationship, your boundaries are pretty nonexistent because, well, what’s romantic about that?

“As soon as we talk about setting boundaries, it’s interpreted as being calculative and not fully ‘in,'” says Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD, a social psychologist and sexuality counselor in Newport Beach, California. “This is the root of the problem.”

In reality, well-defined—and respected—boundaries can lay the groundwork for a healthy relationship, says Erika Lawrence, a clinical psychologist and director of translational science at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. “They’re a way of showing respect for the relationship, which allows the relationship to grow in a healthy way if they’re communicated early on,” she says.

Here’s how to set healthy boundaries without hurting your S.O.’s feelings:

1. Don’t procrastinate.

If you don’t think about what your boundaries are, your partner will wind up defining them for you—likely, by crossing them (again and again). “This is one of the main reasons why, after a while, people get resentful toward their partners or feel bad about themselves when they see they were not as clear about setting their own boundaries,” Nasserzadeh says.

2. Consider: touch, words, time, and distance.

It’s not always easy to know what your boundaries are, especially in a new relationship. Lawrence recommends thinking about your boundaries in four categories: touch, words, time, and physical and emotional distance.

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

So maybe you’re only cool with handholding in public (touch), won’t accept name-calling (words), value alone time (time), and care about moving slowly, emotionally, in a relationship (distance). Then, trust your gut, Lawrence says. “If you’re not ready to move that boundary, anyone who is worth being with will respect that.”

3. Recite your boundaries.

If you’re new to “boundary setting,” it may help to meditate on them in the mornings— maybe in conjunction with an intention-setting practice—until they simply become part of the way you think and act. “When you ‘are’ a person with clear boundaries,”Nasserzadeh says, “you don’t need to ‘do’ boundary-setting every day.” Just like eating right and exercising, it becomes just another part of your lifestyle.

4. Start the boundary-setting discussion.

There’s no one way to talk about your boundaries. Maybe discussions about, say, how you both feel about cancelling plans (tbh, great) might come up organically, while others, like your need to give consent before your partner tries anything masochistic in the bedroom, may need to be stated more proactively.

One way into those kinds of conversations is to ask your partner first how they feel about certain lines, Lawrence says. Is texting during the workday cool or disruptive? Is cancelling a date easily forgivable or totally offensive? Feelings on kissing in public? “It can feel artificial because it’s not a conversation we’re used to having, unless our boundaries have been violated,” Lawrence notes. But it’ll get easier. “Over time, it can feel more natural, and you kind of make it your own.”

5. Lead by example.

It’s not enough to just talk about your boundaries. You also need to act like someone who deserves respect. “When you deeply respect yourself, it manifests in certain behaviors,” Nasserzadeh says. For instance, is your partner always served first at dinner? Are you always the one to adjust your schedule when there’s a conflict? “Be aware if you are constantly sending signals that you come in second,” she advises.

6. Use a scale from 1 to 10 to call out out boundary crossing.

Sometimes, boundaries get crossed. It’s how you handle that violation that can make or break a relationship. First, avoid addressing the misstep in the heat of the moment, and instead, raise your concern when you’re both calm. “If the person you are dating is always a few minutes late and this bothers you, you need to speak about this kindly but firmly—not alluding to it, mentioning it in the passing, or [addressing it] jokingly,” Nasserzadeh says.

She recommends using a scale of 1 to 10 to make it clear how important each point is to you. Saying, “Ugh, it’s so annoying that you’re always late” likely won’t result in any significant changes. Saying, “On a scale from 1 to 10, promptness is an 8—that’s how important it is to me” should do the trick.

Opposites often attract, but here’s how to stay together for the long haul:

7. Use “I” statements and other therapist-approved conversation techniques.

Begin the conversation by “setting the stage,” Lawrence suggests, which means noting something that you value in the relationship. You might open with, “You’re very important to me, so I want to tell you the truth,” for example. Then, name the behavior you’d like to change using “I” statements to explain how that action (or inaction)—not the person—makes you feel. Maybe you say, “I feel frustrated when you say you’ll pay the bills, and then you don’t send in the money.” Finally, make a direct request for the behavior to change. For instance: “I want you to follow through when you say you’ll do X.”

