“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.” – Henry Cloud.
A healthy relationship exists only if healthy boundaries exist among the couple. Such examples of healthy boundaries in a relationship help us to know our significant others holistically. Understanding each other’s personal, physical, and emotional needs and additionally communicating is the best way one could set examples of healthy boundaries in a relationship.
But what do healthy boundaries in relationships actually look like? To help you understand the same, we bring you some instances and examples of healthy boundaries in relationships in consultation with psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. He explains boundary setting as an act of assertiveness. When healthy boundaries are respected by both partners, emotional intimacy becomes a strong foundation in a relationship.
What Are Healthy Boundaries In A Relationship?
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“When it comes to your life as a couple, consider that there are actually three entities involved: yourself, your partner, and the relationship itself — and boundaries need to be defined for each,” says Dr. Jacqui Gabb, professor of Sociology.
To set examples of healthy boundaries in a relationship means communicating and sharing your values, principles, morals, beliefs, past traumas, likes, and even dislikes. Doing this, helps your partner understand your emotional and physical limitations, contributing to having a much better relationship overall.
Examples of healthy boundaries in a relationship are not just emotional or psychological, they could also be physical boundaries. For example, if you don’t like to be touched in a certain way or certain names you don’t want to be called, it’s imperative to convey it to your partner, letting them know where you draw the line. When your partner, in turn, respects that and refrains from doing the things that they know you’re not comfortable with, you’d have established a healthy boundary in your relationship.
How To Set Boundaries In Relationships?
Before we head into understanding the relationship boundaries list, we must first look into how one goes about setting these. Usually, in the honeymoon period, boundaries in a relationship are basically non-existent because the two lovebirds are usually too smitten to care. But once the relationship begins to solidify, one’s personal needs start coming into the picture and things start to change. For example, in your first couple weeks of dating, you loved that your boyfriend would wait for you outside work every night and drive you home. But now, that’s starting to feel a little exhausting.
After having such a long day, you want to enjoy the commute back home yourself, and seeing him constantly, is almost starting to feel like a burden. Not that your relationship is a burden. It’s just that you two haven’t understood each other’s boundaries yet. To be able to set examples of personal boundaries in your relationship, you two need to start communicating more honestly and more frequently.
You need to verbally indicate when you think you need space from your partner. Whether it’s them barraging you with texts when you’re at work or showing up unannounced at your apartment, if you don’t clearly indicate that these things might be bothering you, you will not be able to set boundaries in your relationship. Be kind to them, but do indicate what you need in clear terms.
19 Examples Of Healthy Boundaries In A Relationship
There are many examples of healthy boundaries in a relationship. Be it a relationship or marriage, having personal, physical, and sexual boundaries helps in better communication and increasing overall intimacy. Healthy boundaries in a relationship help you deal with challenging situations smoothly rather than causing tension or strain on your bond.
Dr. Bhonsle says, “Boundary setting is an important factor in a relationship. It is about setting terms of respect and considering other people’s rights, wishes, and desires. Boundary setting is a manifestation of assertiveness which is a reservoir acting as a source.” With that, it’s important that we go over this relationship boundaries list. Let’s look at a few examples and experiences which will help us understand what examples of personal boundaries in a relationship really look like.
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1. Simplest yet powerful boundary – Communication
This is one of the most important examples of healthy emotional boundaries in a relationship. Communicating your thoughts honestly to your partner will help set up verbal boundaries examples. Sometimes it’s difficult to draw a line between your thoughts and feelings. In such situations, it’s always good to seek some time to gather your thoughts rather than to use it as a tactic to avoid further discussions.
“Dana and I went to a party the other day, my boyfriend got his friend Jacob along and we kind of tried to set Dana up with him. We had a great time and while we were leaving, Jacob leaned forward to hug Dana but Dana just stood there and conveyed that she is not a big hugger and a handshake is just enough. It was weird for me to understand it at that point but now I know she is comfortable in communicating and setting examples of healthy physical boundaries, which I think is admirable,” says Cecilia, (32), a bartender/hostess.
2. Taking responsibility or refusing to take the blame
A sous chef, Raghu (26), says, “Every time my girlfriend and I fight or have some kind of argument, we come to terms and make up for it. We both say sorry and take equal responsibility for our actions.” Take it from Raghu, having a constructive conversation after a fight is essential in any relationship.
Sometimes you or your partner might blame each other out of anger, hurt or guilt after you’ve had a rough argument. But instead of blaming each other for how you feel, pause for a moment and ask yourself about the choices you’ve made and what led to the present situation in the first place. Acknowledge each other’s feelings but never take responsibility for your partner’s actions. This is one of the simplest examples of healthy emotional boundaries in a relationship.
