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Setting Healthy Sexual Boundaries in a Relationship

Healthy sexual boundaries are an extremely important part of any relationship – temporary or permanent. So, let’s look at a few important questions. What do healthy sexual boundaries look like, why are they important, and how do we enforce them?

What Are Sexual Boundaries?

Boundaries relating to sex can be difficult for some people to enforce. Many of us have been taught that we owe certain things to our partners. With the amount of focus people put on sex, it can be easy to feel like a bad partner if you don’t give in to your partner’s desires. However, your boundaries and desires matter just as much as your partners.

Sexual boundaries are the rules and expectations you have for how you’re treated sexually. For example, you should expect that when you say you’re not in the mood, your partner will not push you to do things anyway. This is possibly the most important sexual boundary, otherwise known as consent.

Some other sexual boundaries that people may have are:

  • Practicing safer sex such as using a condom
  • Use of birth control
  • No initiating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • No initiating while you’re sleeping
  • Not feeling comfortable with specific sexual acts
  • Your sex life is to remain monogamous or if you’re in a consenting non-monogamous relationship following the guidelines you agreed on 

Many of these may appeal to you and many may seem extreme. Everyone has different preferences and needs in their sexual relationship. What may work for one person may not work for you. The important thing is to take account of what you are and are not comfortable with and voice those feelings to your sexual partner. If your partner is not willing to accept your terms, it may be a sign that you need some professional help to find a middle ground and communicate why these needs are important.

Why Are Sexual Boundaries Important?

It’s easy for people to understand why sexual consent is important. However, when you get into more specific boundaries, they may not understand why you have a certain boundary, may think you’re a prude, or even consider your boundaries controlling. What’s important to remember is that your boundaries are about controlling what happens to you emotionally and physically.

Everyone has different reasons for the boundaries they find important. For some, adverse experiences may mean they require asking permission before doing certain things, or not doing certain things at all. These boundaries ensure that they don’t get hurt, so long as their partner respects them.

How to Enforce Your Boundaries

Enforcing boundaries can be difficult if you’re not used to commanding respect for yourself. But, that’s what it comes down to. A partner who respects you will adhere to your boundaries to the best of their abilities, or be open about their inability, allowing you to decide if the relationship is right for you.

To enforce healthy sexual boundaries, first make them clear. Sit down with your partner and talk through them. Answer any questions that you feel comfortable answering about them. Then, if those boundaries are broken, don’t let it slide. Whether that means a serious conversation, demanding a counseling session to allow yourself to heal from the breach of trust, or ending the relationship altogether, it’s up to you to decide.

If you’re in need of assistance communicating your sexual boundaries and needs, or finding a solution that works for both you and your partner, make an appointment with Toronto Sex Therapy today.