Setting boundaries is a normal and healthy part of any relationship, especially romantic or sexual ones!
Types of Boundaries
- Time Apart: Be sure to schedule time to be apart from each other, everyone needs time to recharge on their own or with friends!
- Consent: Checking in about whether it is okay to hug, borrow items, or initiate sexual touch is an essential part of setting boundaries. Consent is an affirmative, ongoing, knowing, enthusiastic YES and is always reversible!
- The Word “No”: You never owe a partner sex or physical touch. Boundaries include understanding “no” is a complete sentence and being respected in that decision.
- Sharing: What parts of our relationship are okay to share with friends or family? How much can we share freely and when should we check-in before sharing?
- Big Conversations: When are we ready to talk about the future, including sharing feelings, meeting family, moving in? A red flag of an unhealthy relationship is when the relationship moves fast without these conversations first
- Posting: Is it okay to post about our relationship? Can we post pictures of each other?
- Passwords: Until you have long-term trust with someone, it is best not to share passwords. But if you do, which passwords can we share and when is it okay for a partner to use that password?
- Phone**:** How often will we text or call each other when we are not together? When we are together what are our expectations of being on or offline?
If someone is crossing your boundaries, is not willing to discuss boundaries with you, or is guilt-tripping you for even having boundaries, your relationship may be unhealthy.
What To Do if Someone Repeatedly Crosses Boundaries
- Initiate a Conversation: If you feel safe to do so, let the person know what they are doing and how it is impacting you. It is helpful to use "I" statements.
- Engage in Personal Self Care: Check out the University Counseling Services website for a variety of tips and information on how to care for yourself.
- Document What Happened: This may help if you need a protective order and can also be helpful if you ever start to question yourself or believe the abuse was your fault (hint: it never is).
- Talk to a Trusted Person: It is never your fault and it is okay to ask for help from others. It is helpful to come up with a unique "code word" to share if you are in danger or need help.
- Create a Safety Plan: Explore if there are other options of where you could stay during the COVID-19 crisis. Put important documents and items in a bag in an easily accessible place if you need to leave. If you cannot leave, consider ways to keep yourself safer. Try to avoid having arguments in bathrooms/kitchens or places without multiple exits.
If you are in an unhealthy relationship and a boundary is crossed, having a conversation with your partner may not be a safe option for you. If you need assistance or want to learn how to communicate your boundaries in a healthy way please reach out to Confidential Advocacy Services at VCU by calling 804-828-6200 or emailing MyOptions@vcu.edu.