Relationship Boundaries Definition & Meaning (+types, signs, examples, quotes)

Karan and his girlfriend had been together for one year, and they were head over heels for each other. As much as he loved his girlfriend, he felt very uncomfortable with public displays of affection, which Jessica did not understand. You see, Karan was born and raised in a collectivist culture while his girlfriend Jessica was raised in the US. In his upbringing, he rarely witnessed his parents showing affection towards each other as society frowned upon. Moreover, he rarely came across public displays of affection in his own country, so he experienced cultural shock when he first came to the US. 

Jessica could feel Karan’s hesitance regarding public displays of affection and felt hurt whenever he would reject her advances in public. They even had several arguments about this. 

We can see that public display of affection is a boundary that Karan has been trying to put up, but it was upsetting Jessica. 

So, this leads us to the question, what are boundaries? 

A boundary is “a psychological demarcation that protects the integrity of an individual or group or that helps the person or group set realistic limits on participation in a relationship or activity.” 

American Psychological Association (APA)

In other words, boundaries are tools that allow us to choose what we are and are not comfortable with within a relationship or activity. 

When you think about it, we come across different types of boundaries in our day-to-day lives, such as not working when you’re out of the official working hours, not eating certain types of foods, not drinking alcohol or using substances, etc. 

Creating healthy boundaries is crucial because we can feel taken advantage of, depleted, intruded upon, or taken for granted without boundaries.

You can think of boundaries as a form of self-care. 

Understanding Boundaries: Do I Have Boundaries? 

We all need to have boundaries in place as they act as guidelines for people in our lives that help them navigate how to behave around us. This helps people understand what’s okay and what’s off-limits, which ultimately helps ensure that we have healthy, respectful relationships in our lives. 

We already have some types of boundaries in place, even though we may not be conscious of them. 

These usually manifest themselves in feelings of discomfort when someone stands too close to us, passes a rude remark, asks inappropriate questions, or demands us to do work that isn’t a part of our work description. 

Different Types of Boundaries: There’s Not Just One!

Humans are social animals, which means that being social is ingrained in the fabric of our being. This makes it crucial to have firm relationship boundaries that help you stay accountable for your feelings and actions, not for others. 

People who have issues with relationship boundaries belong mostly to one of the two groups: 

  • Those who believe their actions and feelings are a natural consequence of someone else’s actions and not because of their issues. For example, “You know that I go crazy when you’re out clubbing with your friends, can’t you just stay home?” 
  • Those who take responsibility for someone else’s feelings and actions. For example, “I’d love to live in another city, but my boyfriend doesn’t want to move because all his school buddies are here.”  

Here are some questions that can help you understand your relationship boundaries: 

  • How much input do I need from my partner? 
  • What are the things that I’m willing to share? What are the things that are non-negotiable for me? 
  • How much of my independence am I willing to give up? 
  • How do I maintain my individuality in the bounds of this relationship? 
  • How do I take care of myself? 

Setting healthy boundaries in a relationship helps with the smooth sailing of your relationship. It allows you to navigate challenges more easily without feeling taken advantage of, getting sucked into pointless arguments, or checking in with your partner about everything. 

Now that we have an active understanding of what boundaries are, we will try to discover the various types of boundaries you can have in this section of the blog post. 

Physical Boundaries  

As the name suggests, physical boundaries have to do a lot with our bodies, such as our personal space, touch, the food we eat, the type of lifestyle we lead, medical issues, etc. 

Here are some questions you need to think about to determine your physical boundaries: 

  • Do I like being touched by people? (This can include handshakes, hugs, people standing too close to you, high-fives, etc.) 
  • Who can touch me? (Friends, family, acquaintances, close inner circle, etc.) 
  • Am I comfortable having people come into spaces meant for just me, for example, my bedroom? If so, who is allowed in these spaces? 
  • Should people comment on the food I eat? 
  • Is there something I am not willing to consume? (Meat, dairy, gluten, etc.) 
  • How do I prioritize my time? 

Your physical boundaries may differ from your partner’s or family’s, and there’s nothing wrong with that–as long as you’re comfortable and true to yourself. 

Emotional Boundaries 

These are the boundaries we set when we think about what we’re comfortable sharing with others. This includes the types of things you’d like to share with your friends and family and the things you’d prefer to keep private. 

