10 Signs That You Need Help Setting Boundaries in Relationships

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I used to absolutely suck at setting boundaries in relationships - I hated saying “no” and as a result I went along with things that made me unhappy and allowed people to treat me badly.


But as I started to learn my own self worth, I learned the importance of setting boundaries in relationships for not only my own wellbeing but for the health of the relationship in question.


I believe that boundary setting is the ultimate act of self care, and that all of us should feel able to express our boundaries freely. 


Relationships are about compromise and we should all be willing to establish healthy boundaries and take appropriate action when boundaries are crossed in a relationship.

romantic couple holding hands

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The importance of setting boundaries in relationships


Boundaries are absolutely essential when it comes to relationships to ensure that your needs are met and that you’re not being mistreated or taken advantage of.


You may think that setting boundaries only applies to toxic relationships, but the truth is that every relationship needs boundaries because every person has different needs.


By communicating and setting boundaries in your relationships you’re giving yourself the best chance of working well together, because you both know what the other person needs and what things might trigger them or push them too far.


Types of boundaries in relationships


So what kinda boundaries should you be looking at setting for healthy relationships? 


1. Overall expectations of relationship


For any kind of relationship to work, it’s important that you’re aware of each others expectations and ideally both on the same page about what you’re expecting to get out of the relationship.


This means communication is essential. Ask yourself “what do I want from this relationship?” and let this be known to the other person.

 

For example, maybe you’re seeing somebody romantically and your expectation is that this will lead to a committed and exclusive relationship.


It would be important for you to set this boundary early on because otherwise this person may engage in behavior that would ultimately hurt you.


If you’re on two wildly different pages (for example, they just see this relationship as a casual fling) then this is already a sign that the relationship may not work out and it may be best to take different paths. 


Whatever your expectations are, let them be known.


This will allow both you and the other person to make an informed choice about whether to pursue the relationship or whether to go your separate ways. 


2. How you’re spoken to


Our words have the power to create emotion so setting boundaries about how you’re spoken to is incredibly important. 


While I’m sure we’ve all had moments when we’ve lost our temper and said things we don’t mean, if this is a common occurrence in your relationship then it’s probably time you set some boundaries.


It’s important that we let the other person know what words really hurt us and we communicate that we don’t want them to use those words. Let them know where your toleration lies and state that if they pass this then they are crossing the line.


This can go for tone and volume too - nobody wants to be shouted at on a regular basis!

man shouting down telephone


3. Honesty and openness


I’m sure that most of us value honesty in relationships, but maybe not all of us communicate this value.


This might be because we think it goes without saying, but it’s important to remember that people have different ideas of honesty and openness.


For example, somebody else might think that telling the occasional white lie is okay whereas you may think that any lying - no matter how “small” - is unacceptable.


Maybe you also have certain areas that you’d prefer not to know about (yes… there is such a thing as too much openness!), so make sure that you communicate these boundaries also!


4. Sexual expression


We all have different limits when it comes to sexual activity. 


Whether you’re a total kinkster or more reserved in the bedroom, it’s important to establish where your limits lie and communicate them to your sexual partner.


Is there something that you’re absolutely not down for? Let your partner know! Tell them your limits when it comes to sex so that they know when to draw the line.


With these boundaries in place, this means that there’s less likelihood of your partner making you feel uncomfortable during the deed. 


5. Finances


Financial boundaries are also a must. Perhaps you and your partner have different incomes and therefore your spending habits are different, or perhaps you just value money differently and that’s okay.


For example, maybe your partner is perfectly happy with spending $2000 on a week’s vacation, but you would prefer something a bit cheaper.


Don’t just splash out the money to save face, it’s okay to have different financial limits!


This is also an important boundary to set when it comes to sharing costs and splitting bills. Will you split everything in half or will you take into account your income differences?


Set the boundary early on so that you don’t get into situations that make you feel restricted financially.

person counting money

 

6. Family


There’s a good chance that you may find yourself with somebody who has drastically different family values to you.


Maybe one of you sees family as their most important priority and the other has never had close family relationships.


Every family is different and there is no right or wrong here, just boundaries to be set.


