Please note: Entries within this blog may contain references to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text "loveis" to 22522.

How Love = Setting Boundaries

This year’s teenDVmonth theme is how love means setting boundaries, so we decided to share some of the basics on how a healthy relationship means that both dating partners set boundaries with each other.

What are Relationship Boundaries?

When we talk about boundaries, we mean all kinds of boundaries: physical, emotional, verbal, digital, sexual and financial. It doesn’t matter if two people are casually dating or in a serious relationship. Both people should feel comfortable about discussing these boundaries, and communicate what they want and do not want.

Emotional and Verbal Relationship Boundaries

Talking openly about what’s okay to say and not say to each other in a relationship is a very important part of setting relationship boundaries. For instance, if a partner says “I love you” but the other isn’t ready to say it back it, it’s okay -- and necessary -- to talk it out. Each partner should know each other’s goals for the relationship and their true feelings. Another example is giving each other space. Both partners should feel like it’s okay to spend time apart from each other without feeling the need to constantly check in or get permission first.

Digital Relationship Boundaries

Once a relationship goes online, what are the lines? Draw up a digital relationship agreement. For example, is it okay to post your relationship status? Can you tweet about it? What about following friends on SnapChat? When is it okay to text and when is it not okay to text? Can you use each other’s computers and phones? ne partner might not care at all about Facebook, but doesn’t want any photos on Instagram. Maybe one partner keeps up with Tumblr and wants to share fun moments about the relationship online, but the other doesn’t want the relationship mentioned.

Talk about the digital boundaries and periodically check in on what’s okay. Negotiate and compromise with each other. It’s best if both partners do not share passwords to email or social media accounts. Remember, everyone is entitled to digital privacy. No one has to give up their password or show each other their texts to prove they love or trust them. Likewise, both partners lose control over a text once it’s sent, so sexting is something that can very much come back to haunt both partners. No one should be angry or threatening if the other doesn’t agree to digital privacy.

Physical and Sexual Relationship Boundaries

No one is allowed to hit, slap, kick, punch, push, shove, pull your hair, throw things at you or threaten you with a weapon. That is considered physical abuse. Additionally, in order to have any kind of sexual activity with each other, both partners must consent every time. If one partner does not consent to sexual activity, it is considered sexual assault. No means no.

Just because two people are in a relationship does not mean you need to rush into a sexual relationship. If both partners are not ready, that’s okay. In healthy relationships, both partners know how far each other wants to take sexual activity with each other, and they talk to each other if something changes. No one owes their partner anything, and even if you’ve done something sexual with each other before, no one is required to do it again.  

How to Enforce Dating Boundaries

In order for boundaries to be effective, both dating partners need to agree to the boundaries and respect them. If a dating partner tells the other that those boundaries are stupid, or ignores them, or tries to manipulate the other into something else, they’re simply not respecting those boundaries.

Do you have a question about how to set boundaries? Call, chat, or text our peer advocates. We’re here to help.