Boundaries in Romantic Relationships in Your Post-Divorce Life

Before we start talking about boundaries in romantic relationships, here are a fun fact about boundaries. Did you know that the most common boundary you experience day in and day out is your skin?

Your skin is a boundary, it holds you together, it protects your insides from the outside.

What are Boundaries?

Your skin is a boundary inherent to your existence, but we don’t often think deeply about it. It’s a great metaphor for what we are attempting to do with other types of boundaries. It’s a line of demarcation that helps protect our insides from the outside.

I want you to think about that moving forward.

“What does my skin do for me? What would life be like without it?” Answer? It would be hard.

How to Set Boundaries in Romantic Relationships

Boundaries are a vital part of romantic relationships.

Don’t Wait to Be Chosen

Whether you’re hooking up or you’re dating, practice choosing, rather than feeling like you need to be chosen.

Ask yourself: “Do I like this person? What do I like and what do I not like?”

I don’t think I have ever met a woman going through a divorce who didn’t, on some level, feel like she lost track of herself, her identity, what she loves, and what she doesn’t love. A woman who gave up bits and pieces of herself, little by little, and by the end of it all, just felt lost.

 

How to be sure your boundaries are healthy

There are boundaries, there are lack of boundaries, and then there are healthy boundaries. But… how do you know where you’re at right now?

And how can you be sure you’re creating, sticking to, and loving your boundaries?

extending and living with healthy boundaries

Setting Seven Healthy Boundaries in Romantic Relationships

Not losing yourself in a romantic context starts with getting clear about your boundaries. There are a lot of different ways to think of boundaries and to help us understand the concept, but we’re going to talk about a handful of types of boundaries today.

a young couple picnicking on top of a mountain, holding each other, Boundaries in Romantic Relationships

#1 Setting Physical Boundaries

First up, setting physical boundaries.

What are Physical Boundaries?

A physical boundary is about respecting your personal space and comfort during interactions.

It’s about making sure any physical touch or closeness feels right for you and is always handled with care and respect.

Physical Boundaries Examples

What physical touch feels good to you, and what doesn’t feel good to you?

Ask yourself: “Do I like holding hands? Do I like sitting close? Do I like snuggling?”

These are your physical boundaries.

a pair of man and woman feet sticking out of the bed sheet, Setting Sexual Boundaries

#2 Setting Sexual Boundaries

Sexual boundaries. Oh, this is a juicy one.

What are Sexual Boundaries?

Sexual boundaries are about respecting your comfort and autonomy in any interactions of a sexual nature.

It’s ensuring that any physical intimacy or discussions about sexuality are consensual, respectful, and aligned with your personal boundaries and values.

It’s not just what you like and don’t like in sex – although that’s a huge part of it – but it’s also being able to express these boundaries to your partner that matters.

Sexual Boundaries Examples

Sexual boundaries include when you’re ready to have sex, your favorite sexual positions, and how you like to be touched or not touched sexually. There are so many things to do with sex that need a lot of clarity on your part.

The ability to express your boundaries, the capacity to be vulnerable, and feeling safe in sexual spaces are what create a magical sex life.

The more we can embody our confidence and our self-awareness and express what we want, the more the sex becomes mind-blowing.

a man and a woman, sitting in front of a bed, holding coffee cubs in their hands, Setting Emotional Boundaries

#3 Setting Emotional Boundaries

Emotional boundaries are a lot more of a personal responsibility. 

What are Emotional Boundaries?

Emotional boundaries are about respecting your feelings and emotional well-being in any relationship.

It’s about understanding and honoring your limits in terms of sharing personal information, expressing emotions, and receiving support, ensuring that you feel safe and comfortable throughout any relationship.

Boundaries around my feelings are mine to process and manage, and your feelings are yours to process and manage. Would you believe that in 2024, I still get couples in my therapy practice who say things like, “Well, if you loved me, you would do what I want to do.”

This phrase is a violation of an emotional boundary. It’s a manipulation to get you to do something rather than deal with your own feelings of disappointment, anger, or frustration.

