Healthy relationships are built on a foundation of respect and communication. Boundaries are your personal rules that help you feel safe and respected. Establishing boundaries is important to any healthy relationship, especially when it comes to sexual or romantic partners. It is important to remember that your partner(s) won’t necessarily know your boundaries unless you communicate them, and vice versa.
What Does Communicating About Boundaries Look Like?
Conversations about boundaries should be rooted in respect and empathy. Though having these conversations may feel uncomfortable or unnecessary, understanding your partner(s)’s boundaries creates a stronger, more trustworthy relationship.
Your boundaries are personal and they help you define what you’re comfortable or uncomfortable with. Here are a few tips for having a successful conversation about your boundaries:
- Try to have the conversation in an environment that’s comfortable and inviting for all parties, such as a park or quiet coffee shop.
- Use “I” statements to talk about your feelings. To keep the conversation helpful and productive, make sure these statements concentrate on actions rather than the person. For example, you could share: “I love [insert physical activity you like here] but I’m not ready for [insert physical activity you don’t want here]. When you try to do it anyways, it makes me feel like you aren’t respecting my boundaries or me.”
- At the end of the conversation, consider asking yourself and your partner(s) if there are things each of you can do to help each other feel safe, respected, and cared for. You can start this conversation by saying: “Thank you for listening and sharing with me. Is there anything I can do to help you feel safe when we [insert physical, emotional, or other activity here]?”
When you are engaging in sexual activity, communicating regularly about your boundaries is key. Feeling comfortable engaging in one activity, one time, does not mean you or your partner(s) are comfortable with increased or recurring sexual contact. You have the right to change your mind at any time.
What Can a Violation of Boundaries Look Like?
Whatever thoughts and feelings you have about your boundaries are personal and valid. Below are a few common examples of ways your boundaries can be disrespected or violated:
- Your partner(s) refuse(s) to acknowledge your boundaries by ignoring verbal and non-verbal cues that you express.
- Your partner(s) make(s) assumptions that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more.
- Your partner(s) make(s) you feel pressured to engage in sexual activity by using fear, intimidation, or coercion.
- Your partner(s) assume(s) they have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past.
No one deserves to have their boundaries disrespected or violated. If this has happened to you, know that it is not your fault, and you are not alone. Safe Helpline is available 24/7 to provide the support and resources you deserve at SafeHelpline.org/live-chat or via the phone at 877-995-5247.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network)
National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
*Please note that Military OneSource is not an anonymous resource. Additionally, if you disclose a sexual assault to Military OneSource staff, they are mandated to file an unrestricted report. To learn more about unrestricted reporting, click here.