It’s tempting to assume that people know what we want—but even our significant others and best friends can’t read our minds, or vice versa.
It might sound counterintuitive to set boundaries for a closer relationship, but talking about what is and isn’t okay for you is the secret ingredient for strong (and lasting) friendships and romances.
So what is a boundary, anyway?
Boundaries are basically mental, emotional, or physical limits you put in place between you and another person so that you can be happy, co-existing individuals. They set expectations for both people in a relationship, whether you’re roommates, old friends, or new baes. They also help to avoid the awkward game of “what does my friend/partner want from me?”
Here are some tips on how to set and respect those healthy boundaries:
First, take some time to figure out what you need in your various relationships. Can’t stand living in a mess? Need alone time to recharge? Say so. It's especially important to be clear about your boundaries with your hookup/new boo.
Boundaries can look different for specific relationships, so maybe your conversation with your new roommate isn’t the same as the one with your Tinder date.
When you’re setting healthy boundaries in any type of relationship, try to use “I”-statements to focus on your feelings and not to place blame on someone. (For example, “I really like you but I'm not ready for sex," or “I need one night a week for myself.”)
Know your worth
You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you’re setting. And when it comes to your body, you know what’s best!
Don’t apologize for communicating your needs. Remember, you’re setting boundaries to respect who you are as an individual so that you can be your strong, independent self in the relationship.
Get consent and respect their decision
It’s completely normal if your boundaries look very different from someone else’s, as long as both of you listen to and respect each other’s limits when it comes to sexual activity.
Whether it’s the first date or you’re basically living together, you still need to ask what they want every time. Maybe they were giving you signals last week, but tonight they just want to watch Netflix (like, actually watch).
And if they say “no” (with words OR actions), respect it and remember that everyone gets to decide their own boundaries. And they can change their mind at any point, even if they said “yes” before.
In short: no one is entitled to sex. Period.
Bottom line: Communicate
Be okay with talking about what you need. And not just at the beginning of the relationship or on move-in day, but consistently—it's important to check in with your friends and partners. You can set ground rules, but needs and comfort levels can also change over time.