Perhaps you’ve always had a family obligation on a certain day of the week - it might be a good idea to communicate this to your partner early on so they know this is a commitment you’re not willing to budge on.


Or perhaps you don’t talk to your family at all and family events make you feel very uncomfortable. Establish what boundaries you might need to put in place in regards to this.


7. Friendships


Sometimes we get so swept up in romantic relationships and the “honeymoon phase” that we fail to make time for our friends. This is an easy thing to do but it may not be something that you’re comfortable with.


Friendships are important to maintain, whether you are or aren’t in a relationship.


It’s a good idea to set boundaries about how often you’d like to see your friends to ensure that you’re not neglecting the friendships in your life.


It may also be necessary to work on boundaries about what is and isn’t okay in friendships.


Perhaps you or your partner are friends with somebody who you were previously romantically involved with and this makes the other uncomfortable. It’s a good idea to discuss what your limits would be with this friendship to ensure that no boundaries are crossed.


Of course, this doesn’t mean to go to the extent of controlling who your partner can and can’t be friends with. Instead, communicate with each other what you both feel are reasonable boundaries.


8. Goals and aspirations


In my opinion, you should never place all of your meaning into a single relationship and it’s incredibly important to have your own goals and aspirations in life.


From my previous experience in relationships, conflict can arise when one of you has goals and aspirations and the other does not.


The other person may place all of their focus on you because they have nowhere else to direct it. This can feel restricting if you have aspirations that you’re trying to work towards.


This means that it’s equally important to set boundaries that allow you to work towards these goals.


 For example, maybe you have a certain goal that is incredibly important to you - you should communicate this with your partner and let them know that this is also a priority in your life.


Related: Ego vs Soul: How to Tell The Difference


9. Time and space


We all have different requirements when it comes to time and space.


Some of us flourish when we spend most of our time alone, whereas others prefer to be in the company of others all the time.


You and your partner may have different needs when it comes to time and space, which can result in some difficulty. The importance here is to communicate what your own needs are and establish boundaries and compromise.


If a certain time of day spent alone is important to you or you like a particular amount of space then set this boundary.


Equally, if you feel like your partner is too distant and you would like more time spent with them then communicate this too.

alone time


10 signs that you need help setting boundaries in relationships


Now you know the types of boundaries to set in relationships but, let’s be honest, setting them is a whole other story.


How do you know if you need to do this? Well, these are some common signs that reveal you may need help setting boundaries in relationships…


1. You often feel like your needs aren’t met


If you often feel let down or like you needs aren’t being met in relationships then this is a clear sign that you may need help setting boundaries.


Ask yourself, does this other person know what your needs are?


We often treat our relationships as if the other person can read our minds. We want them to know what we need and provide this for us, but the truth is that sometimes they might need a little help along the way.


If you haven’t communicated your needs with this other person then I’d encourage you to do so.

 

If you have already communicated your needs and they’re still not being met then it may be that you haven’t set your boundaries firmly enough.


It’s important to be strong in situations like this and stress the importance of your needs being met for the health of this relationship.


2. You find yourself being lied to frequently


Does your partner feel like lying isn’t much of a big deal, or do they try to “get away” with things that they know you wouldn’t find acceptable?


If you find yourself being lied to frequently then this is a sign that you may need help setting boundaries in relationships.


Ask yourself: why does this person think it is acceptable to lie to me?


Have you communicated the importance of honesty to you or have you taken the “it goes without saying” approach?


 Remember, sometimes we have to actually vocalize our boundaries in order to ensure that we’re on the same page.


3. You feel pushed into doing things that you don’t want to do


If you find yourself going along with things that you don’t really want to do then you definitely need help setting boundaries.


If there is something that you really don’t want to do it’s incredibly important that you let this other person know. The ability to say “no” is an essential part of your self care.


When you go along with things without communicating that you don’t want to, this sends the message to the other person that you are okay with this thing and they will continue to think that there are no boundaries surrounding this.


Please note, if you have tried saying “no” but this other person forces you or coerces you in some way to do something you don’t want to do then this is a whole other story.

