healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries

36 Ways to Recognize Truly Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries in Relationships

If we’re committed to conscious love, we may wonder if our own way of relating includes healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries. Here’s the thing, healthy boundaries is a phrase that has been tossed around as if we’re able to include them in our lives in the way we might include “brushing our teeth” or “having our coffee without sugar.” While there are some simple ways to implement healthy boundaries or to assess if we need them and/or are lacking them – actually living them, or better said, requiring them, takes a consciousness and effort that can allude us more often than not.

It’s critical to take “boundaries” in relationship from a concept that on one extreme has us put up walls of protection against the very connection we seek. Or, on the other extreme, has us believe wholeheartedly that we have healthy boundaries, and yet we continuously abandon ourselves in favor of the other person’s needs. 

With that being said, it is your imperative to not allow this list to bring anything other than the most positive aspirations and intentions to your relationship(s) vs. dipping into any sense of lack, inadequacy, or burden as you discover all the possibilities for yourself. 

Here are just some of the boundaries for a healthy relationship – (there are others)

  1. You know what your boundaries are. A boundary is a line we are not willing to cross, an activity you’re not willing to partake in, a behavior in another you are not willing to accept. Healthy boundaries happen when you can state these invisible lines, requirements, and needs in the moment, without upset or aggression. And, you stand by your word. And you also want the same for your partner. 
  1. You know what your partner’s boundaries are. Just as you desire your boundaries to be honored and respected, you commit to understanding and honoring your partner’s boundaries. In soul partnership, boundaries are a mutual practice. 
  1. Have conscious relating agreements in place. One of the ways we set the stage for healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries in a relationship is to establish mutual agreements at the beginning of the relationship. These agreements would define how you will interact with each other with regard to honesty, conflict, sexuality and the like. 
  1. You have conscious upsets. In conscious conflict, partners own their part in a disagreement. They do not take responsibility that is not theirs, nor do they resort to blame. Conscious partners with clear boundaries can see, acknowledge, and even apologize for their contribution to the situation that one or both of you is upset about. 

When boundaries are crossed in a relationship

  1. When a boundary is crossed, you say so.  When you feel in your body that one of your boundaries has been crossed, you recognize it consciously, and you speak about it right away. 
  1. When a boundary is crossed again, you set a consequence for crossing it. If our boundaries are really our boundaries, then when that boundary is crossed more than once, we must take action to stop the crossing, such as saying, “If you continue to speak to me this way, I will leave the room.” 
  1. When a boundary is crossed after expressing a consequence, you act on that consequence. If your boundary is crossed again, you must follow through on the consequence you set, without giving them another chance (at that moment). To do otherwise would turn a healthy boundary into an unhealthy boundary. 

What are emotional boundaries?

  1. Your partner can be having a bad day and you still enjoy your day. In relationships with healthy boundaries, your emotional state remains separate from your partners. You can be compassionate, of course, and you do not need to dampen your mood just because someone you care for is down. 
  1. You are willing to be in conflict or disconnect momentarily. In other words, you don’t try to keep the peace. One of the biggest reasons for unhealthy boundaries in relationships is because we’re afraid that if we set them, our partner might reject or abandon us. You must be willing to go through that short term discomfort for the long-term strength of your relationship.
  1. You can feel love even when your partner is mad at you. Simply said, you don’t close your heart to love even though you or your partner are mad or hurt. We can certainly want to close in the face of pain, and when we know healthy boundaries in marriage or long term partnership, we stay open and in love even in our hurt. That’s juicy love. 
  1. Feelings are validated. When considering emotionally healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries, the most important thing either of you can do is to first self-validate your own feelings and then be willing to validate your partner’s feelings. Feelings are never wrong. They may arise from unconscious conditioning, but that does not make them wrong. Ever. 
  1. You don’t tolerate criticism. Loving boundaries, especially self-love boundaries requires that you not allow another person to criticize you. While our partners can certainly offer us, in a conscious way, feedback about how our behavior impacts them. Criticism harms. 
  1. You’ve graduated from having relationships where your partner is responsible for your happiness. No matter how much either of you may try to put a smile on the other’s face, the ultimate responsibility for happiness lies within yourselves. You each have to do what it takes within you in order to access happiness within. Only then does your partner have a chance to help you amplify or expand it. 

Identifying and Speaking Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries

  1.  You’re attuned to yourself.  When you’re in tune with your own inner responses and intuition, it is much easier to stand up for yourself and speak up before boundaries become an issue. It’s important to recognize the ways your body responds when something is of alignment with your own needs and values. Simply put, when you are not attuned to you, it’s hard to recognize healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries.
  1. You ask for pauses when you need them. Staying attuned to you, your partner, and the current situation is the most important way to care for boundaries in a relationship. If emotions or patterns are beginning to amp up, the best way to stay centered in yourself is to ask for even a momentary pause when you need it so you can stay tuned in. 
  1. You’re authentic. This has so many meanings. One way to know this is one of your superpowers is that you don’t hesitate to share yourself, your preferences, your desires and your dislikes. In other words, you don’t speak in ways that you think will win the approval of your partner. 
  1. You tell the truth. Conscious partners with strong boundaries know that avoiding, hiding, or withholding the truth is a sign of lack of trust. If we believe that both partners are whole and complete, strong and resilient, then we can relax into the safety and trust that arises when both people commit to honesty. 