8. Recognize that discomfort is normal—and, in some ways, culturally enforced.

Being assertive can feel uncomfortable in part because women are typically socialized to be more passive, Lawrence says. “Sometimes, we have to get over the way we’re socialized not to speak up on our own behalf.”

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

But once you do, it will pay off. “It can be really freeing—it’s showing that you respect yourself, and it’s showing how you expect to be treated,” she says. “It can really create a wonderful structure of a healthy relationship.”

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

Establishing Healthy Boundaries In A New Relationship

Boundaries are important in relationships – whether it be a new relationship, marriage, or even friendships. To have a healthy and happy relationship, setting boundaries is essential especially if you’re in a new relationship or are considering the idea of one. Romance, in the early stages of dating, can be exciting but to keep the relationship failing it is important to clearly define boundaries.

The initial stage of dating is the best time to start setting boundaries. To ensure a comfortable and healthy relationship, you need to learn to effectively communicate what your limits are and what is acceptable, what’s not.

Don’t forget, communication is important. Being honest from the beginning will ensure that your relationship is strong and dependable.

What Defines Healthy Boundaries?

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

The limits that we set to avoid others distracting or inappropriately engaging with us is what defines boundaries. Respecting boundaries – professional and personal – is important. While some people may look at setting boundaries as unfair and unjust when it comes to personal relationships but setting boundaries allows each person in the relationship to maintain their space and needs as well as mental and emotional health.

Boundaries are of many types. They range from personal and emotional to mental. When you plan a ‘date-night’ with your partner, just the two of you, without your phones or any other distractions is an example of a healthy boundary. In the dating stage, setting healthy boundaries allows each person to have some personal time to get to know each other.

If you’re unable to set boundaries in a relationship, it can cause you stress and can make taking care of your personal needs complicated. It can make you feel either ignored, abandoned, or smothered in a relationship.

Healthy boundaries in a dating relationship allow people to care for one another’s needs as well as themselves while at the same time respecting the other person.

Emotional boundaries are as important as physical boundaries. When you spend time with someone new, take some time to spend apart from each other as well. None of you should dedicate all of your time to each other. This is not an example of healthy boundaries. If you fail to set healthy emotional boundaries, it can eventually, in the future, lead to emotional manipulation or abuse.

Setting Boundaries In Romantic Relationships

1. Focus On Your Feelings

When we begin seeing someone new, we forget to take time apart, sometimes. It is normal to communicate with each other when not together but communicating all the time isn’t. Take some time apart from each other and focus on when you’re going out or how many times should you talk to each other daily.

The problem comes when we become so entangled with the other’s feelings that we forget about ours. Taking some time to reflect and check-in with yourself can help you differentiate between your and the other person’s feelings.

2. Communication Is A Must

The most important part of any healthy relationship is communication. When needed, use “I” statements to tell your partner what you think is appropriate and what’s not. If your partner is verbally offensive and rude then they are crossing a line which you can’t accept – let them know that in a non-threatening and respectful way.

A breach in the boundaries that you’ve set isn’t acceptable and it should be known to your partner. If you’re in a relationship where your partner is repeatedly breaking the boundaries you’ve set, then you should rethink your relationship.

3. Carve Out Some “Me Time”

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

Being in a novel relationship is exciting but most people don’t realize that spending all their time with their partner isn’t healthy. Sometimes, spending time with your partner can foster feelings like anger and frustration, and before you know boundaries can be broken.

Spending some time with yourself is as important as spending time with your partner. “Me Time” is the best way to understand what you’re feeling and what is needed. When you feel like boundaries are crossed, take some time to regroup. Communicating with your partner when you’re calm will yield better results.

Angry words can’t be taken back, remember that. So before you say something that you’ll regret, take some “me time” to calm down.

4. Learn When To Say “NO”

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

When you’re dating, all you want is to please your partner and in doing this many people forget to tell their partner “no”. This desire to please can be intense and can make you uncomfortable. All relationships are based on the ‘give and take’ concept and you need to learn when it’s time to give and when to take. Sometimes, saying “no” to your partner is the best thing.