 

If somebody does not take no for an answer, no matter what it is, then this is not a loving relationship. In these cases, it’s important that you know when it’s the right time to walk away, and to seek support if you feel like you’re in danger.

hand gesture for no


4. You feel like your goals get pushed aside


As I said previously, I believe it’s super important to have your own goals and aspirations in relationships.


This means that the people in your life should allow you to pursue these dreams and not restrict you from doing so.


If you feel like your aspirations get cast aside then it may be time to put some boundaries in place.


Let the other person know what is important to you and communicate what is necessary for you to get there.


5. You feel smothered or neglected


If you feel smothered in a relationship then this is a clear sign that you need to set some boundaries around time and space.


Having your own space is so important, particularly as an introvert, and asking for space in relationships doesn’t make you a bad person.


Communicate with those close to you that a certain amount of time and space is essential for not only your wellbeing, but the wellbeing of your relationships - you cannot pour from an empty cup, after all.


This goes the other way, too. If you feel completely neglected in a certain relationship and like the other person has no time for you then you need to let the other person know!


This can be difficult if you both have different needs, but relationships are all about compromise.

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6. You feel like your kindness is taken advantage of


Do you often feel like you’re “too nice”, or perhaps you’ve even been referred to as a “pushover” or “doormat”?


Yes, it’s nice to be nice, but not at the expense of asserting your boundaries!


If you’re too afraid to assert your boundaries then people will start to think that you don’t have any. This is when you find yourself being walked over and taken advantage of.


It’s important to know that it’s much much easier to set boundaries in the early stages of a relationship than it is to try and set them years down the line.


Nonetheless, whatever stage your relationship is at it’s never too late to know your worth and let it be known!


7. You feel like you’re spending out more financially than you’d like


If you feel like a certain person has a negative effect on your bank balance then it might be time to set some financial boundaries!


Don’t be afraid of seeming “tight” or “stingy”. Let this person know that the value of money is important to you.


If you have a certain thing that you’re saving for you can also communicate that this a priority for you right now.


8. You feel like you no longer have time for friends or family


If you feel like one relationship is eating up all your time and you no longer have time for others in your life then this can be a sign that your boundaries are being crossed, whether knowingly or unknowingly.


If you haven’t yet communicated to your partner the importance of certain friendships or family relationships then I’d encourage you to do so.


If you already have communicated these boundaries but you still feel this way, it could be that you’re not demonstrating the willpower at sticking to your boundaries yourself.


It’s important to know the difference between somebody else crossing your boundaries and you crossing your own.


9. You often feel hurt by the way your partner speaks to you


If your partner speaks to you in an aggressive way that they know is going to hurt you, then this is a sign that this person doesn’t respect your boundaries.


However, there is also a chance that your partner speaks to you in a way that hurts you without it being their intention to do so.


We all have different sensitivities and your partner may say something to you that they wouldn’t find hurtful themselves, not knowing that you will find it hurtful.


In such cases, it may be because you haven’t communicated and set boundaries around how you do and don’t wish to be spoken to.


We can’t protect ourselves from hurt and upset all the time, but we can definitely minimize it to some extent by ensuring that our loved ones are on the same page about what is and isn’t acceptable to say to one another. 

person crying


10. You find yourself the victim of betrayal time and time again


If you find yourself being the victim of betrayal time and time again then this is a sign that your boundaries are not being taken seriously.


By continuing a relationship despite betrayals of trust you are sending out the message that this is okay.


Instead, the person needs to know that betrayal is unacceptable and will result in the relationship ending.


Boundary setting isn’t easy, let’s be honest, and I’m certainly not in the business of victim blaming, either. 


There is a definite difference between needing help setting boundaries in relationships and being a victim of abuse and manipulation.


If you’ve tried setting boundaries but the other person is outright ignoring your boundaries then please know this is a reflection of their character, and not you.


I get how hard this is when you love someone, but this all comes back to knowing your self worth and knowing when it’s time to walk away, even when it’s painful to do so.

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setting boundaries in relationships

About Esther

Esther is the founder of Through the Phases, and author of the Breakthrough Manifestation Workbook.  Her mission is to guide others to grow to their full potential and create their dream life using spiritual and personal growth practices. Read more about her story here!

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