How good are you at setting boundaries in your relationship?

Setting boundaries is telling others what is okay and what is not okay in the relationship. It is a crucial part of nurturing a healthy connection with your partner. This skill set is often overlooked when we are in love with someone because we are afraid of being seen as the “bad guy” in our partner’s eyes. We are afraid that they may stop loving us because we say “no” to things that we are not comfortable doing. There are many reasons why people feel hesitant or neglect boundary setting with their significant other. Although this topic deserves a more thorough discussion in the near future on my blog, I want to share with you an exercise that I like to do with my couples in counseling. It is called “How good are you at setting boundaries in your relationship?”


Remember this exercise is a designed for self- and relationship-growth. It is NOT for criticism. So, put away your judgement hat! You are reading this because you want to better yourself and your relationship.

The rules of this exercise are simple. Choose a time when you can complete the exercise without interruption. Read the 3-part statements below and check the ones that are true for you. Do it in the spirit of curiosity and honesty. You cannot learn if you are not willing to own your areas of growth. And remember to be kind to yourself regardless of the outcome of the exercise. You’re here to grow!

Part I:

1.       ______ My partner’s needs and wants are more important than mine.

2.        ______ I agree with my partner to avoid conflict and feel resentful as a result.

3.       ______ I am afraid to say “no” out of fear or guilt.

4.       ______ I often let my partner speak for me.

5.       ______ I need some “me” time but I am afraid it will hurt my partner.

6.       ______ I feel selfish when I do something nice for myself.

7.       ______ I feel defensive when my partner doesn’t view things the same way I do.

8.       ______ I feel uncomfortable when my partner wants affection from me.

9.       ______ I often let things go even when I find myself accepting poor treatment from my partner.

10.   ______ I “freeze” when things become too intimate with my partner.

11.   ______ I feel uncomfortable with my partner’s touch unless I initiate it, and even then, it needs to be on my terms.

12.   ______ I take responsibility for how my partner feels.

13.   ______ I often given in to my partner’s demands.              

14.   ______ It is difficult to hold my ground when my partner does not take my “no” seriously.

15.   ______ I am afraid to tell my partner what I like and don’t like in our sex life.

16.   ______ I feel angry when my partner violates my privacy.

Part II:

1.       ______ I attempt to change my partner’s behaviors.

2.       ______ I try to “fix” my partner’s problems.

3.       ______ I care more about my feelings than how my partner feels.        

4.       ______ I become very upset when my partner does something without asking for my permission.

5.       ______ I expect something in return when I do something for my partner.

6.       ______ I often interrupt my partner because I need to voice my opinion.

7.       ______ I criticize my partner when he/she doesn’t do things my way.

8.       ______ I refuse to “play” if things aren’t done my way.

9.       ______ I need to know with whom, when, and where my partner is at all times.

10.   ______ I often blame my partner for how I feel.

11.   ______ I often use anger and/or intimidation to get my partner’s attention.

12.   ______ I often check my partner’s texts, emails, or Facebook messages when he/she is not aware.

Part III:

1.       ______ I am comfortable with making my own decisions while taking my partner’s perspectives into account.

2.       ______ I am not afraid to disappoint my partner by stating my opinion.  

3.       ______ I respect my partner’s feelings, but I don’t feel the need to always defer to them.

4.       ______ I don’t like conflict, but I don’t go out of my way to avoid it.

5.       ______ I feel comfortable with my partner’s relationship with opposite sex friends.

6.       ______ I am responsible for how I feel.

7.       ______ I am comfortable sharing how I feel with my partner without yelling or shutting down.

8.       ______ I am willing to end a relationship rather than allowing my partner to hurt me.

9.       ______ I can rely on my partner for my emotional needs.

10.   ______ I can compromise with my partner even though I like to do things my way.

11.   ______ I feel comfortable sharing what I like and don’t like for sex.

12.   ______ I trust that my partner is emotionally available to me when I need.

If you have more checks in Part III, congratulations! You’re on your way of building a strong foundation for your marriage. If you have more checks in Part I or II, it may be a sign that it is the needed area for growth. Setting boundaries can be your elephant in the room. If you feel emotional while doing the exercise, find help from a therapist. It may be time to refresh yourself and relationship.

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