Saying “no” when you need to not only establish a boundary but it also allows your partner to respect your choices. Tell them when you’re uncomfortable, be honest with them, and don’t do anything just to please them.

Final Thoughts…

Boundaries are important but they are challenging as well, especially in a romantic relationship. Most people, to please their partner, forget that boundaries exist for a reason. Forcing boundaries is also not a healthy way to begin a relationship. Talking to your partner, as they are your equal in the relationship, is the way to go.

Failure to set boundaries can lead to emotional manipulation or abuse in the future. Setting healthy boundaries doesn’t restrict a relationship instead they help the relationship grow and thrive.

In a healthy, happy relationship, a partner loves, cares, and accepts you and your boundaries. If you’re finding that your partner is not respecting your boundaries or you, for that matter then you might be in a toxic relationship.

All boundaries set should be fair and equal and must be acceptable to the people in the relationship. Someone who fails to respect you and your boundaries is not someone you should continue seeing.

Respect, trust, and care are the three most important pillars, in my understanding, that is the foundation of any relationship. If your partner fails to respect, trust, and care for you, they are not the right person for you.

If you need additional support and assistance in learning what you can do to set healthy boundaries, you can seek help from famous relationship counselors like BetterHelp, Talkspace, and ReGain. You can also write to us or drop us a message at [email protected] for more information.

“When someone loves you, the way they talk about you is different. You feel safe and comfortable.” – Jess C. Scott

Setting boundaries doesn’t come easily or naturally to a lot of people, but you can learn to set healthy boundaries. I’m going to share ten tips that I find helpful.

In my last post, What Are Healthy Boundaries and Why Do I Need Them?, I told you about my friend Chris who struggled to set boundaries with his neighbor. Chris’ experience demonstrated thatwe need boundaries in all of our relationships, and that boundaries establish expectations and communicate how wewant to be treated.

  • Karla and Mark have two young children. Mark’s parents have a new dog that seems aggressive, and he doesn’t feel comfortable with the dog around his kids. Mark tells his parents that their dog isn’t welcome at his house and he will not bring his kids to their house unless the dog stays in the garage.
  • A roommate agreement (the concept isn’t as ridiculous as it seems on The Big Bang Theory) that identifies expectations about cleaning, food, and noise.
  • Telling your boss that you can’t work late tonight.
  • Having a personal policy of not loaning money to family members.

1. Clearly identify your boundary.

Get really clear with yourself about what the boundary is that you need to set. Do you need your mother to stop calling all together or can she call you under certain circumstances? If you arent clear, you wont be able to communicate your expectations. A wishy-washy boundary is not effective. Spend time figuring out what you need before taking action.

2. Understand why you need the boundary.

This is your motivation for setting the boundary. If you dont have a compelling reason, why are you going to follow through with setting a boundary thats out of your comfort zone?

3. Be straight forward.

Dont be cryptic or purposefully vague thinking youre going to spare someones feelings or avoid a conflict. The kindest and most successful approach is to be direct. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

4. Dont apologize or give long explanations.

This kind of behavior undermines your authority and gives the impression that youre doing something wrong that requires an apology or justification.

5. Use a calm and polite tone.

Keep your own anger in check. Don’t try to set boundaries in the middle of an argument. You want your message to be heard. Yelling, sarcasm, or a condescending tone all put others on the defensive and distract from the real issues.

6. Start with tighter boundaries.

Its always easier to loosen up tight boundaries than it is to tighten loose boundaries. I see so many people making this mistake.

When you meet a new friend or start a new job, naturally you want to make a good impression, be agreeable, and fit in. As a result youre likely to over-extend yourself, agree to commitments or viewpoints that dont sit well with you. People-pleasing results in loose or weak boundaries that are hard to tighten up later.

For example, you set a clear expectation with your ex that you dont want her coming into your home when she returns the children. From this firm boundary, its easy to later invite her in if you feel its appropriate. Its much harder to later tell her she cant come in when initially youd given her free access to your home.