3. Respecting each other’s privacy
We cannot stress the importance of this one. Dr. Bhonsle says, “Typically, people who are in a relationship try to own the other partner, which directly interferes with privacy. In a healthy relationship, no two humans should try to own each other. You are not proprietors, you are collaborators, working together.”
This is among the most significant personal boundaries examples in a healthy relationship. Sharing your belongings, passwords, journals, past traumas, and trigger points at your discretion is important. Someone forcing you to share things is unacceptable. Do not stand for it.
Dr. Bhonsle further adds, “When it comes to past traumas and triggers, they should be shared at a mutual pace. There should be mindfulness when one is sharing.” Giving an example, he further states, “In a marriage, if a wife loves dogs and is always talking about it and the husband doesn’t like dogs because someone close to him died of rabies, he is just going to sit quietly and listen when the wife is bragging about the dogs.
“And the wife doesn’t know about his past trauma. Because it wasn’t shared before, he might feel resentment and it might come out in anger at an odd time and this can become a touchy issue in the marriage. So efforts need to be made from both sides to have this kind of healthy emotional boundary.”
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4. Saying ‘No’ is among the examples of healthy boundaries
In an episode of FRIENDS where Monica and Chandler are figuring out a budget for their wedding; Monica says, “We can always earn money, but we only get married once.” To which Chandler replies, “Look I understand but I have to put my foot down, okay, the answer is NO.” Such examples of setting boundaries, though fictional, can actually go a really long way so take a tip or two from Chandler.
This particularly is one of the best examples of emotional boundaries in a healthy relationship. We often tend to do everything that our partner wants because we think saying no would hurt them. Even saying no to sex, is something we tend to avoid because we are worried about upsetting our partner. But the ability to say no to things that are against your principles or disrespect your time and energy is among the essential personal boundaries examples that more and more couples need to emulate. It is important in a relationship to have such healthy emotional boundaries.
5. Mutual respect in the relationship
Having set examples of healthy boundaries in a relationship means you’re also letting your partner know how you want to be treated. If you want to be loved and respected a certain way, you also need to show the same kind of love and respect. In case, your partner speaks to you in an unruly manner or disrespectful tone, you should always let them know that it’s unacceptable. That’s one of the examples of healthy boundaries in marriages and relationships.
“I believe relationships require trust and respect more than love. You need to understand each other as friends first before love plays its part. Respect each other’s belief systems and goals. You cannot expect anything without giving also.
“There has to be a general arch of respect just for being human. There is conditional and unconditional respect in every relationship, and it should always be mutual. Just because you disagree doesn’t mean you should disrespect each other. There are ways to fight respectfully with your spouse or partner,” Dr. Bhonsle explains.
6. Being independent despite being in a relationship
It’s absolutely fine to go from ‘you’ and ‘I’ to “we” in a healthy relationship. But having individuality is important and brings a personal boundary in a relationship because you have your interests, intelligence, and passions to fulfill as well. “My husband loves going out for golf every Sunday morning but I like going to my yoga class. So he drops me off to my class and heads to the club,” says Anne, a fashion designer when we spoke to her about examples of healthy boundaries in marriage.
“We get one day off from our work, so we do things that we like as two individuals in the morning and later in the evening we do what we like doing as a couple. This way we are both happy and live a healthy relationship. It is important to have such personal boundaries in a relationship,” she added.
7. Space is one of the vital personal boundaries examples
In this relationship boundaries list, do not forget about space and how it can actually improve a relationship. Having and giving space in a relationship is one of the important and necessary personal boundaries examples in a healthy relationship. Taking out time to be with your thoughts and emotions or just to do your thing is an example of a healthy emotional boundary every individual should practice whether in a relationship or otherwise.
Every couple has their own rules and one such rule that perfectly reflect what healthy boundaries in relationships should look like was made by Mr. Big and Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City 2. Carrie takes two days away to her old apartment to finish her articles and they both have a great night later that day. Mr. Big thinks of doing that every week, for he truly sees the benefit of that in his marriage.
He says, “What if I got my own place? Just a place that I can go two days a week, lie around, watch TV, and do the stuff I want to do that bugs you. And the other five days, I’d be here and available for dinners and sparkles or whatever.” Although Carrie says that’s not how marriages work, he responds by saying, “I thought we were supposed to write our own rules.”