Emotional Boundaries Examples

When you fight or disagree about something, and somebody is upset, emotional boundaries are the idea that you own your upset feelings and you will process those.

You will stay in the conversation in a meaningful, productive way and not weaponize your feelings, take them out on somebody else, or expect somebody else to fix them for you.

a woman and a man with white blouse and shirt, kneeing down in church, Setting Spiritual Boundaries in romantic relationships

#4 Setting Spiritual Boundaries

Spiritual boundaries are hugely important to me.

What are Spiritual Boundaries?

Spiritual boundaries in romantic relationships involve respecting your beliefs.

It’s about your partner acknowledging and honoring your faith, rituals, and values and ensuring that discussions or activities related to spirituality or religion are conducted with sensitivity, openness, and respect for your beliefs.

I meet many women who have felt like they have had to hide their spirituality from their partners because there’s been some level of embarrassment, shame, or fear that they would be rejected.

We have to have the courage to embody our spirituality and to live that out loud and not hide it from people, because so many boundaries are about healthy self-expression.

Spiritual Boundaries Examples

It’s crucial to be clear about where you are spiritually and what your spiritual needs are, and then maintain those regardless of how the person you’re dating feels about that.

a man and a woman sitting on the sofa next to each other in brown outfits, Setting Financial Boundaries in romantic relationships

#5 Setting Financial Boundaries

As women, financial boundaries are one of the areas where we tend to give up our own power the most. More often than not, women have less financial confidence than men.

What are Financial Boundaries?

Financial boundaries involve respecting your financial situation and limitations with your partner.

It’s about being mindful of your budget, expenses, and financial goals, as well as understanding and respecting your financial well-being and choices.

Financial Boundaries Examples

I want you to look at how willing you are to be rescued financially.

It changes the dynamics of a romantic relationship.

And I’m not talking about receiving financial help but rescuing. It’s not tapping into your personal power.

a bunch of stop watches in different colors, Setting Time Boundaries

#6 Setting Time Boundaries

Time boundaries are very hard to maintain when you’re early dating because it’s so fun. You’re getting swept up in it, and you just want to do all the things with this person.

What are Time Boundaries

Time boundaries between partners involve respecting each other’s schedules and commitments.

It’s about being mindful of each other’s time constraints, priorities, and need for personal space.

Time Boundaries Examples

It’s very common for us to start to surrender bits of our time. More often than not, these were probably the activities we were using for self-care.

If you notice that you let go of time with your girlfriends or time doing hobbies that you love, you are surrendering your time boundaries. Likewise, if you are expecting him to surrender his time boundaries, it’s a red flag.

a board with the lettering 'self care o'clock' in back of a cactus, What are Non-Negotiable Boundaries?

#7 Setting Non-Negotiable Boundaries

Romantic relationships need to have non-negotiable boundaries.

What are Non-Negotiable Boundaries?

Non-negotiable boundaries between partners are essential guidelines or limits that must be respected for the romantic relationship to thrive.

These boundaries reflect core values, personal needs, and deal-breakers, which lead to mutual respect, safety, and well-being within the relationship.

Non-Negotiable Boundaries Examples

I want you to get clear on non-negotiable boundaries for yourself and define them. We have to become very disciplined about our boundaries and trust that in a good relationship, it feels easy to maintain non-negotiable boundaries and build a romantic connection at the same time.

Setting Healthy Boundaries: Your Attachment Style and Self-Sabotage

Now, there are some ways that you are likely to self-sabotage, which is completely human and normal, so no big deal.

But when we plan for something and we have a thought-out way that we will respond to it, we are far more likely to get back on the horse and execute effectively.

Understanding your attachment style and how that plays out in a romantic relationship is crucial in setting and keeping your boundaries.

Knowing your attachment style and how you set boundaries will allow you to ask yourself, “Where am I likely to have this go wrong? Where can I plan for that?”

a woman with pink jacket, jeans and boots, walking over pedestrian stripes, Setting Healthy Boundaries in romantic relationships

Do Enough Footwork

You’re likely to self-sabotage if you haven’t done enough footwork before setting the boundary.

