How to Set Boundaries in a Relationship: Steps to Healthy Relationships


Each of us has the right to personal space. Space entirely owned only by you. You yourself set the rules of behavior in this space and no one has the right to invade it without your special invitation. Unfortunately, not all people perceive this thought as a given. Someone thinks that boundaries in a relationship are an insulting prejudice, an alarming syndrome of distrust.

Someone recognizes the importance of the existence of such boundaries but puts the observance of their own "sovereignty" above the "sovereignty" of a loved one. Because of this, there are many conflicts. They can be easily avoided - you just need to understand the importance of boundaries in relationships and learn more about setting boundaries in relationships.

boundaries in relationships

What are Boundaries in a Relationship

In order to properly understand what are the boundaries in a relationship, you need to consider the following question: what is the main difference between a person with healthy boundaries and a person who does not feel these boundaries? The first one sees and acknowledges that a loved one is an individual person who has all the same (feelings, values, a picture of the world, experience) but still somehow different. This person is responsible for one’s reactions and actions. At the same time, they have the right to think what they think, to feel what they feel, to want what they want, and to say what they say.

Everyone has the right to one’s own interests, needs, life goals, and the task of both as a couple is to combine these interests, needs, and goals with respect, rather than trying to pull them towards their own. A person with blurred boundaries perceives the other as an extension of themselves because this person does not feel where he/she ends, and where the other person begins, where their thoughts, feelings, needs, the picture of the world, and where others are. Such a person considers everything their own, cares about everything.

On the one hand, such people are very inspired, it is difficult for them to say a firm “no”, they often do what they do not want. On the other hand, they consider it their duty to tell others how wrong they are, how they should act, and try to “fix” them through pressure and manipulation. Therefore, their position in the relationship is:

  • if you do not guess my thoughts and desires,
  • if you have a different opinion,
  • setting boundaries in a relationshipif you want something else,
  • if you do not like what I like,
  • if you don’t sacrifice your interests for me,
  • if you do not approve of something that I do,
  • if you refuse what I propose, you are bad and must change quickly! Think differently, feel something else, do what I say, and always, always, always agree with me.

Even the very theme of setting boundaries in a relationship makes such a person indignant: how is that? How could be the boundaries between loved ones? What kind of love is this? Do you really think that setting boundaries in a relationship is something good? A mature person always has clear boundaries delineating their inviolable psychological space. And this space does not prevent them from building warm, deep, trusting relationships.

So what are some good relationship boundaries? In other words, boundaries in relationships are what helps us show respect for the person we love. This is a necessary condition for a peaceful, enjoyable coexistence of two (or more) healthy, full-fledged personalities.

Examples of Boundaries in a Relationship

What else happens in relationships between people with poor boundaries? We should give you an answer to this question in order to make your understanding of what are healthy boundaries in a relationship more complete. There is always disrespect, infringement on someone’s interests, blaming others for their failures, breakdowns or bad mood, taking responsibility for the well-being of another adult person, the desire to prove something, explain, teach and remake.

There is always an "intervention" in someone else's territory: one crosses the boundaries, and the other, fearing to refuse, offend or get a negative reaction, bends and allows it to be done. “Alien territory” is all that belongs to another person, only to that person and no one else. So here are some relationship boundaries examples: it is your partner’s body, their personal belongings, physical space (a shelf in a closet or in the bathroom for example), their time, resources, social circle, worldview and way of living.

A person who doesn’t know what healthy boundaries in a relationship are doesn’t see “anything bad” in taking your things without asking, deciding for you and without you what you are doing this weekend, ridicule your point of view, devalue what you have done, criticize your dress, to ignore or push through your “no” (What, is it difficult for you? You will tolerate everything!”).

Such a person does not see “anything bad” in saying:

  • you do not need it,
  • you do everything wrong
  • obviously, something is wrong with you
  • you need to lose weight,
  • your friends are idiots, choose: either they or me
  • is it your salary or donation from the boss?

People with healthy relationship boundaries do not allow anything like that. They do not take other people's things without permission, coordinate plans among themselves, do not give unsolicited advice, do not accuse their relatives of having “ruined their lives for them”, do not indicate the “wrongness” of their feelings and reactions, do not limit social contacts, do not pester questions “where are you now and with whom?” do not criticize — again without a request — someone’s appearance, do not condemn tastes and views, clearly designate their “I want” and “I do not want”.

They hear someone else's "no", they see nothing wrong in having their own interests and devoting time to them. And when their opinions diverge, instead of “you are wrong”, they say “I do not agree.”

