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Setting Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

Navigating a relationship can be tough. People enter relationships with different expectations. Sometimes, one person’s idea of what he or she wants in a relationship does not match what the other person wants. Boundaries help to define what you are comfortable with in a relationship and help others know how you want to be treated.

Healthy relationship boundaries include:

Emotional Boundaries
People in healthy relationships explore different interests and feel comfortable spending time apart engaging in them. Partners should enjoy spending time with other people without having to ask permission or feeling guilty for choosing to invest their time in other interests. They should not feel trapped or pressured into spending all their free time with their partner. 

Healthy partnerships do not include pressure to reciprocate feelings, emotions, words, or actions. For example, when one partner says, “I love you,” that does not mean the other partner must also say it. One partner may move faster emotionally than the other, and the level of commitment to a relationship will not automatically be equal. Respect the emotional pace and personal boundaries of any partner.

Physical Boundaries
Don’t rush into a physical relationship if not ready. Openly communicate what level of intimacy you are comfortable with and respect your partner’s boundaries surrounding intimacy. Everyone is allowed to say “no” and have their wishes respected without feeling guilty. Be comfortable saying “no” but also express what you are ready for or interested in trying.

Digital Boundaries
Reflect on what you might convey and the desired outcome of your words before hitting send on a text or email. Once you send a message or a photo, you no longer control that content, who sees the content, or where the information is shared. Keep all phone and website passwords private. Everyone is entitled to digital privacy, and there are ways to safeguard your information.

Boundaries are about respect: Respect yourself, respect your partner, and respect the right to make choices. Remember, everyone has the right to change their minds about what their boundaries are at any time, so open communication is key to a healthy relationship.

If you would like more information about relationships or boundaries, contact your local Family Advocacy Program, or visit or Military OneSource.

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