Setting Boundaries in a Relationship
Whether you’re casually hooking up or have been going out for a while now, setting boundaries is an important part of any relationship. To have the healthiest relationship, both partners should know each other’s wants, goals, fears and limits. You should feel comfortable honestly communicating your needs to your partner without being afraid of what they might do in response. If your partner tells you that your needs are stupid, gets angry with you or goes against what you’re comfortable with, then your partner is not showing you the respect you deserve.
Talking about your boundaries with your partner is a great way to make sure that each person’s needs are being met and you feel safe in your relationship. Here are some things to think about when setting boundaries in your relationship:
- The L Word: Saying “I love you” can happen for different people at different times in a relationship. If your partner says it and you don’t feel that way yet, don’t feel bad — you may just not be ready yet. Let your partner know how it made you feel when they said it and tell them your own goals for the relationship.
- Time Apart: As great as it is to want to spend a lot of time with your partner, remember that it’s important to have some time away from each other, too. Both you and your partner should be free to hang out with friends (of any gender) or family without having to get permission. It’s also healthy to spend time by yourself doing things that you enjoy or that help you relax. You should be able to tell your partner when you need to do things on your own instead of feeling trapped into spending all of your time together.
- Take Your Time: Don’t rush it if you’re not ready. Getting physical with your partner doesn’t have to happen all at once if you’re not ready. In a healthy relationship, both partners know how far each other wants to go and they communicate with each other if something changes. There isn’t a rulebook that says you have to go so far by a certain age or at any given time in a relationship, so take things at your own pace.
- Sex Isn’t Currency: You don’t owe your partner anything. Just because your partner takes you out to dinner, buys you a gift or says “I love you” doesn’t mean you owe them anything in response. It isn’t fair for your partner to claim that you don’t care about them because you won’t “go all the way.” Even if you’ve done it before, you are never required to do it just because your partner is pressuring you. Remember, no means no.
It can be hard to know where the line between healthy and unhealthy is once a relationship goes online. What are the rules for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat? What should your digital relationship look like?
Before you talk to your partner about your online relationship, check in with yourself to see what makes you feel comfortable. Start by considering your digital boundaries:
- Is it okay to tag or check in?
- Do we post our relationship status?
- Is it okay to friend or follow my friends?
- When is it okay to text me and what is the expectation for when we return it?
- Is it okay to use each other’s devices?
- Is it okay to post, tweet or comment about our relationship?
Once you know how you feel, you can talk to your partner and create a digital dating agreement between the two of you. Together, you can decide what feels healthy and what doesn’t for each of you. There may be some negotiating and compromising as you figure out an agreement that works for both of you. But if your partner asks you to do something that just doesn’t feel right, or they try to control you in some way, that’s when you get to say that this isn’t healthy for you.
This digital dating agreement can be changed as you continue with your relationship. Just because you felt comfortable with something at the beginning of a relationship doesn’t mean that you have to stick with that forever. You can communicate with your partner if things change. The reverse is also true: there may be something that you’re not ok with at the beginning, but with time and trust, you become comfortable with it. Both you and your partner should feel free to openly talk about your changing needs and wants.
As you think about your digital dating agreement with your partner, consider the following:
- Passwords are Private: Even if you trust your partner, sharing passwords for your phone and website accounts isn’t always the best idea. Just like you should be able to spend time by yourself, you are entitled to your own digital privacy. Giving your partner access to your Facebook or Twitter allows them to post anything they want without getting your permission first. They can also see everyone that you talk to, which may cause unwarranted jealousy, especially if there isn’t anything going on. Just to be safe, your password(s) should be something that only you know so you always have control of your information.
- Photos and Sexting: Similarly to your physical boundaries, it’s important to have digital boundaries about what you’re comfortable sending via text message. Once you’ve hit send on a photo or text, you lose control over who sees it. If your partner sexts you and demands that you sext back, you should be able to tell them you aren’t comfortable doing that, and they shouldn’t get angry or threaten you.
Boundaries are all about respect. You and your partner should know what is too far in all aspects of your relationship so that both of you feel safe. Do you have a question about setting boundaries in your own relationship? Call, chat or text us and we’ll talk it out with you.