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For friendships and romantic relationships to work really well they need ‘ground rules’, or mutual agreements on how to act and treat one another. This is where boundaries come in.
Boundaries are our wants and limitations when it comes to relationships. They come from our expectations of what relationships should be like and what we should get from them. After you read through the next bit, check out the Aotearoa/NZ video at the end of this section.
Boundaries are great because they can help you make decisions that are right for you - decisions you can feel whakamanawa (confident) about!
Having our boundaries respected, and respecting other people’s boundaries, is super important. It means that relationships, and the people in them, stay happy, healthy and safe.
Knowing your own boundaries can be a great place to start.
The key to figuring out your own boundaries is getting to know yourself, and being really honest about what you want and are comfortable with. Your values, beliefs, culture, experiences, religion, thoughts and feelings all shape what’s most important to you, and can help you figure out what you want from your relationships.
It can help to make a list, either on paper or in your māhunga (head), about your relationship expectations. Start by asking yourself what you feel okay with, what you expect to get from the relationship, and what you don’t want the other person doing.
Here are some questions to get you thinking about what you might want from relationships:
Am I okay with holding hands?
Do I want to be able to kiss and cuddle?
Am I ready to have sex with this person?
What level of intimacy am I comfortable with? PDA?
Do I want to communicate with them on a daily basis? Weekly basis?
Am I expecting them to reply to my messages straight away?
Do I expect them to always be in contact with me?
Am I happy to always receive calls/texts from them?
Do I want to feel as though I can reply to their messages in my own time?
How much personal information will I share with them?
Are there things that I am not willing to share?
Am I happy with changing my relationship status to ‘In a Relationship’?
Am I ok with being tagged in photos together, or tagged in ‘couplely’ posts?
What hobbies do I want to do together?
Which hobbies do I want to do by myself?
Now that we have you thinking, check out what others think about respect, relationships and peer pressure.
Once we know what our boundaries are, it’s important that we actually kōrero (talk) about them with the people we’re in relationships with, so that everyone is on the same page. You have the right to decide what’s best for you, and you should never be made to feel like you’re a bad person or in the wrong for having boundaries and letting others know.
What about the other person’s boundaries?
While it’s important to know and communicate our own boundaries, we also need to consider other people. What are their wants and limits? Are they the same as ours, or different?
Everyone sets their own boundaries, but it is your responsibility to hear and respect the boundaries of others. The best way to find out someone else's boundaries, is to have a conversation about it.
You may find that their expectations of the relationship don’t match with yours, and that’s okay. It’s about communicating and deciding together how you will act and treat one another so that everyone’s boundaries are respected.
Different people have different boundaries. It's not always enough to treat others how you want to be treated. Treat others how they want to be treated.
Click the link below to find some guidance on boundaries and respect for dating trans and non-binary people:
Sometimes people can overstep your boundaries. When this happens, it’s important to be straight up and let the other person know. Tell them how you felt when they crossed your boundaries and remind them what you are (and aren’t) comfortable with.
If this happens again and again, have a think about whether the relationship is right for you. You deserve to be respected at all times.
If you are needing support, check out the following links: