Setting Boundaries for Connection

When people hear the word “boundaries,” they often think of limitations, restrictions, and pushing others away. They are typically used as a way of protecting ourselves from being burdened, used, and overstimulated in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a moments peace. The irony of all this is that we are also in an epidemic of loneliness. People are so overwhelmed with their interactions AND desperate for connection and closeness. So, can we use boundaries for both space and closeness? Interestingly, healthy boundaries can actually increase intimacy! By setting clear and respectful boundaries, we can set ourselves up to have deeper, more empathetic, and more fulfilling relationships. Let’s explore how boundaries can transform your relationships for the better.

Boundaries: The Blueprint for Healthy Relationships

Imagine boundaries as the blueprint of a house. Just as walls and rooms create a comfortable, livable space, boundaries delineate the emotional and physical space necessary for individuals to feel secure and respected within a relationship. They help partners navigate their needs and limits, creating an environment where we can feel seen, heard, and understood. Essentially, when we know the parameters of the connection then we can feel so much more confident to share and connect with each other.

Building Trust Through Clear Communication

Effective boundaries start with clear communication. When partners express their needs and limits openly and honestly, they lay the groundwork for trust. Trust, as we know from the research, is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. By stating what is acceptable and what isn’t, partners prevent misunderstandings and create a safe space where both feel valued and understood. For instance, if one partner needs time alone after work to decompress, communicating this boundary helps the other partner understand and support this need. Rather than feeling rejected, the supportive partner recognizes the importance of this time for their loved one’s well-being.

The Antidote to Resentment

In our work, we often see how unmet needs and unclear boundaries can lead to resentment. When partners continuously overextend themselves without regard for their own limits, they can become exhausted and resentful. Establishing boundaries is a proactive step towards preventing this. Consider a scenario where one partner feels overwhelmed by household responsibilities. By setting boundaries and discussing a fair division of labor, both partners can work towards a balanced dynamic. This not only alleviates the burden but also demonstrates mutual respect and consideration, reducing the potential for resentment.

Encouraging Personal Growth and Empathy

Boundaries are not just protective; they are also transformative. They encourage self-awareness and personal growth. When partners take the time to understand their own needs and communicate them effectively, they embark on a journey of self-discovery and mutual respect. Moreover, respecting a partner’s boundaries requires empathy. It involves seeing the world from their perspective and valuing their experiences and feelings. This practice of empathy is crucial for compassion. When partners consistently show that they understand and respect each other’s boundaries, they build a reservoir of goodwill and empathy that strengthens their bond.

Creating a Safe Space for Vulnerability

At the heart of any deeply connected relationship is vulnerability. Boundaries create the safety needed for partners to be vulnerable with each other. Knowing that their boundaries will be respected, partners can share their innermost thoughts, fears, and dreams without fear of judgment or dismissal. For example, if one partner sets a boundary around discussing sensitive topics only when both are calm and collected, this ensures that conversations happen in a safe and supportive context. This boundary not only protects the individuals involved but also nurtures a deeper, more compassionate dialogue.

Reinforcing Commitment and Compassion

Setting and respecting boundaries is a tangible way to demonstrate commitment to a relationship. It shows that partners are dedicated to maintaining a healthy, respectful, and loving dynamic. This commitment fosters a compassionate atmosphere where both individuals feel cherished and understood.


Boundaries are not barriers; they are bridges to understanding and compassion. By embracing boundaries, partners can build trust, prevent resentment, encourage growth, create safe spaces for vulnerability, and reinforce their commitment to each other. At the Gottman Institute, they believe that these practices are fundamental to thriving relationships. So, take the time to understand and articulate your boundaries, and respect those of your partner. In doing so, you will cultivate a relationship filled with empathy, respect, and deep, abiding compassion.

If you are interested in exploring your relational experiences further, feel free to check out Relationship Counselling and process group therapy.

With love,

Sarah x

Boundaries for connection