Love and Limits - Identifying Relationship Boundaries

Over the past month words such as “boundaries, “abuse” and “coercive behaviour” have been circulating the internet, especially after surfer, Sarah Brady released a lengthy post regarding the abuse she reported when in a relationship with her ex boyfriend and celebrity, Jonah Hill. 

Sarah has shared text messages she received from Jonah during the relationship and the internet has been speculating ever since, was this behaviour abuse or was it a case of just setting boundaries?

This controversy may have led you to wondering, what really is considered a boundary and how do you know when boundaries are being taken too far?

What are healthy boundaries in a relationship?

Through a survey of visitors to our website, we asked “do you and your partner consistently respect each other”, only 14% responded yes. This really demonstrates how important communication and setting boundaries is within a relationship for both partners to feel respected.

Healthy boundaries in a relationship should create a supportive and secure environment where each person can express themselves authentically without feeling overwhelmed or disrespected. 

Boundaries can be set in all areas of life from your work life to your relationship. Boundaries within romantic relationships are especially important for maintaining trust, respect and emotional well-being.

Boundaries come in many forms and each individual will feel comfortable within different boundaries. Physical boundaries involve respecting each other’s personal space and physical comfort. It’s important to establish what forms of physical affection are acceptable and to always ask for consent before engaging in physical or intimate activities.

But boundaries aren’t just physical, it’s important to respect each other’s emotions and emotional needs. Everyone navigates emotion differently and what one person finds comfortable may be distressing for another. So it’s important to communicate your needs and ensure your partner is respecting those needs.

Finding a balance between quality time spent together and individual time can be hard. Some people wish to spend every minute with their partner whilst others appreciate their alone time in order to remain in a good place emotionally. It’s really helpful if we can be understanding when the other needs time alone or has commitments outside the relationship. Read about spending quality time together.

In long-term relationships boundaries even need to be considered within finances. Both partners should be clear about financial expectations. Discuss financial matters openly and agree on how to manage joint finances, expenses, and financial goals.

Healthy boundaries are built on a foundation of trust and honesty. Being truthful with each other and maintaining confidentiality reinforces the sense of safety and security in the relationship.

How do I set boundaries with my partner? 

Initiating the initial conversation about your boundaries can be hard but remember your partner likely has boundaries of their own that they have holding back sharing with you. Here are some tips on carrying out this conversation in the healthiest way.

Firstly, take some time to identify what is important to you in the relationship. Consider your emotional and physical needs, as well as your values and priorities. Understanding your needs will make it easier to communicate your boundaries to your partner.  Once you have taken some time to consider that, try to find a suitable moment where both you and your partner will feel comfortable with being open and honest with each other. Communication is extremely important during this conversation, be clear and specific about your boundaries and don’t be afraid to be firm about your expectations. As important as it is to be firm, it is also useful to compromise. Listening to your partner is an important part of communication and working together to find what works best for both partners will result in a happier, healthier relationship.

If boundaries have been broken within the relationship in the past, set consequences and be clear about what actions you will take if your boundaries are not respected in the future. It will be important to be consistent with your boundary setting and ensure you follow through with all consequences where appropriate. As the relationship develops, having these conversations often, it is perfectly OK for your boundaries to change over time.

But how do you know if your boundaries are actually healthy?

Communication is crucial for establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries. Both partners should feel comfortable expressing their needs, desires, and concerns without fear of judgement or retaliation. If negative reactions towards boundaries are recurrent in a relationship, a partner could be showing signs of manipulative or coercive behaviour.

Active listening and empathy are also vital in understanding and respecting each other’s boundaries. Both partners should acknowledge and honour each other’s boundaries. This means not pressuring or coercing the other person into doing something they’re uncomfortable with and accepting each other’s individuality and autonomy. 

Each partner should have the freedom to pursue their interests, spend time with friends and family, and engage in activities that bring them joy, without feeling guilty or controlled by their partner.

Within the text messages we saw from Jonah Hill to Sarah Brady, we can see Jonah outline a list of “boundaries” which Brady has broken. This list includes surfing with other men and posting bikini pictures on Instagram. Of course, we do not know the full story to their relationship however it’s clear that requests were made that were interpreted as controlling. If you are experiencing anything like this within your relationship, get in touch with us today, and you can start with our CLARITY scorecard which will give you some personalised feedback about the state of your relationship.