7. Addressboundary violations early.

Small problems are always easier to manage. Dont wait until someones violated your boundary a dozen times before you speak up. Its not fair to assume that others know your boundaries until youve explained them. Nor is it fair to change the rules and abruptly tell your cousin that youre not going to help pay her rentafter youve done it with a smile on your face for the past three months.

8. Dont make it personal.

Setting a boundary isnt a personal attack. Gina generously agreed to drive her coworker Maggie home while Maggie’s car is in the shop. Gina likes to leave promptly, so she’sgrown resentful that she’s waiting 10-15 minutes after shift as Maggie chats and socializes. After three days of this she snaps: “Maggie you’re really inconsiderate. Can’t you see I’m waiting for you? You’re so ungrateful! Just take the bus home!” Notice the difference when Gina uses an “I statement” and leaves the personal attack out. “Maggie, I need to get home straight after work. I’m happy to give you a ride, but I can’t wait more than five minutes for you. So, if you need more time, I won’t be able to drive you home.”

9. Usea support system.

Starting to set boundaries is tough! It can bring up a lot of questions, uncomfortable feelings, and self-doubt. Having a support system is invaluable whenever youre doing something challenging.

10. Trust your intuition.

Be sure to slow down and tune into yourself. Pay attention to what youre feeling. What is your gut telling you? If it feels wrong, make a change.

Following these ten steps will help guide you toward setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. And remember that healthy boundaries are not only good for you, but they’re good for everyone.

Boundaries are needed in every relationship. They help you determine the level of vulnerability you’re comfortable sharing for both you and your partner. But what are personal boundaries, and how do you define them in your relationship?

Personal boundaries are limits you set around your body, physical places, emotions, financial information, and digital spaces. We determine what we choose to share with our partners, and our partners choose what they want to share with us. Trust and respect are significant components to maintaining boundaries in a relationship, and it’s up to you to decide what makes you feel most comfortable. Pressure from a partner to redefine your limits is not okay, and you have the choice to decide what feels right for you at any point in your relationship.

Poll results

We asked our love is respect followers in a poll: “What boundaries are most important to set?”

The highest response we heard from our audience was, “All the boundaries!”

Setting boundaries in all aspects of our lives is important. They empower you to decide how you want to be treated, while honoring your partner’s boundaries to allow you to become supportive.

There are several types of boundaries we can create:

Digital boundaries

Digital boundaries are limitations created around your computer, social media, cell phone, and online profiles. This can include digital communication, such as sexting, direct messages, and posting on social media. Establish how you feel and decide what makes you feel most comfortable before speaking with your partner.

Think about questions such as “Am I comfortable being posted on their social media profiles?” or “Do I want our relationship status to be public?” Knowing the answers to questions like these can help you communicate your boundaries clearly and help your partner understand how to respect your boundaries.

It is also important to create boundaries around access to your accounts and how you choose to communicate with your partner. Even if you trust your partner completely, you do not have to share your passwords if you decide not to.

Physical boundaries

Physical boundaries are the limitations you set around your body, your home, and places you visit frequently. These boundaries can help you determine your comfort level with physical touch and intimacy, your limits around public displays of affection, and when physical contact begins to feel harmful. Understand what feels comfortable to you and express that to your partner.

Emotions can run high in a relationship, and sometimes you may feel angry about a situation involving your partner. But learning how to manage your emotions can help you clear your mind and discuss the issues rationally. Disagreements are natural and are bound to happen in any healthy relationship; however, any physical harm during an argument or at any point is never okay.

Financial boundaries

Financial boundaries are limitations around your income, bank account, credit cards, and other areas surrounding money. If you are comfortable discussing how much money you make or sharing your bank account information, feel free to be open with your partner.

However, sharing bank account information, discussing how you spend your money, or allowing access to your credit cards is unnecessary, especially if you do not feel comfortable talking about such details. If you live with your partner, it is crucial to have an honest conversation about your monthly expenses and what you think you can afford. But that does not mean you need to share every aspect of your financial situation. Money is a very sensitive topic, and it is okay not to share all of your information with your partner.

Emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries are limitations surrounding your feelings, vulnerability, and trust. These boundaries help you determine how much of your heart you want to share with your partner. As your relationship deepens, decide what emotional support looks like for you. Discuss what consistency means to the both of you, and do your best to show up for each other. Building trust and becoming more vulnerable takes time and is entirely up to you. Don’t rush these moments. Feel free to open up when you are comfortable sharing pieces of yourself that are sensitive.

While it is fantastic to have a loving relationship and spend time with your partner, it is equally vital and healthy to have emotional independence. This means that when you or your partner spend time apart to hang out with your friends and family, you are okay being separated and having interests independent from each other. This gives you both time to maintain your personal relationships that exist outside of your relationship.

Boundaries can seem like they hinder a relationship, but these personal parameters can lay the groundwork for a loving, respectful, and healthy partnership.

Digital, physical, financial, and emotional boundaries are all necessary to have a balanced and flourishing relationship. Deciding what feels right for you can help your partner learn how to support you better and establish points of trust that can help deepen your relationship. Boundaries are a two-way street and should be honored by all parties involved. Lastly, you have the right to create boundaries, and they are never set in stone. You have the choice to change your mind throughout the relationship and adjust them depending on your comfort level.

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How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

Relationship boundaries are part of developing a healthy relationship. It’s a process of identifying your needs and rights to establish parameters for behavior. If you take the aspects of a relationship that make you feel good and aspects that don’t make you feel good, you have a good start to establishing healthy boundaries.

How to Establish Boundaries

Whether or not you are aware of them, you have personal boundaries. When someone does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s an indication your personal boundary has been crossed.

Boundaries are essential in establishing and maintaining respect and equality in relationships. They help ensure that each partner is being treated how they expect to be treated.

Learn What Is and Isn’t Okay

Make a list of instances where you felt or may feel uncomfortable or violated. This will help you define your boundaries. Relationship boundaries can involve:

  • Possessions or money – For instance, would you want any money spent to be discussed?
  • Emotions – For example, you could set a boundary to not make statements with the purpose of making you feel guilty, or blaming each other.
  • Sexual preferences – Communicate your preferences and things you are not willing to try.
  • Code of Conduct – For example, instead of yelling, each partner agrees to separate and calm down first, then discuss what is happening.
  • Personal Needs – You can communicate when you need a little time to yourself, when you need affection, or when you need your partner’s help with house cleaning.
  • Relationship Needs – Each partner agrees to have mutual respect, to support the other, etc.

Use the Word “I”

When explaining your personal boundaries to your partner, express your needs in terms of I statements, in a way that does not accuse the other person. An example may be to say, “I feel upset and angry when you yell at me. I cannot continue to speak with you if you continue to yell at me. I will be happy to speak with you when you calm down.”

Also, there has to be a consequence if your partner does not respect your personal boundary.

How to Discuss Boundaries

When you need to discuss boundaries with your significant other, there are ways to accomplish this constructively.

  • When you feel your boundaries have been violated, this might make you mad. You need to calm down first so you can express yourself as clearly and productively as you can.
  • Use a concise way of stating your feelings. You might have to write down your feelings first if you are having trouble identifying your feelings.
  • You do not have to say sorry or get defensive when establishing a boundary. You are expressing your needs.
  • You do not need to argue over your boundary. Your partner needs to respect you and your boundaries.
  • Do not accuse or mistreat your partner when expressing your boundary.
  • Do not be inflexible. If one of your boundaries entails meeting the needs of your partner, be willing to negotiate, communicate, and cooperate.

How to Enforce and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries help encourage the growth of the individual and the couple and ensure healthy relationships. When healthy relationship boundaries are established, communicated and enforced, it ensures that each person is able to live in a safe environment free from abusive tendencies.

Stand Firm

If you have not experienced healthy boundaries in your other relationships, you might have an unhealthy self-image, low self-esteem, or feelings of unworthiness. However, you have a basic human right to meet your needs. You should not feel like you have to sacrifice yourself, your health, or your identity to have a relationship. With practice, this will be the norm rather than the exception. Stand firm in your convictions.

