Psychologists say that these 7 boundaries are non-negotiable in romantic relationships

When you’re head over heels in love, you might feel like you and your partner are two souls merging into one.

There is actually some truth to that. For example, long-term partners’ heart rhythms tend to synchronize, and they also affect each other’s physical and mental well-being to a large degree.

In many ways, you are, indeed, becoming a unit.

So, what’s the problem, I hear you ask?

Well, the issue is that some people embrace the closeness they have fostered with their significant other so much that they forget to respect their boundaries.

And that’s where trouble begins.

Here are the 7 boundaries that are non-negotiable in romantic relationships, according to psychologists.

1) You respect one another’s autonomy

Every healthy relationship is built upon a foundation of mutual respect. This is incredibly important.

And what do I mean by “respect”?

Well, psychologist Stephen J. Betchen DSW explains: “By respect, I mean a certain admiration or perceived value for who our partner or prospective partner is as a person; what this individual has accomplished, conquered, or tolerated with grace.”

To love someone purely, you ought to feel inspired by some of their personality traits, lifestyle choices, career accomplishments, or qualities that have gotten them through hardship.

In other words, you should view them as someone who deserves to be admired and who brings incredible value into your life.

However, that is only where the need for respect begins. The definition of “respect” continues to spread into other aspects of the relationship, especially where your autonomy is concerned.

Remember what I said about your souls merging into one?

That’s an important point.

Some couples tend to fall so deeply in love that they kind of forget themselves in the process. Thomas’s hobbies become Lucie’s hobbies, Lucie’s friends become Thomas’s friends, and not a day goes by when they don’t share every part of their lives with each other.

Don’t get me wrong, your partner should absolutely be your best friend. But in a dynamic where everything becomes blended together, it’s very easy to lose track of where one person’s autonomy begins and ends.

And that’s when boundaries may get crossed.

Therefore, it’s very important to remember that each of you deserves to have your own friends and passions that don’t necessarily include the other person.

You may be a unit, but that unit should be composed of two fully-fledged individuals with full lives.

2) You honor each other’s privacy (but don’t tolerate secrecy)

Secrets don’t belong in a romantic relationship based on trust. That much is clear.

However, the line between what is a secret and what is simply private may be quite difficult to recognize.

Let’s turn to psychologists for help.

According to Michael Slepian PhD, “You can draw a line between secrecy and privacy by considering secrecy as an intention to hold specific information back, and privacy as a reflection of how much you broadcast personal information, in general.”

If you don’t want your partner to read your journal or go through your phone when you’re not looking, you’re asserting your right to privacy. They should respect that boundary.

If you’re flirting with someone over text or refuse to talk about personal issues that secretly affect the relationship and your partner’s well-being, you’re being secretive. In such a case, you’re the one who needs to take accountability and change your behavior.

When trying to distinguish between privacy and secrecy, ask yourself: “Am I holding back specific information that affects my relationship and that could hurt my partner if they knew?”

If your answer is yes…

It’s secrecy. And since secrecy breaks your partner’s trust and violates your respect for them, you are the one breaking a boundary.

3) You embrace gentle, honest, and open communication

Effective communication is yet another non-negotiable boundary because it paves the path to all other boundaries.

If you can’t communicate about where your limits lie and accept one another’s points of view, you won’t get very far, after all.

Here’s why the three little words – “gentle, honest, open” – matter so much:

  • Gentle: You and your partner should always try to talk to each other in a respectful tone of voice. Insults, shouting, and other forms of verbal abuse are absolutely off-limits.
  • Honest: It’s crucial that you and your partner are honest with one another, even if it’s uncomfortable. Remember that gentle honesty is almost always better than brutal honesty. If you think your words through, you can be honest and kind at the same time.
  • Open: You both need to be willing to communicate, accept some hard truths, and work on yourselves. If one partner refuses to talk about issues in the relationship or be vulnerable, it makes it very difficult for the couple to progress further together.

Psychologist Randi Gunther PhD explains it perfectly when she writes:

“It [communication] is what builds trust, clears the way for authenticity, and opens the gates to true intimacy. If relationship partners do not feel seen, heard, understood, and safe as they express their innermost desires and fears, they will never know the joy of blending souls.”

4) You split household chores in a way that is comfortable for both partners

couple doing house chores Psychologists say that these 7 boundaries are non-negotiable in romantic relationships

Do you know what’s a bulletproof way to make a relationship slowly disintegrate and die?

Contempt. Resentment. Bitterness.

Once those feelings set in, it’s the beginning of the end.

Yet this is precisely what happens when couples who live together don’t split their admin tasks equally.

In many families across the world, women are still expected to take on the brunt of the housework and be the primary caretakers for their children, and yet they also work a full-time job and take on all the emotional labour of the household.

Research supports this – women apparently “disproportionately anticipate and monitor household needs.”

Fortunately, there is a solution. Some psychologists recommend that couples split household and admin chores clearly and equally and that each party is fully responsible for everything connected to their task.

For example, the person who is responsible for mowing the lawn should also be in charge of making sure the lawnmower is filled with gas, calculating how often the lawn needs mowing, and putting it in their schedule so that their partner doesn’t need to remind them.

The ability to divide household chores equally and count on one’s partner to fulfil them is a non-negotiable boundary. Remember that.

5) You don’t manipulate each other to get your way

Since romantic relationships are built on trust and vulnerability, it could be incredibly easy to manipulate your partner just so that you can get your way.

From projecting to gaslighting and guilt-tripping, manipulation is easier the more you get to know someone, which is why romance is where lots of manipulators truly thrive.

Of course, it goes without saying that manipulating your partner is an absolute no-go. In fact, having your partner’s best interests at heart and choosing authenticity first and foremost should be a non-negotiable boundary for both of you.

Here are a few examples of a partner who plays the victim as a manipulation technique, according to psychotherapist Erin Leonard PhD:

  • “I’m just the worst person in the world”
  • “I don’t deserve to be loved”
  • “I should never, ever, have a girlfriend”
  • “I’m just the worst wife ever, aren’t I?”

Don’t fall for it. And don’t do it. This kind of manipulation never works in the long run, and it only serves to undermine a sense of respect within the relationship.

6) Your bedroom is a place of safety and authenticity

“Vulnerability is a building block of passion and intimacy and an unavoidable aspect of sex with human partners,” says clinical psychologist Marianne Brandon PhD.

It’s also a non-negotiable. If there’s one person who should make you feel safe to be vulnerable and authentically yourself in the bedroom, it’s got to be your partner.

And if there’s one person who ought to open up to you and cherish the safe sexual space you’ve created, it’s got to be… yep, your partner.

7) You both feel appreciated and loved in the way you need

Last year, I had to accept a hard truth: just because someone loves you doesn’t mean you feel loved by them.

If you constantly feel unfulfilled, if you can sense a lack of something fundamental between you and your partner, and if your needs simply aren’t being met…

It might be a good idea to reconsider the relationship and its role in your life.

This person is meant to be by your side for years to come. It should be a non-negotiable boundary that they love you in a way you need and appreciate the love and affection you show them.

Don’t settle for any less.

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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