Some questions that will help you gain better insight into your boundaries include: 

  • Who am I comfortable confiding in and sharing emotional information with? Who would I rather not talk to about these things? 
  •  How do I process my emotions? 
  • What are the things that I am not comfortable sharing with my partner, friends, or family members? 

Emotional boundaries can be hard for people to understand, so it is crucial to communicate them. 

Time Boundaries 

Time is one of the most important resources that we have at our hands, and it is up to us to decide what we would like to do with our time. Time boundaries revolve around how we see ourselves spending our time and what we prioritize in our lives. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself: 

  • How much time am I willing to spend by myself in a given week? 
  • What are the hours that I am willing to work? 
  • Who has access to me during the hours I’m normally inaccessible to most people (for example, nighttime)? 
  • How do I choose to spend my time? What are the activities that I prioritize over others? 

It’s crucial to set healthy time boundaries in your professional life and in your personal life to make sure that you do not feel drained. 

Sexual Boundaries 

Sexual boundaries are extremely important to ensure that you’re only participating in activities that you’re comfortable with and consent to. In recent years, we have seen a tremendous in sexual awareness. These boundaries include communication, consent, safety, respect, etc. 

Here are some questions that can help you think about sexual boundaries:

  • How do I consent verbally and non-verbally? How does my partner consent and communicate consent? 
  • What kinds of sexual acts am I comfortable with? 
  • How do I like to communicate during a sexual interaction? 
  • What are my limits when it comes to sexual intimacy? 
  • How do I like to protect myself from STDs and STIs? 

As much as this may seem to be a turn-off, it is important to think about your sexual boundaries and communicate them to your partner and understand theirs to have a respectful experience. 

Intellectual Boundaries 

As the name suggests, intellectual boundaries have a lot to do with our ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. We all have a unique perspective that we see the world through, and we must figure out how to respond to people who don’t share the same ideas and beliefs, choose to discuss or not discuss something with others, etc. 

Here are some questions that can help you understand your intellectual boundaries: 

  • What are some ideas and beliefs that are non-negotiable for me? 
  • How do I communicate respect for someone else’s thoughts and ideas? 
  • At what point do I walk away from an argument or a debate? 
  • How do I communicate with others when I feel disrespected? 

We often give intellectual boundaries less thought, but they are just as important as any other boundaries that we might create. 

Monetary Boundaries 

Money is essential for our survival and is one of the most important resources that help us determine the life that we will lead. It is crucial to understand your relationship with money and your security priorities

Here are some questions to ponder over: 

  • How do I define luxury, and what kinds of luxury am I open to spending? 
  • What is my philosophy when it comes to money? 
  • What are the things that I do not wish to spend a lot of money on? 
  • What are the things that I consider essential? 
  • What do I consider an investment, and what are the things I am open to investing in? 
  • Am I open to taking out loans or having credit? 

Like it or not, we live in a materialistic world and have strong boundaries for money as it is detrimental to our survival and dictates the kind of lifestyle we lead. 

Navigating Boundaries: Are They Important?

The thing is that boundaries don’t have a good reputation as people often think of them as being bad.

But, in actuality, boundaries are excellent not only for your relationships but for your overall mental health! These set limits on the types of behaviors you consider acceptable so don’t leave an interaction feeling unhappy or hurt. 

Why are Boundaries Good For Me? Why Should I Have Them? 

Boundaries can un-complicate many things in your life and can make it easier

Here are a few advantages of having boundaries: 

  • You won’t feel taken advantage of. 
  • You’ll be far away from drama, pointless arguments, and debates once you’ve effectively communicated your boundaries. 
  • You’ll have more time and mental energy to devote to yourself and your goals. 
  • Relationships will feel easier to maintain. 
  • It’ll be easier for you to manage your time.
  • You’ll feel more comfortable in your relationships.  

Those are only a handful of advantages! Let us know in the comments what benefits you think setting boundaries can have. 

Individual Differences: Different People Have Different Boundaries 

The good thing about boundaries is that they put you in a control position. You can choose what you will and won’t tolerate. 

So, this means that what may be acceptable to your friends may not be acceptable to you. 

For example, it may be normal for your friends to eat foods that contain animal products, but whether or not you choose to eat meat is up to you. 

Setting Healthy Boundaries: What to Expect? 

Setting boundaries is not an easy process, as it comes with many challenges. 

So, having setbacks and complications is normal when you first start to put your boundaries up. It can seem a bit daunting to do so, but the long-term benefits of setting boundaries are far greater than the initial sacrifice. 

