Effective boundaries keep your relationship strong and healthy. Boundaries refer to limits that you put in place to protect your well-being. When boundaries are clearly communicated, along with the consequences for breaking them, your partner understands your expectations. In an earlier post I discussed ways to establish healthy boundaries in your relationship. This post identifies some types of boundaries to consider in your couple relationship to keep it running smoothly.
In order to establish effective personal boundaries, you have to know yourself, communicate your boundaries to others, and follow through with the consequences. Boundaries are for you and about you. They are about respecting your needs in your relationship. When you are uncomfortable about something in your relationship, but don’t speak up and share it with your partner, resentment can build. Below are some relationship boundaries to consider to help keep your relationship strong.
1. Physical Boundaries
Physical boundaries refer to your body, privacy, and personal space. You might enjoy public displays of affection, or be uncomfortable with it. If your partner kisses you in public and you are uncomfortable with it, you need to let them know. Sharing your preferences and expectations might feel difficult, but not sharing them can make you feel disrespected. It might be easy to establish a boundary around your partner not slapping you. Perhaps the boundary and consequence is quick to define in this case. If you slap me, I will leave. However, in other areas it could be trickier.
Sharing your personal boundaries can improve your relationship. Know what you are and are not comfortable with and share this with your partner. If you need time to decompress after work before socializing with others, set a boundary around this. Doing this will keep you from feeling drained as it will allow you to honor your needs. You could say something like, I need 15 minutes to relax after work before we invite the neighbors over. If you invite them over before I’ve relaxed, I’m going to go relax in private and you will need to entertain them until I come down.
2. Emotional Boundaries
In order to establish emotional boundaries, you need to be in touch with your feelings. Healthy emotional boundaries require you to know where you end and your partner begins. If your partner is upset and you notice yourself sharing this feeling, a boundary might be needed. Notice when you feel guilty, ashamed, upset, and undervalued. Boundaries might be needed when you notice these feelings coming up around certain issues or situations.
If you are upset and your partner tries to fix it, you could feel as if your partner isn’t hearing you. Your partner might be trying to help you, but it just leaves you feeling more upset. This is a place where a boundary might be helpful. You could say, when I’m upset, I would like you to listen to me without trying to fix it. I just need to vent sometimes. When you try and fix things, I don’t feel heard. If I want your advice, I will let you know.
3. Sexual Boundaries
Sexual boundaries refer to your expectations around physical intimacy. What is and isn’t okay with you sexually. Boundaries around frequency, sexual comments, unwanted sexual touch, expectations around others involvement in your sex life, and what sexual acts are preferred and off limits should be discussed. Healthy sexual boundaries include mutual agreement, mutual consent, and an understanding of each other’s sexual limits and desires.
If you were sexually abused in the past and you are triggered during certain positions, a sexual boundary is needed. You might want to avoid sexual contact with your partner if you are reminded of a traumatizing experience. Establishing a boundary around what is comfortable for you can keep your sex life heallthy and happy. You could say, I have a hard time enjoying a certain sexual position because it reminds me of a difficult experience. In order for me to enjoy sex, I need to avoid that position. I will let you know if I become bothered so we can switch positions.
4. Intellectual Boundaries
Intellectual boundaries encompass ideas and beliefs. Boundaries around showing respect for different views and ideas can keep your feelings from being hurt. Talking down to someone or treating them as though they are not smart enough to understand what you are trying to say can damage your emotional intimacy. If you feel as though you can’t discuss certain topics with your partner because you believe they don’t respect your opinion, or put you down, a boundary might be needed.
When you are afraid to share your views or opinions because of your partner’s responses, you could feel hurt or upset. If your partner calls you names when you have a different opinion or political view, you could feel as though they don’t value your thoughts or beliefs. A boundary around this can allow you to share your opinions honestly. You could say, It hurts me when we disagree politically and you tell me my opinion is wrong. It makes me feel like you don’t respect my views. If you say that my opinion is wrong, I will remind you not to and end the discussion if you continue to say it.
5. Financial Boundaries
Financial boundaries are all about money. Boundaries around joint versus separate accounts, how much goes into savings, what purchases you want to make, and how much discretionary funds you will each have, can keep you both on the same page where your finances are concerned. Having different rules and agendas related to where and how you spend your money can cause a great deal of strain on your relationship. If you feel as though you are often fighting about money, boundaries are probably needed.
Discussions about your financial goals upfront, can keep finances from becoming a point of contention. If you agree to put money into a separate fund to pay for a vacation and you feel your partner isn’t contributing, this could upset you. Having a boundary around this can be helpful. You might say, I want to go on a nice vacation with you, but we both need to contribute to the vacation fund for that to happen. If you tell me when you contribute to the fund and how much you are putting in, I will match it.
Boundaries help your relationship function effectively. When you notice that you are feeling disrespected, taken advantage of, or hurt, you might want to consider how putting a boundary in place could improve this. Knowing and respecting your personal limits and needs can improve your couple relationship and keep it healthy and strong.