Understanding Common Boundaries

Healthy boundaries honor our personal values, beliefs, and priorities, while acknowledging and equally respecting those of our partners.

When it comes to relationships, setting and maintaining boundaries is like establishing a map for navigating life with our partners. Boundaries act as guidelines that define our personal limits, needs, and expectations within the relationship. They are not about control or creating walls, but rather about fostering respect, understanding, and open communication.

Boundaries are a way to protect personal well-being, as well as the health of the relationship. By setting boundaries, couples establish healthy parameters that allow feelings of safety, respect, and support. They enable us to support our own needs, maintain our individuality, and contribute to a mutually fulfilling partnership.

Throughout this section, we will explore:

  • Understanding Boundaries 
  • Common Types of Boundaries
  • How to Set and Maintain Boundaries
  • Common Boundary Issues

Setting boundaries is not a one-time event but an ongoing practice. So, let’s dive in.

Understanding Boundaries 

Boundaries essentially act as personal property lines. 

Healthy boundaries create a sense of safety, respect, and individuality in relationships, while unhealthy or poorly defined boundaries can lead to conflicts, emotional distress, and a lack of mutual understanding.  Healthy boundaries involve:

Self awareness  

  • An understanding of your needs, values, and limits. This means recognizing emotions, desires, and discomfort in different situations. Boundaries allow us to continue our personal growth individually while being in a relationship.

Clear communication

  • Setting boundaries requires you clearly state your needs, expectations, and limits. This will leave less room for your partner to misstep or for a conflict to arise. Setting boundaries requires honest and sometimes emotionally vulnerable conversations, which can also help to deepen intimacy.

Respect for yourself and others

  • Healthy boundaries involve honouring your own values, beliefs, and priorities, as well as acknowledging and respecting the individuality and boundaries of your partner. Disregarding the boundaries of your partner or attempting to control their thoughts, actions, or emotions can damage trust and create an unhealthy power dynamic.

Consistency

  • Maintaining consistent boundaries builds trust and predictability in relationships. It helps your partner understand what to expect from you and allows you to set realistic and sustainable limits. Frequently changing your boundaries or enforcing them inconsistently can lead to confusion, unpredictability, and instability in your relationship.

Emotional insight

  • Good boundaries involve managing your emotions in a way that respects both yourself and your partner. It means taking responsibility for your feelings while also acknowledging that your partner is responsible for their own feelings. 

Common Boundaries

There are several different types of boundaries that should be considered in the context of a relationship. 

Personal Space

The physical and emotional room one needs in order to maintain a sense of independence within a relationship. For example:

  • Each partner designating “me time” during the week to pursue individual interests or engage in self-care activities.
  • Respecting each other’s need for physical space within a shared living environment.

Communication

Setting expectations for respectful and effective communication within your relationship. For example:

  • Agreeing to avoid raising voices or using derogatory language during disagreements.
  • Listening to what your partner needs/wants instead of giving unsolicited advice. 

Emotional Boundaries

Defining the limits of emotional support and involvement within the relationship. For example:

  • Defining the limits of what kind of help can be provided to your partner if they’re struggling with a mental health challenge, or what can be expected from your partner if you’re struggling.

Time and Priorities

Setting boundaries around time and priorities ensures that both partners can balance their personal, professional, and relationship commitments. For example:

  • A couple may schedule regular date nights or dedicate specific quality time to connect with each other.
  • Establishing a “no work talk” rule during specific times or activities.
  • Setting bedtime routines, as getting quality sleep has a huge impact on our health. 

Physical Boundaries

Respecting each other’s physical comfort levels. These include boundaries around personal space and physical touch. For example:

  • You might indicate that you are comfortable holding hands when you and your partner are out together, but don’t like to be overly affectionate in public. 

Sexual Boundaries

As discussed in our section on sexual intimacy, one of the most crucial aspects of sexual boundaries, also known as consent, is the expectation that when you express a lack of desire or mood for a particular activity, your partner will respect your feelings and not pressure or force you into doing it. For example:

  • Stating that you do not want to use demanding language even though your partner expresses a desire to be controlled during sex.

Tech Boundaries

Establishing agreed-upon boundaries around screen time, social media, and privacy. For example:

  • Each partner is not allowed to look at the other’s phone without asking each time. 
  • Both partners agree to put phones away an hour before bed to spend time together.

Financial Boundaries

Openly communicating about budgeting, spending habits, and financial responsibilities. For example:

  • Having regular financial check-ins to discuss shared expenses, savings goals, and individual spending limits.
  • Discussing boundaries around lending money to friends or family members.
  • Discussing major financial decisions together before making them.

Social Boundaries

Respecting each other’s social preferences, including time spent with friends, family, and social activities. For example:

  • Discussing the frequency and extent of socializing with friends without your partner present.
  • Establishing boundaries around attending social events or gatherings. 
  • Agreeing upon boundaries related to maintaining friendships with ex-partners.

Let’s take a look at a simple framework that can help us establish and maintain better boundaries. 

THIS IS MEN'S HEALTH WEEK | JUNE 10-16TH, 2024

Men's Health Week takes place annually in mid-June, during the week preceding Father’s Day. The week is not just a campaign, but a call to action for men to take better care of their health and for communities to support men in this endeavour.

Men's Health Week 2024