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Being one-half of a healthy couple requires a lot of things—great conflict-solving abilities, the skill of communicating, and staying positive even in difficult circumstances. But setting boundaries in relationships is also important, although individuals often forget that it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle. You see, we’re hardwired to be afraid to put ourselves out there, but most of us need some ground rules in order to feel safe.
“If we want to live fulfilled lives … we have to let go of the belief that the needs and opinions of others are more important or valid than our own,” says Nancy Levin, a certified integrative coach and the author of Jump… and Your Life Will Appear. “We have to stop believing that if we disagree with someone or ask for what we want, we’ll end up alone and unloved.” What the happiest couples know is that setting boundaries in relationships is necessary, and if someone loves you, they’ll respect those parameters. See six boundaries every couple should set below.
Define trigger words
First of all, let us be clear: Your partner should never use hurtful language toward you. However, it is wise to discuss if there are certain words that remind you of a negative experience or an abusive relationship (whether emotional or physical). By being up front with your S.O. about what triggers you to lash out, you’ll avoid getting upset at your current partner about something that should stay in the past.
Discuss what you tell your friends
Do you have friends who share intimate details about their relationships that make you cringe? Or maybe that doesn’t bother you and you feel like you want someone to bounce things off. It doesn’t matter which opinion you take as long as you and your partner are on the same page. Because let’s be honest, if chatting it up with your friends about your latest sexual endeavor or a bad trip to see your in-laws are going to make your partner upset, then you need to know. This rule has to work both ways in order to be effective.
Set sexual boundaries
Just because you’re in a committed relationship doesn’t mean that you’re willing to do everything and anything with your partner. Communication is key—pipe up if things are headed in a direction that makes you uncomfortable, and try to set some ground rules in the bedroom. (Hey, a safe word is never a bad idea.)
Talk about "alone time"
Some people don’t need a lot of space, while others do (case in point: Carrie Bradshaw, who kept her own apartment even when she married Big). Set expectations if you know that you’ll need some time alone to reset—this way your partner will know it’s not personal. You can also set boundaries when it comes to seeing your friends (e.g., your S.O should not crash girls’ night or your office happy hour). “As great as it is to be in a fun couple, it’s not fair or realistic to expect that all your fun will happen with the one you love,” says marriage and family therapist Esther Boykin. “We are multifaceted beings, and that means we need to have multiple outlets for fun.”
Determine how (and when) you'll communicate
Since everyone has different communication styles that they believe in, it’s better to be upfront rather than assume what the other person is thinking. Some people expect to talk to their partner daily, while others are okay with an every-other-day conversation, call, or text. Have this talk early on, and you’ll never feel like you’re being ignored or out of touch with your S.O.
Decide what's off-limits to share
It’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable divulging what’s in your savings account and 401k, depending on how long you’ve been together. Or maybe your best friend confided something in you and you don’t feel like it should be repeated. As long as you’re honest about what you’ll share from the get-go, there won’t be any hurt feelings here.
What do you think about setting boundaries in a relationship? Tell us which boundaries are important to you in the comments.