Implementing emotional and physical boundaries can keep a budding relationship healthy and even deepen your connection. When communicated, boundaries let others know what you're willing to accept and what will not be welcomed in your life.
Setting and maintaining boundaries might make you a little uncomfortable, especially if you're a notorious people-pleaser. You probably want to make and keep your partner happy at the expense of your mental wellness; don't do that. Your well-being is just as valuable as your partner's, and you should never feel embarrassed for wanting and needing boundaries in a relationship. Just don't expect your partner to read your mind and know your limits because, fun fact, they can't read your mind. No one wants to guess what their partner needs or wants! It's all about communication, babe.
Now that we've established the importance of boundaries, you may wonder how they sound.
You need to spend time with someone to learn if you're a good match! Like you, our free time is essential to us; as adults, it sometimes feels fleeting. But developing a connection and determining compatibility takes time and energy, and no one wants to waste it on something that will inevitably not work out due to incompatible life goals or values.
Finding a healthy balance between spending too much time together and not enough can be challenging, especially during the honeymoon phase. It's easy to want to spend every free moment with your new beau, but isolating yourself from the world and only focusing on them is a recipe for codependency. If you get wrapped up in a person, a healthy boundary is communicating your need to take time for yourself, your friendships, and your hobbies.
Expressing this might sound like:
"I'm enjoying my time with you, but it's also important that I make time for myself. I don't want to get lost in this relationship accidentally."
A good match will help you maintain this boundary, even if it means they don't see you as often as they would like. Prioritizing your romantic interest and losing yourself in your romantic interest can be a fine line for many, but opening that dialogue can help the two of you find a healthy, happy medium!
Now that we've established our need for autonomy, it may be time to add some spice.
So, you've learned they respect your time-management boundary, plus they're funny, intelligent, and goal-oriented, and you're physically attracted to them. Score!
Things might progress toward the bedroom, but you might want your potential partner to have a recent STD test before getting hot and heavy. Asking them about their sexual health might feel weird. You don't want to imply that you're shaming them for having a sexual history, and you also probably don't want to know the nitty-gritty details of said history... but, like, have you had a recent STD test? You shouldn't just assume they're as passionate about their sexual health as you are!
If you're unsure of how to communicate your boundary, try the following:
"My sexual health is important to me, and I don't need to know the details of your sexual history, but I would like for both of us to get tested before we have sex."
If they protest, make excuses, or tell you not to worry, you might be dodging a bullet before things get too serious by learning about their lack of respect for your health.
💡 Remember: there's no shame in asking a potential sexual partner to show proof of a recent STD test or asking them to schedule an examination. It's your body, and you can protect it in any way you see fit! Also, don't feel ashamed if you have a sexually transmitted disease. You are still worthy of having loving, healthy emotional and sexual relationships!
Now that your romantic interest has gotten an STD test or disclosed an STD to you, you might be ready to take things to the next level and slap a title onto whatever it is you're doing. If you're interested in having a monogamous relationship with this person, it might be time to have that uncomfortable "what are we" conversation. We know it can be stressful but are we here to waste time? No? We didn't think so.
If you're not sure how to start that conversation, try:
"I'm having fun with you, but I want to define this relationship before investing more time into us. I am looking for a long-term relationship, and I would like to know what you're looking for."
If everything goes according to plan, you might be ready to change that Facebook relationship status and alert the media because you got yourself a partner!
Having and maintaining boundaries, even outside of your relationship, is not just self-care; it's self-respect. You have a say in what you allow into your life and being a people pleaser puts your emotions at risk. It's okay to say no, even if your voice quivers.
One of our members shared with us how a lack of boundaries in her last relationship affected her emotional well-being:
"I lacked boundaries BAD in my last relationship by letting my partner's life be my life. Don't get me wrong, my boyfriend was kind and loving, but the pandemic cost him his job, which took a massive toll on his already fragile mental health. I helped financially support him for months until his unemployment got squared away, even though I struggled to make ends meet in my household. By the time I left the relationship, I barely knew who I was.
It wasn't until I took vacation time from my job to help him clean his almost uninhabitable apartment that I realized I needed boundaries! My vacation was supposed to be for me to take care of myself, but instead, I scrubbed baseboards and threw away empty beer cans. I realized I was setting myself on fire to keep him warm.
That relationship made me realize how much I need boundaries to keep me from being codependent. It was a harsh lesson, but part of me is glad I learned it the hard way because now I'll never forget its importance."
💡 Remember: A good partner will listen to your boundaries, ask questions, and work to help you maintain them. An unhealthy partner will ask you to move your goalposts or consistently violate your boundaries. And broken boundaries without consequences just become mere suggestions.
Are you ready to set boundaries in other areas of your life? Be sure to check out our other blogs for tips on establishing boundaries in your long-term relationship, friendships, family members, and workplace. (include links to other blogs when they're ready)
What boundaries have you implemented during the dating phase or in young relationships? We'd love for you to share your thoughts with our community!