Whether you are part of a couple or going solo, you should have your own boundaries if you are stepping into the world of ethical non-monogamy (ENM). These boundaries are yours – not your partner’s or anyone else’s.
Setting boundaries can help you make decisions. They can also guide you in finding the right kinds of relationships that will make you happy.
But how do you set boundaries? How do you decide what your boundaries are? How do you talk to your partners about your boundaries?
Why Are Boundaries Important?
Before you even begin to consider your boundaries, you need to understand why they are so important to you on a personal level. Whether you’re monogamous, monogamish, or deeper into the world of ENM they help you create healthy relationships.
Boundaries can also keep conflict to a minimum when you are starting a new relationship. If you have communicated your boundaries to someone you’re involved in, they already know what to expect from you. This goes the other way around, too! Knowing someone’s boundaries can bring you closer to your partner.
Finally, boundaries protect you. They remind you what is most important and they tell your partners where the line is. If you have told your partner about a boundary and they willingly cross it, that tells you that they may not take you seriously and aren’t making your mental and physical well-being a priority.
How To Decide On Your Boundaries
Setting your boundaries requires some self-reflection and knowledge about yourself. Some people think it is easy to know what you want and need but as a society, we aren’t encouraged to think about that a lot. So take time to consider what you prioritize in your life and relationships.
Being honest with yourself and setting your boundaries can take some time, so don’t rush it. Of course, if you’re already in a relationship, you might have to talk about boundaries as they arise. If you’re not in a relationship yet, consider staying solo until you can define those boundaries to yourself, first.
What Boundaries Should You Set?
No one can tell you exactly what boundaries you need to set for yourself. There are certain areas where you can consider setting boundaries though.
Consider setting boundaries in these areas.
#1 Boundaries For Time
Every person needs time to themselves and time with their partners. The question is, how much time? If you know that you need time to yourself each night while you’re alone in your room, you might set a boundary that your partner doesn’t sleep overnight and leaves by a certain time (or that you’ll leave their place).
If you need a certain amount of time with your partner to feel connected and secure, you might set a boundary of spending three nights a week with them. You might have a boundary where you won’t spend time with anyone who is on their phone talking to other people. Or your boundary might be that when you are together you don’t talk about their other partners.
#2 Boundaries For Personal Safety
If you’re on the ENM scale, sexual safety should be a priority for you and your partner. However, what are your boundaries?
You might set a boundary that you’ll always use condoms with your partner as long as they are having sex with other people. Or you might set a boundary that you won’t get involved with anyone who doesn’t get STD tests regularly. This is your personal boundary – you can set it the way you want. Just remember that people can disagree with those boundaries, in which case you’ll need to cut ties with them.
#3 Boundaries For Honesty
Honesty and consent are one of the pivotal guidelines of ENM. But there are varying degrees of honesty.
Your boundary might be that if your partner is having sex with someone else and they aren’t using condoms, your partner has to tell you. You could set a boundary that you won’t be in a relationship with anyone who hides new partners or who doesn’t tell you the truth about where they are.
Honesty is important but not everyone thinks of honesty the same way so set your boundaries and make sure partners are clear on them.
Respect Other’s Boundaries
Of course, boundaries mean nothing if you don’t accept and respect the fact that other people have the right to have their own boundaries. Listen carefully when they talk about them. If they have a boundary that you can’t or won’t respect, they might not be the right person for you to be in a relationship with!