All About Boundaries Part 4: Boundaries in Romantic Relationships

Boundaries in Romantic Relationships

As we discussed in our last blog post on Boundaries and Communication, being vulnerable, reflecting on our authentic needs, and opening ourselves up to what might happen as a result of setting boundaries can be difficult. This is especially true when it comes to our romantic relationships. Edmonton-based registered provisional psychologist, Selena Arcovio, explores navigating setting boundaries in intimate relationships. This is the fourth blog post in our series, All About Boundaries. Check out the first three posts here

Selena works with people in monogamous or polyamorous relationships, while they navigate the ups and downs of romantic relationships. If you want to book an individual counselling or partner counselling session with Selena to explore your boundaries and communication in your relationships or if you're looking for someone to walk alongside you on your healing journey, you can book your counselling session online here.

Boundaries & Romantic Relationships

Boundaries are the imaginary lines that separate us from other people in our lives. They separate our physical space, feelings, needs, and responsibilities from others. Many people find that the way they typically structure their boundaries (porous, rigid, or flexible) may change in an effort to please their partner(s) and/or to protect themselves from rejection. However as relationships mature and develop, compromising on boundaries can lead to problems if it means that one or more partners has unmet needs.

Many people find it hard to know where to start when it comes to conversations about their boundaries and needs in relationships. Let’s review some of the different types of boundaries in the context of intimate relationships. There are a few sample questions for each type that can help you begin reflecting on your needs and boundaries in your relationships. 

Types of boundaries

Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries have to do with your body and personal space. Discussing your physical boundaries with your partner(s) can help you determine your comfort levels around touch, affection, personal space, and how you meet your basic needs. 

  • Do I feel comfortable with physical displays of affection (kissing, hugging, touching, hand holding, etc.) in public? Around my friends? With my family? At work events?
  • Do I need my own space in our shared home (ex. office, game room, garage) or am I okay to spend most of my time in a common living space?
  • Do I want my own bedroom that I can choose to use when I need space or will we share a bedroom?
  • Do I feel comfortable sharing my phone and computer password with my partner(s)?
  • Do I want to share ownership of my belongings? Or do I have “my stuff” and my partner has “their stuff”?
  • Do I want my partner(s) to ask permission to use certain items that I’ve paid for or brought into the relationship (ex. car, laptop, etc.)?

Emotional Boundaries

These boundaries involve honoring each other’s feelings and energy. They involve acknowledging the difference between your own emotions and the emotions of your partner(s); being able to validate your partner(s) feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them. 

  • How do I want my partner(s) to show their appreciation for me in our relationship(s)?
  • How do I want my partner(s) to tell me that I did something to hurt them?
  • When I am having a bad day, how do I want my partner(s) to support me?
  • Do I assume what my partner is feeling instead of checking in with them?
  • How can I tell my partner(s) if I am emotionally exhausted and I am not in a place to have a serious conversation or support them effectively?
  • Do I ask my partner(s) if they have the emotional energy to have an intense/serious conversation before I begin the conversation? 

Financial Boundaries

When we mix money and romance, things can sometimes get complicated. However money is an inescapable part of our lives and it’s best to take a proactive approach to discussing your financial goals in intimate relationships. It is normal to have different values, habits, and rules around money compared to your partner(s). Having conversations around money upfront can help keep finances from becoming a perpetual issue in relationships. 

  • How much information do I want about my partner’s financial situation before I commit to them (ex. Move in together, relocate with them, marry each other, etc.)? How much information do I feel comfortable sharing?
  • Do we want to keep our money separate or together? Joint or separate accounts?
  • How do we want to split bills/expenses? 50/50? Percentage of income? Specific bills are covered by each partner?
  • What types of purchases should be discussed before spending the money? 

Time Boundaries

Time is one of the most finite resources we have. Fostering healthy time boundaries is important in our relationships. This involves reflecting on our priorities and values and setting aside enough time during the day to do the things that truly matter to you. This also involves making sure you do not overcommit and have enough time to rest and recharge. 

  • How much quality time do you want to spend with your partner(s) throughout the week?
  • How do you negotiate chores and responsibilities with your partner(s)?
  • What are your expectations for communication (texting, calling, sending memes on instagram, etc.) when you are away from each other?
  • Do you intentionally set aside time every week to connect with each other (date night, shared meals, watching a show, etc.)?
  • How much time do you ideally want to spend with each other’s family or friends? 

Sexual Boundaries

Healthy sexual boundaries involve consent, respect, and trust. They involve mutual understanding, mutual agreement, and respect of desires and limitations between partners. It can be helpful to approach conversations around sexual boundaries (like all types of boundaries) from a place of curiosity, conscientiousness, and compassion. 

  • When is it okay for you and your partner(s) to make sexually explicit comments towards each other (at home, in public, with friends, etc.)?
  • Does my partner know what sexual activities I love? The ones I enjoy? The ones I feel neutral about? What about the sexual activities I do not like?
  • Do I ever pretend to enjoy a sexual activity for my partner’s benefit? Do I ever feel pressured to do something sexual that I do not feel comfortable with?
  • Are there specific terms that I prefer my partner(s) to use to refer to my body parts, my sexual roles, or the sexual activities we engage in?
  • When exploring kink, what are my expectations of my partner(s)? What safe words can we use?
  • What are our soft limits and hard limits?
  • What constitutes cheating in my relationship(s)? 

Conclusion

If you have found that you are unsure about your answers to some of these questions or you notice that you and your partner(s) may have different answers, it might be helpful to see an individual or couples counsellor. At Holistic Healing Counselling, our trained therapists can work with you to identify your unmet needs in romantic relationships and help you gain the skills and confidence to set boundaries within your romantic relationships. Our therapists can also help you navigate the fear of being vulnerable with your partner and help you process through any residual hurt from previous relationships that might be getting in the way of your current relationships. Reach out to one of our Edmonton-based registered therapists today and start your healing journey.

Welcome to Holistic Healing

Welcome to Holistic Healing

Meet our certified therapists, Adam, Selena, Juanita, and Shaheen. No matter what you want to work on, we have a therapist to help. Our Counsellors focus on helping you feel at ease by allowing you to feel heard and understood. By using a holistic, or whole picture approach, our trained Counsellors can help their patients live a happier, more authentic life. Our therapists offer adult counselling, couples counselling, and adolescent/teen counselling. Interested in learning more? Need to book a session? Contact Us here.

 

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Counselling doesn’t just have to be for those who have reached a crisis situation. If you want to live a happier life by discussing the issues that are causing you stress, anxiety, or fear, contact Holistic Healing today to book your free initial consultation.

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