Cooperate and Compromise

Compromising and cooperating is not the same as sacrificing. For example, if you decide you need a little time to yourself to exercise every day, you could be flexible on what time you exercise so you can coordinate schedules with other people in your household, but everyone works together to make sure you do get your workout in for the day.

Follow Through With Action

Follow-through is an important part of setting boundaries. It’s to show that if your boundaries are violated that you mean business. For instance, if your partner continues to yell at you, you could get up and leave the room.

When to Seek Help

If you are having trouble setting boundaries in your relationship, seeking the advice of a mental health counselor is helpful. Mental health counselors have training and education in relationship dynamics and can help you set new relationship patterns. Also, your counselor can help you with communicating in a productive manner to help build the health of your relationship.

Relationships are all about communication. One thing that is often under-communicated is healthy boundaries.

Setting boundaries in your relationships is a high priority. Frequently, we run into the same issues over and over again because boundaries remain unclear. We choose to people-please rather than discuss the boundaries we need for ourselves. This goes for familial, platonic, and romantic relationships.

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

Learning how to set healthy boundaries is the ultimate tool for your relationship toolbox. Brene Brown says it best:

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”

When we choose to set boundaries, we are establishing emotional stability for ourselves. We eliminate unnecessary stress and expectations. With specific boundaries set, we can begin to pave our own path, with a lot less disappointment.

Here are 5 Ways to Communicate Healthy Boundaries in Any Relationship

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

Remember: your feelings matter

Much too often, we belittle our own feelings. We choose to please others so that we can settle the situation faster. This is not a long-term solution for a relationship.

Take a moment to remind yourself that your emotions are always valid. You are feeling something for a reason. No matter what it is, these feelings need to be accepted and embraced. That’s the only way to work through them!

Holding back emotions can only lead to unhealthy grudges and passive energy. This doesn’t benefit anyone in the relationship, especially you.

Keep Your Language Simple

When taking the first step to discuss boundaries, try to be as clear and concise as possible. Do not bounce around the issue. Be very specific about what bothers you and how it can be changed. This will help to resolve any situation where a boundary is unclear.

A helpful tip is to use “I” language. This addresses clearly that this is your boundary. It explains how you feel. For example, “I am uncomfortable when you speak to me in that way” precisely identifies how a situation makes you feel.

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

Stay Calm and Kind

No matter the situation, try your best to be well-tempered when setting boundaries. Becoming super emotional only distresses you and those with who you are working to set boundaries.

This doesn’t mean to start people-pleasing again. It simply means to be direct! Your words will show enough that you need your boundaries respected.

You Don’t Need to Always Justify Yourself

This is a big one. You do not need to keep justifying yourself. Repeat this to yourself over and over again.

All the time, we sell ourselves short by justifying everything we need. We feel that we need to explain ourselves and make the other person comfortable with our boundary. That isn’t the purpose of a boundary.

If you have a boundary that you want respected, you do not need to justify or over-explain why. It is YOUR boundary. That is what you want and need.

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

Stand Up for Yourself, Always

Last but not least – never forget to vocalize when your boundaries aren’t respected. You set up the boundary for your own self-preservation. If you continuously let someone cross it, then what was the point of the boundary?

This brings us back to #2 and #3. If you find your boundary crossed, be clear and kind. Do not resort to people-pleasing to avoid chaos.

Remember: you made your boundary clear. You did something great for yourself! But, unfortunately, the other person failed to respect that boundary. That is not your fault.

Addressing a crossed boundary isn’t easy. Being brave enough to take the step and have the conversation will change your life. It doesn’t mean that the relationship is done, actually. A lot of times, standing up for yourself can result in much stronger, more transparent relationships.

How to establish healthy privacy boundaries in a relationship

A Final Note

If you are struggling with boundaries in a relationship, you are not alone. We all work to express ourselves and our needs. Sometimes, we get lost and don’t understand exactly what they are. That is ok – you will figure it out with time.

The most important part is to stay true to your feelings. Your self-preservation is what matters above everything.

Did these tips on how to set healthy boundaries help? Would love to know how you are working to set healthy boundaries in the comments below!