Each time you set a boundary, you need to understand your ability to hold the line and take responsibility for the responses to that boundary setting. If you haven’t done that footwork in advance, then you’re likely to not hold your boundary and relapse.

Overcome Denial and Victim Consciousness

It’s common to self-sabotage by falling into some victim consciousness, making excuses, and being in denial about where things are problems. This looks like wanting to keep the peace and not cause problems.

Let’s say you’ve sabotaged your boundary. Often, my advice to you would be, “No big deal, give yourself grace.”

Quite frankly, boundary setting is messy and it takes a lot of practice and it’s some of the hardest emotional work we can do. It’s rewiring our brains.

You’re going to screw it up from time to time. We don’t make progress without practicing, and practice is never perfect.

a pair of women's sport sneakers and a sport bag on the floor of a gym, Get Back on Track

Practice, Practice, Practice Setting Boundaries

Just to practice and get better over time. While I am thrilled that we have gotten to the place in popular culture where we can acknowledge that we are way too hard on ourselves, sometimes I think the

“Give yourself grace culture” is not serving you because it’s missing something. It should be, “Don’t beat yourself up, but also do better.”

I want you to notice that if you sabotaged your boundaries, it was hard, or it didn’t execute the way that you intended, no big deal.

Give yourself grace, but don’t allow it to then excuse you from continuing to take action.

Get Back on Track

Let’s say you fell off. It happens. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s so important to get back on track.

Try Again

Let’s say you intended to set a time boundary. And you said, “I will spend five nights at my house this week, and I will get to the gym three times this week.”

If you didn’t do that, I want you to analyze where it went wrong and why.

Not just “I’ll do my best and try again” without doing a deep dive and autopsy on the boundary failure.

When we don’t learn where things are malfunctioning, we’re not implementing anything to change course. And nothing changes if nothing changes.

Work With a Mentor

I want you to sit down with a mentor or a trusted friend. I want you to get clear on what happened. Why didn’t you spend all those nights in your house? Why didn’t you make it to the gym? What happened there? What are the underlying beliefs that allowed you to change course?

Once you’ve reviewed what happened, what negative beliefs got in there, what attachment-related issues got in there, what victim consciousness thing got in there, what piece of denial got in there, then you can take action to address that thing.

woman with pink blanket on her lap, reading about healthy boundaries in relationships

Take Action

Taking clear action to heal what caused the sabotage will get you back on track when a boundary gets blown.

If this feels in the weeds for you, no big deal. I want you to stick with it.

Every time you listen to a book on boundaries or read about boundaries, a piece of advice or a way to help you is getting into your brain. The next time you go to do it, it’ll be fresh in your mind.

Give Positive Feedback to Create Change

One of the things that I’m working on this week is parenting my daughter rather than giving her negative feedback. I said to her the other day,

“Kiddo, I’m having a hard time balancing my negative feedback and positive feedback with you. What do you suggest?” And she said, “Well, you could try giving me tips and tricks rather than negative feedback.”

This morning, I fussed at her because she was being too loud while her dad was asleep. Afterward, I thought that instead, I could have turned to her and said, “Sweet girl, I really love it when you are aware of your surroundings and considerate of other people. It makes me feel so proud of you. And notice when you’re not doing that and when you could do more of that.”

That would have been a different way to deliver that. I didn’t do it, but I thought of it right after the words came out of my mouth.

But that’s how change happens. We put a plan together. We forget the first time, maybe we forget the second time, but by the third time, we do it in real time.

That’s what I want you to think about this. Repetition in setting boundaries in romantic relationships is the key to learning.

You’ve got this. I believe in you.

Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins

...helps people crack open. Challenging the status quo, she integrates multiple modalities from EMDR to EFT tapping, journaling, homeopathy, and movement, embracing remedies that heal both the mind and body. Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins is on a mission to deliver life-changing therapy in an accessible, scalable, affordable way and make waves in the world of mental health with the same enlightenment that happens in her office. Part science, part essential oils, pure magic.

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