Why? Because they respect themselves and others. And a loved one is perceived as equal and worthy of love for who one is. And not as someone who needs to be “re-educated” and remade for their personal needs.

healthy relationship boundaries Setting Boundaries in a Relationship

So let’s find out how to set boundaries in a relationship. The first thing that needs to be understood is that you are building boundaries not for another person but for yourself. That is: suppose we are talking about two adjacent states, in one of which you are the leader. You set the borderline of your state, not for the state next to you. You determine the rules of conduct and laws in your territory. The neighboring state will somehow establish and determine everything without you, do not worry.

You cannot control the behavior of other people, but you can completely control yourself and your life. Therefore: Think about this: what status do you have in this relationship? Are you in subjection, are you on equal footing, or maybe you are in slavery?

What are you willing to endure and what totally not? What can you agree to and what not?

Determine what the consequences will be if something happens that you are not willing to tolerate or disagree with. Remember that there is no point in trying to control another person, for example, deciding in this way: “Now you will never use rude words against me!” This is not about setting and respecting boundaries in a relationship. In this case, for example, you should set boundaries like this: “I am not ready to tolerate harsh words addressed to me from anyone. If this happens in our relationship, I will immediately leave the room or stop such conversation."

Borders can relate to emotional intimacy, or vice versa, physical distance. For example, your border can be set like this: “If someone behaves quite friendly and positive to me, then I can open up a little and get closer to them.”

You may need to discuss new boundaries with your partner. This is completely normal and may cause the partner to correct some of their behavior. Or maybe not :) But you will already have an understanding of your own laws and rules.

Example: the guy is constantly, for various reasons, late for dinner. The girlfriend and two children are waiting until late, violating their desirable dietary patterns. The girlfriend repeatedly tried to persuade and threaten to force her boyfriend to arrive on time, which caused a defensive reaction and aggression in him. As a result, the girlfriend decided that she would no longer violate the diet of children, and informed her beloved about it, adding that dinner would be waiting for him in the fridge. After that, a woman with children returned to a normal schedule, not counting on her boyfriend's attendance - and was no longer angry with him for another late arrival. As a result, after a while, warming up a cold dinner in the microwave for several nights in a row, her boyfriend began to arrive more or less on time.

How to Set Boundaries in a Relationship with a Narcissist

Let's just say: to build normal borders with a Narcissist is difficult. The narcissist is a priori a complicated person. Speaking of "complicated person", I mean the whole range of diverse personality characteristics and character. You will have to make efforts to build a constructive relationship with him, and, quite possibly, your plans for friendship and communication with this person are not destined to come true at all.

The main reason for this, according to the American psychologist Julia Hanks, the founder of the center of family psychotherapy, is the initial disrespect of difficult people for your borders. They may unconsciously or consciously deny you the right to any boundaries. Therefore, as a result, they will constantly violate your borders one way or another and cause you pain. In fact, it often happens that this is the only known strategy for them to communicate with other people.

The most important thing: when dealing with difficult people, Narcissists, always remember that your desires, interests, and you yourself as a person are at the top of the list in your life. As soon as you begin to doubt the importance of your own interests or the importance of yourself — you will get in a trap.

At the same time, complicated people, like no other, are very well able to create the impression of your own insignificance. Your money, your time, your self-esteem, your future - that's what's at stake. For you - this is the number one priority. So keep it in your head.

Open Relationship Boundaries

relationship boundaries examplesThe situation with boundaries in ordinary relations is very clear. But what to do if you are polygamous or you have entered an open relationship? The question is much more complicated. You can go through trial and error by wasting a lot of time and mental energy. And you can try to follow our tips, which you will see below. The choice is yours.

Let your partner meet your other dates. It will help you avoid anxiety in open relationship.

Limit your dates with other people to twice or thrice a week. Discuss the appropriate number of dates with your beloved one.

Agree that you will have safe sex. And not only with each other.

Always be open. Honesty is the key to success not only in traditional relationships but in all others. Always speak frankly with your partner. If you don’t like a rule, just discuss it and come to an effective conclusion.

Can Relationships Work Without Boundaries?

Definitely not. The fact is that relationships are a constant interaction of two personalities. Every person has their own desires, preferences, and taboos. It is very easy for us to respect another person at a distance, but when it comes to living together, the situation becomes more complicated. Lack of experience, lack of tact - all this has a negative impact on the lives of partners.

Borders in relations are necessary for full-fledged coexistence when both partners live on equal terms. Thanks to the boundaries, you get rid of misunderstandings, anxiety, a sense of uselessness - in other words, everything that might destroy your relationship.

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