Boundaries in Romantic Relationships
Boundaries in Romantic Relationships
You and your partner feel happiest when you are together. You find comfort in each other’s arms every morning. At night, you lie awake in bed together and half-laugh, half-whisper your highlights from the day. Your strong bond is valuable, and you should cherish that. What you should also cherish? Yourself as an individual with your own wants and needs.
To give love the best chance to succeed, you and your partner must set clear boundaries. As you will learn throughout this article, setting boundaries does not mean creating distance or welcoming silence between you and your partner. In fact, the opposite is true: when you make it clear to each other what your limits are, what you are willing to share and what you prefer to share, your relationship is so much more likely to thrive.
Here’s what you need to know about boundaries in romantic relationships:
Boundaries are Healthy
Setting boundaries is not about having control or keeping people out. Rather, boundaries ensure respect and privacy, both of which are crucial in a romantic relationship. They allow both parties to feel respected and appreciated in the relationship, which prevents problems from building until they rupture. Remember, small problems become big problems when ignored. Small problems that could have been addressed or prevented with firm boundaries can strain relationships, which can in turn put them in jeopardy.
It’s important to remember that no relationship is completely free from problems. Both you and your partner are human beings, not robots. You may disagree sometimes. You will likely get into arguments, both passionate debates and trivial spats over what’s for dinner or who last took the dog for a walk. Being in a relationship is not about never having problems; it’s about learning how to properly deal with problems big or small when they do arise. Firm boundaries allow you to approach problem solving within the relationship with cool, objective diplomacy.
Adult Tantrums that Cross Boundaries
It’s a common misconception that boundaries cease to “count” the minute romance enters a relationship. In some ways, this makes sense. Romance implies intimacy, a closeness with palpable warmth. But romantic relationships are just like any others, where the people involved are just as prone to outbursts and upset as anyone else. Tantrums may erupt.
Here are signs of adult tantrums:
- Cursing people out. Swearing when very upset is cathartic and normal. But if the swearing is directed at another person via name-calling and derogatory comments, a serious line has been crossed.
- Storming off. Working through problems in romantic relationships requires people to have hard conversations and handle conflict. Excusing yourself for a minute to cool off or reflect is reasonable, but storming off is not.
- Yelling over others. Conflict is stressful and frustrating, but each person needs their time to speak uninterrupted.
- Physical altercations. Physical altercations cross many boundaries and are detrimental to relationships.
- Manipulating others to get your way. Manipulation ignores boundaries and is a form of control that creates unhealthy relationships.
- Refusing to participate when things don’t go your way. Partners should support each other and be willing to compromise.
Boundaries for Romantic Relationships
Boundaries should allow both you and your partner privacy and comfort. There is no concrete guide to setting boundaries, and that’s the beauty of them. What works best is ultimately up to you and your partner. Here are some ideas of boundaries for romantic relationships:
- Asking before coming over.
- Speaking kindly to each other.
- Communicating needs and opinions.
- Facilitating, not hindering, growth in each other.
- Respectfully disagreeing.
- Ask, don’t assume, how the other person feels.
- Follow through on what you say you will do.
- Treating the other person as worthy and valued no matter what conflict arises.
Tips for Setting Boundaries
The need and importance for boundaries are self-evident, but this does not mean that they are easy to set. Discussing boundaries can be uncomfortable and awkward in a relationship, but it must be done early and often.
Don’t wait until you have “settled” into the relationship to set boundaries. Start discussing boundaries early. You don’t have to sit down and have an urgent, formal discussion. You can start by talking about things you do and do not like a romantic partner to do, things that make you uncomfortable, and so on. As the relationship progresses, so will your discussions about boundaries, but start incorporating them from the beginning.
If the other person does something that violates your boundaries, tell them. Even if the violation is unintentional, make sure you speak up and let the other person know. Use this as an opportunity to discuss your boundaries, how you feel when they are broken, etc.
Evolve Boundaries with the Relationship
Some boundaries will evolve with the relationship. At different stages, you may also have to introduce new boundaries. For example, when you are first dating a boundary may be to ask to make plans instead of showing up. However, once you move in together, this boundary may not be applicable. In that case, you can simply adjust your boundaries to meet your current needs. For example, maybe you and your partner agree to always knock before entering a room if the other person has closed the door.
Repeat the Conversation
Check-in with your partner. Make sure you are on the same page about boundaries and give each other a chance to discuss any violations or new boundaries. It can be just as hard for the other person to bring up boundaries, so make sure you are asking how they are feeling and beginning the conversation sometimes.
Learn When to Forgive
Mistakes, fights, and hurt feelings happen in romantic relationships. Most of the time, you can resolve the issues and become stronger. However, learn when it’s time to stop forgiving. If someone fails to respect your boundaries over and over again, they may not be the right person. If someone repeats the same offense, never takes accountability, blames you, promises to do better but never does, shows no remorse, or pushes you to “get over it,” you may want to consider the health of that relationship.
Boundaries create the foundation for a healthy relationship to flourish. While it can be tough to speak up about boundaries, doing so is vital in romantic relationships. For more powerful tips for setting healthy boundaries, please reach out to us today for guidance!