5 Healthy Relationship Boundaries You Need to Set
Even the closest couples will disagree on some things. That’s fine and completely normal, but what distinguishes a healthy relationship from a toxic one is whether that relationship is based on mutual respect and has open communication.
To achieve this mutual respect, boundaries must be set not only at the beginning of the relationship, but as the relationship grows and evolves. While you may discover boundaries through trial and error, it’s better to express them openly before either of you make a mistake you can’t recover from.
Here are five boundaries every relationship should set to help a couple grow closer and feel even more grateful for each other.
Poll: Your Partner’s Boundaries
Do you know your partner’s relationship boundaries?
5 Essential Boundaries to Set in a Relationship
1. When to Offer Advice and How You Do It
Offering advice is a way to show that you care about each other, but there are times when your opinion may not be as welcome. The way you offer advice is also something to consider to avoid misunderstandings and accidentally causing offense. For example, while you may appreciate hearing your partner’s opinion on how to deal with conflicts in your family, they may not be comfortable if you weighed in on their family affairs as well.
So make sure you're clear on when you do require advice from each other and when privacy is preferred. When giving advice, do so respectfully and avoid making your partner feel pressured to do what you suggest.
And if your partner doesn't take your advice, respect the fact that your partner may interpret situations differently and so may have other ideas on what should be done. Also trust that if they don’t take your advice, it doesn’t mean that they don’t respect your opinion. The same applies to your partner, so make sure you are both on one page when it comes to giving advice.
2. How You Handle Disagreements
Disagreements and arguments are bound to happen in even the strongest of relationships. When disagreements do occur, it’s important to express yourself in a way that is constructive to the relationship.
Everyone reacts differently to an argument, especially when you feel like you’re at fault to some degree. So it’s important for you to discuss the best way to approach each other in a conflict. Are you someone who would rather have space to collect your thoughts when upset? Does going off on tangents during a confrontation irritate your partner? Knowing how you each react to a conflict will help you establish a process to help each other get through disagreements without letting them escalate into something destructive.
3. How Much Personal Space to Give
Everyone has a different definition of commitment. While you may assume that being in an exclusive, monogamous relationship is what it means to be committed, your partner may think an open relationship is more normal. Maybe your partner thinks sharing social media accounts and swapping passwords for e-mail accounts is a normal way of showing commitment, but you may think it’s controlling and an invasion of privacy.
So make sure you both agree on how you express your commitment so neither of you will feel violated or undervalued.
4. How Often You Communicate
It’s important to know your daily schedules and to discuss the way you prefer to communicate when you're apart. Your partner may prefer to have some time alone with their thoughts or to focus on work while they’re in the office without personal distractions. Or you may like to feel connected to your partner throughout the day and tend to check in periodically. To avoid unwittingly irritating or neglecting each other, find a routine that works for the both of you so there won’t be any misunderstandings in the future.
5. How Much You're Willing To Do For Each Other
When we care about someone, it’s natural to want to do everything for them. Sacrifice and compromise is also key to a successful relationship, but there are limits. Sacrificing your morals or things that truly matter to you to appease your partner is unhealthy, and you’ll risk undermining yourself as an equal partner in the relationship. So be honest and make it clear to your partner about how far you’re willing to go for them. You may not know your exact limits until the time comes, but the key is to understand the things that are important to you and your partner so you can work around those values.
Bonus: Financial Boundaries
Money is a sensitive subject in most situations and it can be even more awkward to talk about with someone you love, but being able to discuss financial issues is crucial to the long-term health of your relationship and bank account. Many couples will maintain separate bank accounts throughout the course of their relationship, even after marriage, so it's important to be clear about your financial boundaries. It's not about distrusting your partner, but rather to avoid nasty misunderstandings or resentments when who paid for what becomes increasingly harder to identify as the relationship progresses.
How much are you willing to sacrifice for your partner?
How to Set Relationship Boundaries
- Commit to Be Firm With Yourself: The problem with boundaries is that they can always shift and stretch. To make sure you don’t end up giving up on your values, be 100% sure of your boundaries and promise yourself to be firm about them before communicating them to your partner. When your partner sees how serious you are about maintaining your boundaries, they will be more likely to support and respect them as well.
- Make the Time to Talk It Out: You may feel like you know your partner’s boundaries simply because you’ve been around each other for a while, but you can never be sure. There may also be some that you’ve never considered. Likewise, your partner may never know what your boundaries are if you don’t tell them. So make time to talk about your boundaries. It doesn’t have to be a formal discussion; you can have your chat over dinner, or even while taking an evening stroll. The key is to have expressed them clearly at some point.
Questions & Answers
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