8. Spiritual boundaries are a must in relationships
You might believe in spirituality, or religion, or have your own belief system that you may staunchly believe in. And your partner may or may not share those in the slightest. That’s why communicating your respective stance on spirituality and respecting each other’s take on the matter is one of the vital verbal boundaries examples that couples must follow.
It is important to respect, foster, encourage and learn from each other. It is an example of a healthy boundary. “Every individual has a right to their god, religion, belief system. Whatever normalizes and doesn’t let you fly away from reality and toward hell is absolutely fine and acceptable. Nobody has a right to tell you what to believe and what not to believe in, and that’s certainly one of the boundaries to set in a relationship.
“Whatever normalizes you should be done with or without the participation of your partner. It’s like going to the toilet, you have to do it no matter what. How you do it, when you do it, and where you do it is all your decision. One cleanses your outer being, the other cleanses your inner being,” says Dr. Bhonsle.
9. Weeding out any negative energy
Personal boundaries examples in a relationship are set for both partners. When you are angry or feeling resentful, talk about your mood with your partner rather than bursting out and bringing negative energy into a relationship. Practicing such examples of emotional boundaries will help navigate your emotions without toxicity. The right kind of boundaries can help prevent emotional flooding in a relationship.
Dr. Bhonsle opines that negative energy is extremely bad for a healthy relationship. “When one partner is frustrated about something at work but comes home carrying that frustration and takes it out on the other, everything around will just snowball. It’s important to resolve your issues, perhaps with the help of a therapist or just putting in your rational thoughts. Usually, humans lean toward irrational behavior, which might misdirect,” he says.
That’s why learning to deal with your own difficult emotions so that they don’t take a toll on your bond is among the healthy examples of emotional boundaries in a relationship.
10. Communicating your everyday expectations is one of the boundaries to set in a relationship
“We hosted a party a couple of weeks ago at our place. After all the guests left, there was so much mess to be cleaned. I couldn’t wait until the next morning for the domestic help to come and clean it as I have extreme OCD and wanted it all to be done. My boyfriend understands what I go through, and hence, we both cleaned the house at 4:30 in the morning,” says Sushma, 27, a chef.
It is important to be considerate in a healthy relationship. If you’re a light sleeper and your partner’s movement is waking you up, communicate the same. If you have OCD and don’t like things left messy, tell your partner about it. Incorporating such verbal boundaries examples into your relationship will help prevent small irritants from snowballing into trigger points.
11. Sexual boundaries are a must
This falls under every category of examples of healthy boundaries in relationships that extend to both operate on both physical and psychological levels. Intimacy plays a major role in a relationship, and that’s why communicating sexual fantasies, desires, and boundaries is important. Pressuring or manipulating the significant other to do certain things without content is not healthy. Being honest and vulnerable is necessary.
Dr. Bhonsle elaborates, “Fantasies and desires should be shared between partners. But if the husband wants to have anal sex and the wife doesn’t want to simply because she has a rectum infection and is prioritizing and valuing her health over fleeting pleasure, then it should be respected, without a shadow of a doubt. After all, health is a friend you should never lose. Do add it to your relationship boundaries checklist.”
12. Managing time is among the examples of boundaries
Time management is one of the underrated but vital examples of boundaries in a relationship. Whether or not you’re in a relationship, knowing how to manage your own time will take you places. Sticking to your daily routine or showing up at a party, being on time shows how much you respect yourself and your partner.
“When couples come in for therapy, we usually use a ‘Zero Hour’ assignment for those who are struggling to make time for their partners. The idea is to drive home the point that when you pull out time from your busy schedule for your partner, you’re also giving love, respect, dignity, and compassion. Instead of scrolling through WhatsApp or watching some cat videos on Instagram, one should utilize such time to acknowledge their better half,” says Dr. Bhonsle.
13. Material and financial boundaries
Most couples share their possession, be it a car, house, or even a joint bank account. On the other hand, they also want independence in every aspect. Hashing out the details of how finances and material possessions will be divided between both partners becomes one of the crucial examples of healthy boundaries in relationships.
Money issues can ruin a relationship, and that’s why financial and material boundaries should be spoken about pragmatically and without mocking or disrespecting each other. This is one of the personal boundaries examples in a relationship that isn’t as easy as it seems.
14. Being vulnerable is among the examples of emotional boundaries
Vulnerability comes naturally to everyone, some don’t show it and others can’t hide it. Either way, the ability to be vulnerable with one’s partner without feeling obligated to do so is among the examples of emotional boundaries that all couples should aspire to. You must be able to choose to discuss certain things at a certain time without feeling pressured to do so.
