We have learned about what healthy boundaries are, and that boundaries start internally rather than externally. We have also learned that in some families, healthy boundaries are difficult to maintain, due to a variety of issues. Our final discussion topic regarding boundaries is focused on creating healthy boundaries in romantic relationships. While each person’s relationship constellations may be different, there are some foundational principles that are the building blocks of interacting in healthy ways. Healthy boundaries are an ingredient for success whether a relationship is polyamorous, monogamous, or any other place on the relationship spectrum.


Sometimes people are hesitant to create and maintain boundaries in relationship because they feel it will take away from the spontaneity and romance, but in truth boundaries help us create a safe space for intimacy and respect to grow, so that each partner is able to be vulnerable. Healthy boundaries reflect each person’s ability to understand and communicate their own needs, likes, and dislikes. They also discourage manipulation, jealousy, and one sided communication. Healthy boundaries involve communicating to your partners who you honestly are, and what your beliefs, values and personal limitations are. In this way, respect and acceptance are encouraged, rather than adjusting for the other person and developing feelings of resentment and feeling incomplete. In healthy relationships, we do not need to adjust our boundaries so that others do not react poorly, and we know that our partners will respect our boundaries. Another aspect of healthy relationship, is that each person feels that they are able to adjust their boundaries throughout the relationship. As you may remember, healthy boundaries, like healthy relationships are flexible rather than rigid. This does not mean adjusting your boundaries just to stay in the relationship without making your partner angry or upset. This is about feeling that you can shift boundaries to meet your own needs, not because you feel pressured. You should never feel you need to change a boundary out of fear, obligation or guilt. As we become more comfortable in a relationship for example, we may feel more comfortable with increasing levels of physical intimacy, or we may discover that we need to communicate a new boundary about what makes us feel safe or happy.


One way to know if a boundary is a healthy one is if it protects and respects everyone in the relationship. If it feels like the boundary is seeking to control or harm someone else, then it is worth taking a closer look to see if this is an unhealthy boundary. Healthy boundaries show respect for each partner’s personhood and leave room to ask for what we want or need in a relationship. They also allow for each partner to have their own interests and friendships outside the relationship.


Whether you are currently in romantic relationship or not, it can be helpful to identify what your own values and needs are so that you can communicate them with current or prospective partners. Healthy boundaries start with you understanding your own values and needs and communicating those to another person from that place. Doing so is a loving act in that we are allowing our partner to really know us and show respect and love for who we are. Some examples of basic personal boundaries to be communicated with partners

  • How much personal time you need
  • Physical affection
  • Sexual intimacy needs
  • Frequency of communication you are comfortable with maintaining
  • Social media interaction


It is important to remember that healthy boundaries are neither too loose nor rigid. While many people are reactive in relationship and change their boundaries to meet the needs of others, some may have boundaries that are too rigid. When boundaries are too rigid, we may be thinking only of ourselves. Healthy boundaries are not ego driven, they are balanced in a way that allows us to honor the values of ourselves and others. While boundaries can be a healthy means of self care, they are never an excuse to ignore the needs of our partner. They come from a place of emotional security that allow us to be able to naturally express our own needs, as well as be aware of and respect the needs of the other.


Questions to ask yourself when creating or enforcing a boundary

  • What physical, emotional, or sexual need am I trying to express through this boundary?
  • How does this boundary help me show that I value myself and my needs?
  • How does this boundary help me show that I value my partner?
  • How will this boundary contribute towards relationship health and intimacy?
  • How can I communicate this boundary in a way that shows respect for my identity as well as that of my partner?


Often people with too rigid boundaries may become involved in relationship with those who have overly soft and permeable boundaries. As we discussed in previous articles on boundaries, our style of setting boundaries in friendships and romantic relationship often traces back to what we have learned in our family of origin. If we are afraid to set boundaries, or perhaps even leave a relationship when we see that our values and needs are incompatible for relationship with another person, this may be a sign of an insecure attachment style. Struggles over boundaries in relationship can be one of our first clues that we may need support from a therapist to develop a secure attachment style. In upcoming articles we will learn more about different attachment styles and how they affect our relationship interactions.