How to set boundaries with in-laws and others outside your intimate relationship

  1. You have healthy Boundaries with In-laws. Understanding how to set boundaries with in-laws is a learned skill. Even in the best marriages or long term partnerships, your partner may desire to connect with their family more than you do. While extended family connections can be truly important and supportive, you also do not need to feel bad because you have differing desires. It’s critical to discuss these, understand each other’s perspectives, and not take differing needs personally. 
  1. Ex-wife boundaries / Ex-husband boundaries exist. When relationships with ex-spouses are conscious, cordial and kind, we can have some of the best extended family dynamics. Yet, it’s also important to the sovereignty of a new relationship that you both agree on when and where it’s appropriate and supportive to include ex’s in conversations, gatherings, and even photos in the house. 
  1. You have boundaries with kids. This boundary topic can stir up heated discussions and even ruin some relationships. While being a partner is one of the greatest gifts (and challenges), if the partnership supports the partners, who support the children, but the children come first, you may enter into a vicious cycle where no one is truly supported or fulfilled. It’s the oxygen mask metaphor at it’s best. Set limits with kids so you can be your best you. 

What are some healthy boundaries in a relationship? Examples

  1. Maintain your own interests. When we stop doing the things we enjoy, when we stop going out with friends, when we give up meditating or going to the gym in the name of the excitement, love and even love making in a new relationship we are jeopardizing the long-term sustainability of the relationship. If you lose yourself, you’ll eventually lose the relationship too. 
  1. Eating the foods you like. It might sound silly, but too many people stop eating their favorite foods when their partner doesn’t like the same delicacies – from desserts, to beer, to seafood, even vegetables. In today’s world, people eat in a myriad of ways. Be careful of deciding to eat the way your partner likes to eat. You may resent him or her later. 
  1. Going to bed and waking up at your rhythm. While it is absolutely important to have shared time in bed together, again too many couples try to force themselves to share the same sleeping schedule. Look for ways to stay true to your own natural rhythms while you honor each other AND share intimate conversation, connections and pleasure in bed. 
  1. You don’t have sex until your ready (or when you don’t want to.) Way too many people give in to sex earlier than they genuinely want to in a new relationship. And, over time healthy boundaries in marriage require that you remain true to yourself and offer a genuine yes or no, when invited to a sexual interaction.
  1. You take space when you need it. We all have differing needs when it comes to alone time. And, every person needs some alone time. (If you never want to be alone away from your partner, that’s a significant indication of unhealthy boundaries.) So, with conscious boundaries you give yourself and each other the separate space you need.
  1. You don’t have to change their mind when you disagree. Unhealthy boundaries would drive you to do anything you can to get your partner to see things your way. This grasping pattern happens because we believe that if we disagree our “love” is threatened. This is simply not true. Strong marriages allow for differences. 

Boundaries for Self-Love

  1. You’re no longer approval seeking. While you of course might consult your partner on major decisions or investments, you make decisions for yourself. You act in your own best interest without worrying about whether your partner or anyone else agrees. You’re ok within yourself, even when they disagree with your decision. 
  1. You know that you are more than your identity as a mother, father, husband, wife. When we define ourselves through our roles, we actually lose our true self, we deny our unique soul expression. And, when we do that it becomes extremely difficult to stay in love. Let the energy of mother, father, husband, wife flow through you but do not try to become that or the very things you fell in love with will disappear. 
  1. You treat yourself the way you want to be treated. Having healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries means that you treat yourself with the respect you want from another. When we have unhealthy boundaries in a relationship, we’ll expect, even demand, from another what we won’t give ourselves. 
  1. You don’t try to please him or her. People-pleasing is one of the insidious ways self-abandonment harms relationships. People-pleasing patterns are driven again by a fear that if you don’t keep your partner happy, they will leave. This immediately undermines trust in any relationship. Trust in self and trust in the other. 
  1. You know that saying no is an expression of (self) love. Saying no when your authentic truth is no is critical for creating and setting conscious boundaries. Saying yes when the answer is no, is actually cruel. Again, it undermines trust in your partnership and it’s disrespectful to you. When you are disrespectful to you, you will resent your partner and it’s not their fault. 

Soulmate and Spiritual Relationship Boundaries

  1.  You know your partner isn’t your source of love. If we look for, enter into, or build a relationship believing we get love from our partner, our partner is sure to disappoint. We bring love to a relationship and the connection amplifies that love. More specifically, the source of true love is within you. When you know this truth in your core, you’ll be able to stop the fight between healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries in love. 
  1. You find security within. Yes, of course we want to feel secure with and trust our partner. That’s essential in a strong partnership. And, we can only trust our partner enough to be real, set genuine boundaries, and honor ourselves, when we trust ourselves. The source of your security stems from your trust in you and in life itself. 
  1. There are no obligations. In conscious relationships, we know that we are not responsible for each other’s feelings, needs, problems, or happiness. It is our false belief that our partner is responsible that creates obligation in relationships. When we trust our own sovereignty and its inherent boundaries, we have no need to obligate our partner and, hence, love can thrive. (Obligations and generosity are mutually exclusive.) 
  1. There’s sovereignty. You both know that you are whole and complete on your own. You know you can’t complete each other. You know that no partner can fill an empty hole within. When you find your wholeness independently, this is the basis of actual partnership. And, this kind of wholeness in partnership leads to the true unity you may seek. 
  1. If you’re not a fit, you separate. In all relationships, we’ll have similarities and differences. And, if you feel like you are truly not a fit for each other, the most loving thing you can do is separate so that you each can find a relationship that feels fulfilling and natural. When we hold onto a relationship even when it doesn’t work for us, we’re probably engaging with an unhealthy boundary. 

The very best thing you can do to ensure the sustainability of soul love is learn how to navigate healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries in a relationship. Most importantly what you can see from all of our examples is that unhealthy boundaries are really non-existent boundaries. 

Your skill with navigating boundaries in a relationship relies wholly on your personal internal relationship with these real, but invisible lines, that are again not walls of protection, but the individual sovereignty that allows for true interdependence and partnership in love. 

We’re never sorry when we live within healthy boundaries in life and in relationship(s).

*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.

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