Dr. Bhonsle explains, “Being in a relationship means being emotionally vulnerable. You need a collaborator, as it is very important to challenge the notion of being vulnerable. It takes two people to be in a healthy relationship. It’s not about erecting walls, it’s about who can climb and get on the other side to see your partner’s vulnerability and embrace them with love and respect and trust.”
15. Asking for and accepting help is among examples of healthy boundaries in marriage
Asking for and accepting help without bringing in the baggage of traditional gender roles into the equation is an example of emotional boundaries which could be a bit tricky and messy. Say, your partner is independent and doesn’t like seeking help with family issues or their work, then let them be. But sometimes they might seek help from you, and you should be able to talk about it candidly without either of you getting offended.
“Both partners should assist each other with money, love, household work, anything one needs in a healthy relationship without bringing gender into the scenario. Giving and accepting help is a key attribute to being in a healthy emotional relationship and establishing examples of healthy boundaries in marriage,” said Dr. Bhonsle.
16. Staying true to principles
Sticking to your principles is an emotional boundary you need to set for yourself to be able to thrive both as an individual as well as a part of a relationship. No matter who you’re dating, you shouldn’t change to fit in their prospect or to please. And yes, your partner might open your mind and introduce you to new ideas, but he/she shouldn’t force you to embrace or you adopt out of fear of losing them. Change is natural, but do it on your own terms.
17. Speak for yourself
“I believe disagreement is endemic among human beings. No matter who you meet in the world, no two humans are identical in the way they think. Tell your partner that you want to negotiate terms of respect. One of the verbal boundaries examples in the case would be that if you don’t like them raising their voice while speaking to you or them criticizing your food in front of your mother, you need to put your foot down and convey it to your partner in no uncertain terms.
“This need of setting this example of boundary stems from a place of assertiveness, and is, therefore, non-negotiable,” says Dr. Bhonsle. You deserve love, kindness, and respect. If your partner jokes about something personal in front of your friends or theirs which you think is disrespectful, then tell them about it.
Lack of empathy in a relationship can have devastating consequences and must be dealt with as early on as possible. It begins with drawing a line in the sand about how you can or cannot be treated. If your partner says mean and ugly things during an argument, then stick up for yourself and ask for an apology. Know your worth.
18. Change of mind
“Given the society we’ve been raised in, we usually try to put our husbands on the pedestal and give away most of our decision-making authority to them, without even realizing. Hence, in most marriages, we usually see husbands dictating terms, and whatever he says it’s a final decision, with little need for understanding the boundaries to set in a relationship.
“Even if a woman thinks otherwise, he convinces her to change her opinion or sometimes the women just go with the flow because they don’t want to upset their counterpart,” says Anna Fernandez, (42), a counselor.
Your opinions, decisions, choices are all your own. Only you can change your mind about things, do not let your partner make you feel guilty about it. In case, you change your mind for whatever reasons, communicate it and set an emotional boundary in a relationship.
19. Sharing mutually is also an example of boundaries in a relationship
“Being vulnerable is a natural emotion which we all experience from time to time. A lot of men in a relationship find it difficult to be vulnerable in front of their partners because they think it will make them less of a man. Again these are just the societal norms we internalize over time. But I see young couples these days are breaking these barriers and coming forth with their emotions and vulnerability,” Anna Fernandez adds.
Vulnerability is a component in a healthy relationship, creating a space for you and your partner is important. You can share when you feel like sharing, and let your partner enjoy the same right. Checking in on your partner’s emotions is good but do not push or manipulate to get things out of them when they’re not ready.
“Boundaries are guidelines and expectations that we set in relationships. Boundaries help both parties understand how to behave—what behavior is acceptable and what won’t be tolerated,” says Sharon Martin, psychotherapist and codependency expert.
In her research, she further explains that boundaries also differentiate one person from another. When we don’t have boundaries, we’re likely to become enmeshed with others. We lose our sense of self. We become people-pleasers and focused on meeting other people’s expectations rather than being ourselves. And if you’re enmeshed, you may not recognize that you have the right to make your own choices or set boundaries.
Unhealthy boundaries in a relationship consist of constantly feeling the need to please your partner, spending so much time together that you start getting sick of each other, and not having any kind of private life outside of them.
Maintenance of healthy boundaries takes work and effort in a relationship every single day. It’s not a rulebook that you can refer to, but rather a practice a couple must steadily inculcate. Examples of healthy boundaries in relationships take a great deal of open communication, understanding, and wanting to respect the other person.