Article Like the old saying "good fences make good neighbors", good boundaries make a strong marriage 0 2017 Life coaching Communication and Conflict Resolution Relationship Coach Finder Relationship Coach Finder Relationship Coach Finder
Coach Tim Higdon

Establish Good Boundaries to Build a Happy Relationship

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“We need some boundaries.”

When a character says something like this in a movie or TV show, it’s usually in the context of telling another person to stay out of their business.

Maybe one person is constantly calling, emailing, or texting the other. Or they show up unannounced when the other person has friends over. Or they walk in on them when they’re using the restroom.

You get the idea. In our society, we tend to think of “boundaries” as personal space. Autonomy.

So, when you hear, “You need boundaries in your relationship,” your mind probably immediately jumps to ways to push your partner back a bit. To keep them separate from certain parts of your life. To set up rules that they shouldn’t violate.

That’s a valid interpretation. And many couples need these types of boundaries.

But if you want a happy, long-lasting relationship, you also need boundaries as a couple against outside forces.

What does that mean?

I want you to think of your relationship like a valuable. Something that is to be protected. Because it is.

To protect your house, you might install an alarm system. To keep expensive jewelry from harm, you might have a safe.

But I think there’s an even better analogy.


A relationship isn’t a piece of jewelry. Or a car. Or even your house with your family members and all your possessions inside it.

The closest analogy, I think, is to imagine that your relationship is your personal computer. It can be a desktop, a laptop – even your smartphone.

The point is that it is an object that contains a lot of things that are both very valuable and very personal to you.

Secrets, like passwords to email accounts, websites, and bank accounts. Memories, like the thousands (maybe tens of thousands!) of pictures you saved on your hard drive and keep meaning to back up.

You might keep important documents on your computer, such as copies of your driver’s license, birth certificate, and Social Security card. Or drafts of that novel you’ve been working on for years. Records to help you with budgeting and taxes.

Your computer is where you do a lot of serious work. And it’s also where you go to relax and have fun by playing video games. Reading your favorite sites. Seeing what people are up to on social media.

And – especially in the case of smartphones – your computer is like your trusted partner.

It’s always there with you when you need it for even the most mundane things. Like checking the time or weather. Getting from point A to point B. Confirming what Robert De Niro’s first movie really was.

You have a hard time imagining life without it.

A long-term relationship is a lot like this. The two of you spend a lot of time together.

You make memories together. You go through life’s highs and lows, the serious times and the more frivolous ones. There are things – shared moments, feelings, and jokes – that only the two of you know about.

And your relationship is important to you. In many ways, it defines who you are. Without your partner, you would feel bereft.

But while we recognize that both things are incredibly valuable, there’s only one that most people typically think about protecting – our computer. We know there are dangers out there lurking, ready to invade our digital space.

So, we invest in a firewall. A boundary designed to keep our computer safe and secure.

We know malign forces would wreak havoc ever got into our computer. Things just wouldn’t work right anymore. Our computer would be digitally destroyed.

Well, the same thing is true for your relationship. If you don’t put up boundaries designed to keep malign forces out, things can get bad quickly.

You might start feeling jealous. Losing trust. Feeling disconnected. Fighting more.

Ultimately, neglecting boundaries can destroy your relationship.


Relationship boundaries in this context are those things that you and your partner agree upon that are designed to strengthen the sanctity of your bond to each other. To protect your “coupleness.”

These can vary depending on the specific needs of your relationship, but generally speaking, they include:


In recent decades, a staple of pop culture is the idea that you should enlist the help of others to work out every little marital issue that comes up.

Think about it. When things get rough, who do the leads in romantic comedies turn to?

Their understanding friend. The one who’s always there for them. Always so supportive. Who always has the answers.

Imagine your partner airing all your dirty laundry out to others in real life though.

How would you feel? Pretty angry, right? Maybe even violated. Because it infringes on the emotional intimacy of your partnership.

There are certain things that romantic partners trust only each other with. And if an issue comes up, you both need to agree to do the sometimes difficult work of figuring it out together.


For the vast majority of people, being in a serious, committed romantic relationship means eschewing physical and emotional intimacy with other potential romantic partners.

What this specifically means for you and your partner can vary by degree a bit, but there have to be boundaries. And both of you need to clearly understand them and agree to them.

This can be one of the trickiest parts of making a long-term relationship last, because it is all too easy to turn to someone else for comfort – particularly when you are in a relationship downswing.

And this “comfort” doesn’t need to be sexual or physical either.

Maybe you find yourself really bonding with a coworker. Telling them deep thoughts and feelings. Connecting in a way you feel uncomfortable telling your partner about.

This “emotional infidelity” can be just as destructive.


Staying connected to your partner is not like breathing. It’s not something that you can just do automatically. And unfortunately, if you do not actively work on strengthening your bond, it is almost guaranteed that you will drift apart.

So how do long-term couples stay in love?

They work at it. They prioritize their relationship by spending time together. Sharing experiences. Complimenting each other. Showing physical affection.

They give their relationship the attention that it needs and deserves. And they do this despite work. Despite friends. Despite even children and other family members.

Because they set boundaries. And they work hard to stick to them.


Consider relationship coaching or read the book I co-authored with Norene Gonsiewski, Rock Solid Relationship can help. You’ll learn helpful tips and techniques that can enable you to forge and maintain the bond you’ve always wanted with your partner.

Contact me



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