You’re Going to Face a Lot of Pushback 

What happens when you take away something from someone?

They get upset. 

When you create boundaries, you take away the power you have given people. And when you do this, you will be at the receiving end of a lot of pushback.

For example, when you start switching off your work phone on the weekends, your colleagues who were used to having 24*7 access to you will react. 

So, what’s the solution? 

There is none. All you can do is hold the fort and maintain a firm boundary until people get and understand the message. 

You’ll Constantly Feel Guilty. 

It’s natural to feel guilty or like a bad person when you first set boundaries–especially when you keep maintaining them without making any exceptions (unless there’s a reasonable circumstance). 

The guilt is something that you’ll need to be ready for and power through, especially if you have a knack for giving in to people’s demands. 

You’ll Second-guess Yourself. 

Am I doing right? 

Is this actually what I want? 

Should I re-think this? 

It is very common to doubt yourself when you start building boundaries. Expect to spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself and thinking things over and over.

This is very normal–especially if you aren’t used to having boundaries. 

You’ll Have to Stop Yourself. 

Often, we tend to run on autopilot and forget about the boundaries that we’ve created. So, you’ll spend a lot of time stopping yourself from offering people things that you did in the past. 

For example, you’ll find it hard not to offer your friend a ride back home from the train station (something that you usually did before) because you’ve started to prioritize your time. 

Your Guide to Success: Creating Successful Relationship Boundaries 

Now that we’ve prepared you for what’s to come when setting boundaries, it is time to jump into the matter at hand. 

Let’s get started. 

Step 1: Gain Insight and Explore Your Thoughts 

Earlier in this article, we explained the different types of boundaries within which we went over a few questions that you should introspect on. 

This is where that comes to play. 

You’ll need to think long and hard about these questions so that you know what your soft and hard limits are. This is called defining your boundaries. Once you’ve figured this out for yourself, you start implementing them.

Step 2: Think About What the Consequences Will Be If Someone Crosses Your Boundaries 

People crossing your boundaries is something that’s bound to happen. 

This is why you’re setting yourself up for success when you think ahead about what the consequences will be when someone does so. Would you confront them? Would you be firm? Would you stop talking to them? Would you cut them off? 

Think of consequences as punishment. They are in place to communicate your displeasure when someone crosses your boundaries and decrease the likelihood of people repeating that behavior. 

Step 3: Communicate Your Boundaries 

Once you’ve figured your boundaries out, it’s essential to make them known so that the people in your life understand what you will and won’t tolerate. 

You must communicate your boundaries to the people closest to you, that is, your partner, family, and friends. Of course, you can spare your coworkers, mailman, and acquaintances! 

Step 4: You Must Follow Through 

If you want to have strong boundaries, you must follow through with the consequences to discourage the behavior in the future–no matter how bad you may feel enforcing this. 

Love is Sacrifice: Won’t Boundaries Hurt My Relationships? 

We are taught that love is sacrifice, which is valid to a certain extent. 

But, love is not an obligation. 

You should make a sacrifice for the people you love, not out of obligation or duty, but because you want to (from the bottom of your heart) make a sacrifice for them. 

So, should you do something you’re uncomfortable with because you fear your significant other will leave? 


Should you do it because that’s what others expect you to do? 


Should you do it because you want to? 


When you boil it down to its core, it is that simple. 

Relationships and Boundaries: Our Final Words 

Creating healthy boundaries within your relationships can help build strong and successful relationships. They allow you to maintain your individuality within the realms of the relationship and ensure that you don’t feel taken for granted, used, or bad about yourself. 

They’re excellent tools for the long-term success of your relationships and help ensure healthy interactions. 

We hope that this blog post helped you understand boundaries and taught you how to create (and stick to) them. 

Written by Kasia Ciszewski, LPC on

Kasia is a licensed professional counselor servicing the Charleston area. She helps individuals heal, better understand their emotions, energize & become more aware of their inner strength. She specializes in helping teens, adults and seniors and has been able to regularly achieve impressive results for her clients throughout South Carolina. Instagram - Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Linkedin

1 thought on “Relationship Boundaries Definition & Meaning (+types, signs, examples, quotes)”

  1. I am 72. I just learning how to develop boundaries. As a kid, my boundaries were issued to me by my parents.Hence I feel fear, doubt, and insecurities embarking on the so very important journey I am beginning.


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