Northwest College

Relationship Boundaries

Healthy relationships have boundaries. When you set healthy relationship boundaries, you clearly communicate your needs. In a healthy relationship, both partners know each other’s limits, needs, wants, fears, and preferences.

"I" Statements

When discussing boundaries, use “I” statements and avoid attacking “you” statements.

For example, “You always ignore me!” is a statement that implies blame and is less likely going to help you state your needs. An “I” statement would say, “When you don’t speak to me all afternoon, I feel upset. I would appreciate it if you would go for a walk with me rather than watch TV all afternoon.”

If someone behaves in a way that you are not okay with, use an “I” statement to set a boundary.

For example, if your partner is pressuring you to have sex when you do not want to, you could say, “When you pressure me for sex when I have told you ‘no,’ I feel irritated and disrespected. Stop pressuring me.”

When using an “I” statement to set a clear boundary, consider using this three-part approach:

  • Part One: State the behavior
  • Part Two: State how it makes you feel
  • Part Three: State the desired outcome

When saying your “I” statement, use a firm voice and present a calm, serious expression.

Examples:

  • “When you keep offering me drinks when I’ve said ‘no,’ I feel disrespected. Please stop.”
  • “When you caress my body sexually in front of your friends, I feel uncomfortable and violated. Please don’t do it anymore.”
  • "When you keep asking me specific details about my sexual history, I feel uneasy. Stop asking.”

If your boundary is ignored, repeat your “I” statement with a louder voice. This is using a “broken record” strategy.

For more information about how to set relationship boundaries, check out the Love is Respect site or the Break the Cycle site.