If you've been with your partner forever, and I'm talking "pee with the door open" forever, boundaries might seem like the punchline of a joke meant for new couples. Not true. There are boundaries you need to set up in every healthy relationship. They're not just how your partner can or can't treat you. They're a road map for how your relationship will work and how you will get your needs met.
When I worked with couples as both a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and a Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I saw the problem that a lack of boundaries can cause. But boundaries are difficult. I even struggle with them in my own life, and I've had years of training on the subject. So don't feel bad if you've never sat down with your partner to directly discuss your boundaries. Odds are, you've been communicating them to each other already, you just didn't know it.
While every couple is different, and every person's boundaries will be different, there are a few boundaries all couples need to establish. Check these boundaries below, and see how they play out in your life.
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1. What You Can Call Each Other
This boundary comes down to respect, and it's all about personal preference. Some couples can playfully call each other names and say things like "omg, I'm going to kill you," and it's no big deal. For other couples, those kinds of statements are off limits. Talk to your partner to make sure there are no trigger words or phrases that make them feel dissected, and if you have any trigger words, communicate them!
2. How You Will Fight
How you will fight or settle disagreements is probably one of the most important boundaries you can set in a relationship. If one partner needs space when they're upset, that's an important boundary to acknowledge. You need to work together to determine what is an appropriate way for you both to deal with your anger, and how you'll treat each other when you're mad. You also need to establish what each partner needs when they're sad, frustrated, etc.
3. When You Get Alone Time
No matter how close you are, you'll both eventually need your space. Not only will you need alone time, but you'll need solo time with your friends and families. If you don't set up these boundaries in your relationship, you'll not only cause problems in your relationship, but in the relationships you have with your family and friends. In healthy relationships, both people are free to come and go as they please, and spend time with whomever they chose. Talk with your partner about your expectations for alone time and solo time, and trust that it's healthy to be apart sometimes.
4. How You Act On Social Media
Social media posts are kind of like PDA. You might be happy to post all the details of your romance online, but your partner might not. And it could just be a matter of having co-workers and family members on social media that your partner doesn't want involved in your private lives. Or, you could both be all about sharing. Or maybe you don't like the idea of your partner chatting with exes online. The point is, you need to share your feelings before you share your statues, and respect those digital boundaries.
5. What You Share With Each Other
Maybe you have joint finances and you want your partner to know your ATM pin and your online banking passwords. Or maybe the idea of your partner (or anyone) knowing your passwords makes you uncomfortable. What you share is an important boundary, because if you don't set it, you could end up feeling violated. For example, as a writer, if my partner read any of my journals or notebooks, I'd be so upset. But she doesn't care what I look at of hers. But there's no way to know these things without talking those boundaries out.
6. How Often You'll Communicate
Maybe you're the type of person who loves getting texts and calls throughout the day. Or maybe you just want (or need) to be left alone while you're at work, or out with your friends. This is often one of the first boundaries couples establish in a relationship. However you like to communicate is fine, but there are some do's and don't's. For example, if your partner insists you check in, and constantly calls or texts you when you're not together, it could be an issue of power and control, which is a red flag of an unhealthy relationship. set some ground rules and expect them to be respected.
7. What You Will And Won't Do For Each Other
You can be ride or die and still have healthy boundaries about what you will and won't do for each other. This one's wide open, and depends on your relationship. Maybe it's that you won't cover for your addict partner, or maybe it's that you won't pay bills for your unemployed partner. Or maybe it's about if you'll go to a movie you hate in the spirit of compromise. Clear boundaries in this area can only help to avoid arguments.
8. How You'll Have Sex
Violating sexual boundaries isn't just unhealthy, it's abuse, and in many cases, it's a crime. These boundaries don't just include what you're comfortable doing in the bedroom, but how often and with whom. In abusive or unhealthy relationships, one partner often pressures the other into uncomfortable or unsafe sex acts without their consent. That's why talking about your sex lives, and talking about it often, is so key. Plus there's no worse mood killer than pulling a sexy move that your partner is not cool with.
9. How You Will Commit To Each Other
Maybe monogamy is just assumed for you, but not for your partner. A lot of couples can make open relationships work, and a lot of couples are fine with partners who see other people. But if you assume your partner is not seeing other people, especially in a new relationship, you may be in for heartbreak. And this includes things like if it's OK to flirt, what you agree is appropriate behavior online, and how you define infidelity. For some couples, kissing isn't necessarily cheating, while for others, emotional affairs are worse than sexual. Better to be clear.
A life with no boundaries is a life full of arguments and hurt feelings. Better to have a map to how you both like to be treated than to find out the hard way that you had it all wrong.
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