How to Set and Maintain Boundaries in a Relationship

Relationships are meant to bring joy and feel safe. Otherwise, why bother, right? One way to make that happen is through setting clear and healthy boundaries that define the don'ts in relationships that are important to you.

Why are relationship boundaries important?

Boundaries are the secret sauce to healthy romantic relationships. Simply put, the definition of a boundary is a line that should not be crossed. Some view boundaries as a set of rules, while others consider them the cornerstone of a deep intimate connection.
Establishing boundaries early on will help you avoid unnecessary fights and misunderstandings, and allow you to simply enjoy each other's company. And that’s exactly what we want from a relationship, don’t we?

Types of relationship boundaries

Before we start talking about setting boundaries in relationships, let’s identify the main types of boundaries that are out there.

Emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries help you stay true to how you feel and not let others dictate what kind of emotions you should be having. For example, if your partner indulges in hours-long doom scrolling, this doesn’t mean that you have to do that too, sharing the hopelessness they feel as a result. Similarly, if your boyfriend is upset with someone in your friends’ group, you are allowed to have your own point of view and not get angry at the friend just because your boyfriend is.

Physical boundaries

Someone might be a big hugger, others like to keep their distance even with close friends and avoid PTA like wildfire. Those things are pretty important, but not everyone will speak up about their physical preferences. The great hack here is to start the conversation! Share what you like or don’t like, and encourage your partner to open up to you.

Sexual boundaries

Here comes the trickiest of them all – the sexual boundary. Having the sex talk can be so awkward that you resort to not discussing it at all. We get it, but not the best tactic if you want to enjoy your sex life and have fun with your partner. Sexual boundaries might include the places you don’t want to be touched in, the types of activities you’re not up to, and also getting active consent, even if you’re in a long-term relationship.

Intellectual boundaries

The beauty of life is that we are all built differently and have different values and beliefs. We don’t have to adopt other views just because someone else in our life shares them, especially a romantic partner. Intellectual boundaries help you stay true to yourself and voice your opinions openly, without worrying about them being disrespected. If you notice that you fight whenever your views on a situation don’t match or if your partner gets offended when you disagree with them on politics, lifestyle, or anything else – this is your sign to introduce intellectual boundaries into your relationship.

Financial boundaries

Money makes people uncomfortable. And sharing financial boundaries with someone you’re only starting to go out with? Ugh, awkward! But oh so necessary. Imagine you’re seeing someone and they immediately expect you to pay their bills, treat them to exotic getaways, and chip in for their rent because that’s exactly what their ex did for them. Sounds awesome if you’re on the receiving end, but if that’s not something you want to do for your partner, the sooner you speak up the better. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a lot of relationship problems.

Time boundaries

Time boundaries establish, well, you guessed it, how we spend time together and apart in our relationships. It’s cute to be inseparable every waking second when you just met, but if weeks pass and your partner still expects you to hang out 24/7, you might want to introduce some time boundaries and explain how your professional goals and relationships with friends in family matter to you too and require time to be nurtured.

Conversational boundaries

Everyone has the topics they are happy to discuss, and things they’d rather keep to themselves. Conversational boundaries, like all boundaries, are flexible and will change depending on the situation. You might be willing to talk about your past sexual life with a friend but refuse to discuss it with your current partner.

What are healthy boundaries?

Boundaries are limits that we don’t want to be violated. For example, a partner not wanting you to see other people is an example of dating boundaries.
In general, boundaries are good. They establish what works for us and what doesn’t. They assist both us and the people around us in better understanding what’s important, and defining our comfort levels and limits.
However, not every boundary is a healthy one. Healthy boundaries are non-harmful to others around you, and they’re not causing serious inconvenience to your surroundings. But also healthy boundaries are:
  • Communicated respectfully, so that other people don’t feel threatened and are ready to listen to us and understand what we’re trying to say.
  • Clear, so there is no misunderstanding and the other person knows what is expected of them without having to play the guessing game.

What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries?

Keeping your boundaries healthy is essential. Otherwise, you are risking your relationships and personal well-being.
Healthy boundaries focus on improving your relationships and making everyone feel safe. Unhealthy boundaries do the opposite. For example, a friend getting mad at you every time you don’t want to go out and party is an example of toxic behavior and an unhealthy boundary.
You can usually spot unhealthy boundaries by one of the factors below:
  1. No respect for others’ feelings, personal space, and boundaries.
  2. Poor communication of the boundaries when it’s not clear what’s allowed and what’s not.
  3. Aggressive enforcement of the boundary. It’s never healthy to shove your boundaries down someone’s throat. It inevitably creates tension and pressures the other party to comply even if they don’t fully understand or agree with it.
  4. Manipulation and abuse. Guilt-tripping or manipulating someone into agreeing with your boundaries is wrong, no matter how you look at it.
  5. Harm someone’s well-being. A healthy boundary will never cause someone else’s suffering, whether mental or physical.
If you’re struggling to figure out whether a boundary is healthy or not, let these questions guide you:
  • Does the boundary create a sense of security or cause discomfort?
  • Does it consider other people's feelings?
  • Was the boundary talked through or simply imposed on someone?
  • Would complying with your boundaries cross other people's boundaries?
The answers will point you in the right direction and help take a step back and understand the boundaries better. It’s not a 100% fool-proof method, but you should have a good idea of what kind of boundaries you’re dealing with.

