What Is The Difference Between Boundaries And Rules?

Boundaries And Rules

In the ENM community, there is a lot of talk about rules and boundaries. These keep people safe and make them feel more secure.

Some people might use rules in their relationships to make them feel like their relationship is stronger. They might use rules to control other people. Or they may use rules simply because they think that it will make it easier for them to navigate ENM as a couple.

Boundaries are something that couples or individuals can use. They apply only to them. The individual with a boundary is the only one who is responsible for making sure it is not crossed.

What Is A Rule?

A rule is a hard line that you expect to be followed by everyone. It can be beneficial to a group of people or a couple. 

If you are an individual and not part of a couple or a group of people, it can be hard to set rules and expect other people to follow them.

For couples and groups, rules can be helpful if everyone agrees on them.

Some couples like to set rules for the two of them to use. They might have rules like using condoms with other people, informing each other when they have a date with someone new, or checking in at some point while they are out with other people.

The challenge with rules though, is that you can’t force other to follow them if they don’t want to. They can lie about it or they can simply refuse to agree to them.

Some say that rules are only needed if you think that there’s a chance someone will break them. If you trust your partner and you have the same ideas and values as them, you know they won’t need a certain rule.

What Is A Boundary?

Boundaries are like personal rules. You only apply them to yourself.

Having boundaries is a good thing and it is worth taking time to consider what your boundaries are. It’s not something we are used to doing so it might take some time to decide where you want your boundaries to lay.

Once you know what your boundaries are, you can relay them to your partners.

Some boundaries you might set for yourself include:

  • I will always use condoms when I have sex with anyone.
  • I will always go home to  my own bed (or to my partner).
  • I will not go out on dates with people who refuse to share STD test results with me.
  • I will not date people who talk about their sexual encounters with other people.
  • I will not share nude pictures or videos with anyone.
  • I will always tell a friend or my partner where I am going to be when I go out with someone new and I will share my location data.
  • I will check in with a friend or my partner at agreed upon times.

Why Do You Need Rules and Boundaries?

Rules and boundaries help you define you how want to practice ethical non-monogamy. Whether you are polyamorous, solo polyamorous, a swinger, a hotwife, or just like to have sex with multiple people, you’ll learn that there are many ways to define how you have relationships and much of that is up to the individual. This can even be true if you live with someone you are romantically connected to.

While rules are steadfast and more of a hard line, boundaries are personal. These are going to be most important to you as an individual.

Boundaries can help keep you safer when it comes to your sexual health. You get to decide who you have sex with and who you don’t and boundaries will help you make that decision.

If you set personal boundaries, you will be able to define the kinds of relationships you have. You may find that when you have boundaries set for yourself and you follow them, your relationships are stronger and last longer. 

Also, boundaries will help you feel more secure, overall.

Things To Keep In Mind When Setting Boundaries and Rules

Boundaries are something you set for yourself. They are for your benefit and no one can tell you that they aren’t fair or that they don’t agree with them. It doesn’t matter. They are your boundaries and you can decide which ones you have and which you don’t.

You can also change your boundaries as you see fit. If you need to set new boundaries for a time period because of changes in your life, that’s completely up to you. Just let your partners know if they need to be aware of them and go about your life.

Of course, you can eliminate boundaries if you like. But be careful with this. The boundaries you set exist for a reason. Has the need for that boundary changed? Make sure you aren’t getting rid of boundaries because someone else wants you to or because they’ve said they can’t live with it.

Rules can be good for couples who are just getting started in the ethical non-monogamy world. They can help them take things slowly and make sure that neither of them are rushing things. 

Rules can also make people more feel more secure. But be careful. It can be a false security sometimes!

If you must set rules, think of them as temporary. As you learn your way around the ENM world and communicate with your partner, you will likely find that rules are not as important as  you once thought. They may be completely eliminated or they might transition into boundaries.

Written by Autumn Seave

Email: inkyblueallusions@shaw.ca