Examples of healthy boundaries in relationships

Healthy boundaries will look different in every relationship. However, below you’ll find a list of healthy boundaries’ examples to help you get inspired to set your own:
  • Speaking up when something concerns you instead of holding a quiet grudge.
  • Stopping and leaving the conversation when you are being disrespected or your boundary is crossed.
  • Expecting mature communication during conflicts.
  • Letting go of codependency from your romantic partners, past or current ones.
  • Prioritizing your needs above the needs of others.
  • Maintaining financial independence in a relationship.
  • Allowing yourself to change your mind (and not feel guilty about it).
  • Declining something you are not interested in doing.
  • Voicing your expectations instead of assuming others will understand what you want.
  • Refusing to enable harmful or self-destructing behaviors of others (such as paying bills or covering up for a partner who has an addiction problem).

How to set and maintain relationship boundaries? Best tips from the Flure team

Personal boundaries are a must in any relationship. Settling for someone who ridicules, ignores, or oversteps your boundaries is not cute, and it’s not the vibe. Simultaneously, make sure you’ve communicated your boundaries in a healthy, non-toxic way. It’s not always an easy task, especially if you’re only getting to know the other person. But worry not! We are here to help and guide you along this tricky process.
We at Flure are firm believers in setting healthy boundaries that improve our relationships. Below is a selection of tips from experts and our personal experiences. Treat it as a checklist for current and future boundaries conversations:

#1 Take your time

Take the time to think about and identify your boundaries. Consider everything that works well and what doesn’t in your relationships, and create a list of boundaries that would change things for the better.

#2 Prioritise what your inner voice is saying

It’s good to take occasional inspiration from friends, TikTok, and expert articles. However, only you know what’s best for you, so don’t let external noise overshadow what you really want.

#3 Practice makes perfect

You might not be able to establish and maintain boundaries from the first try, and it’s perfectly normal. Keep trying, and you’ll get there! Just don’t forget to learn from your mistakes.

#4 Start early

The sooner in a relationship you introduce the boundary, the smoother it will go. Yet, it’s never too late to start the work, so don’t be discouraged to set boundaries with someone you’ve known for months and years.

#5 Practice saying No

People pleasing is so deeply ingrained into our brains, especially if you’re a woman, that we often struggle with saying No to someone, even if saying Yes makes us unhappy in the long run. The sooner you learn this useful skill, the better the quality of your life will be.

#6 Be as clear as possible

Don’t sugarcoat what you’re trying to say, speak in riddles, or withdraw some of the information. The person you’re talking with deserves to fully understand the meaning of what you’re saying.

#7 Prepare to be uncomfortable

Yes, you’ll probably feel some sort of discomfort communicating your boundaries, especially when doing it for the first time. That’s okay, don’t worry too much about how you sound, and try not to feel guilt for establishing boundaries. After all, you’re doing it to help you and the other person build a stronger connection. You’re doing the right thing.

#8 No need to say sorry

Avoid over-explaining yourself or apologizing for setting boundaries. You have the right to share what you are willing or not willing to do. It’s possible that your boundaries will not be respected, even after you’ve talked about them. The violation might happen intentionally or by accident. Either way, don’t be afraid to reaffirm your beliefs by having a follow-up conversation about boundaries.

How to respond when someone else sets a boundary?

When someone sets a boundary with us, we often see it as a limitation or a critique of what we’re doing, so we naturally oppose it. That’s not the best thing to do, as you would ultimately want others to respect your boundaries, and that implies similar behavior on your end.
Here is a quick checklist for what to do when someone sets a boundary with you:
  1. Acknowledge them. Pay your full attention to what the other person is saying without dismissing it.
  2. Respect their boundary. Don’t attempt to talk them out of setting this boundary or negotiate the details.
  3. Validate them. Show (and feel) compassion and understanding of where they are coming from.
  4. Ask questions. If you feel like you don’t fully understand the boundary, reasoning, or something else – now is the time to ask them about it. Just make sure you’re not coming across as demanding or accusing.
  5. Thank the person for sharing their boundary. They’re probably feeling very vulnerable sharing their thoughts and ideas with you. Feeling sincere support from your side would make a world of difference.
  6. Adapt to the new boundaries. This might require behavior or action changes or a mindset shift.
  7. Respect the person’s privacy and refrain from discussing their boundaries with someone else without their consent.
Note: Our recommendations apply to healthy boundaries that others are setting with us.
Sometimes you can feel that something a person asks you to do or stop doing is toxic. When that happens, take a step back to see if it’s really the case or if you simply feel threatened or uncomfortable with new, perfectly reasonable rules. If you find the boundary problematic even after a time-off, talk it through with the other person and do your best to come to a solution that would work for everyone.
Final tip: Think positive about boundaries being introduced. If someone is sharing their boundaries with us, it means they are interested in building strong long-term relationships. And that’s a good thing!

Final thoughts on setting boundaries in relationships

Setting boundaries might seem a bit weird at first, especially if it's new to you. But guess what? It's a total game-changer when it comes to improving relationships with your partner.
Think of healthy boundaries like the ultimate hack for staying connected without being controlling. It's all about making sure your needs are met without taking away someone’s autonomy.
As you're laying down your own boundaries, keep an open mind about others. It's like this mutual respect dance – everyone gets their space, and that's when the real magic happens.
At Flure, we're all about having awesome romances. We want all members to have the most fun together on the platform, and healthy boundaries play a great role in that.