Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari
Give Your Relationship a "Boundaries Health Check"
Do you want to understand yours and your partner's relationship boundaries better? Complete this simple exercise together as a couple and improve your communication, uncover your unspoken expectations, and connect in a meaningful way.
This exercise is designed to inspire you to understand and talk about you and your partner's relationship expectations, beliefs and boundaries, both emotional and physical. There are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers, as well as no 'normal' or 'abnormal' answers. Each couple will differ in terms of their wants and needs, and what might work for one couple, will not for another. But when there is a gap in our expectations as a couple, it can create tension, trust issues and may potentially be a source of pain and suffering.
The aim of this Relationship Boundaries Health Check is to help you to understand your individual boundaries and expectations, and hear your partners.
This exercise is designed for couples in monogamous relationships. Those in polyamorous relationships might benefit from more detailed statements.
How to get started:
Arm yourself with a piece of paper and a pen each
One person read the following questions and statements aloud, one at a time
After each statement, write down the relevant number and either 'yes' or 'no' without showing the other person your answer. Write 'yes' if you agree with the statement, or 'no' if you do not agree with it. Try to be as honest as possible to make the most of this exercise; there are no right or wrong answers.
Once you have finished, start comparing your answers by making a note of theirs on your own piece of paper, without discussing any similarities or differences.
Choose one statement at a time to explore more deeply. This is the opportunity for each of you to share your thoughts and feelings about it. Listen to each other fully and non-judgementally. Communicate safely, without shaming or criticising your partner, but rather focus of your own thoughts, feelings and beliefs around the topic. Use the differences as a means to learn more about your partner and discuss your 'window of tolerance'. If you find it to be too challenging, you can reach out to a relationship therapist for further support.
You can use this exercise as an ongoing process and conversation about what you feel is appropriate for your relationship.
When you read the below, start every statement with:
In our relationship...
1. it is OK to have a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex (or the same gender for same sex couples)
2. it is OK to talk about our issues with my closest friends
3. it is OK to share information about our relationship with my family
4. it is OK to watch porn
5. it is OK to masturbate whilst fantasising about someone else
6. it is OK to fantasise about someone else whilst we being intimate with one other
7. it is OK to engage in sexting with others (for example strangers, via social media, colleagues, friends etc), as long as there is no intention to pursue a physical relationship
8. it is OK to flirt if there is no intention to pursue
9. it is OK to use interactive porn sites (such as live porn, or Only Fans)
10. it is OK to have phone sex with a stranger
11. it is OK to initiate contact with, or respond to ex partners reaching out via social media or otherwise
12. it is OK to fantasise about people we both know personally
13. it is OK to fantasise about people we don't know personally, like celebrities
14. it is OK to invite friends and colleagues of the opposite gender (or the same gender for same sex couples) into our home, or go to theirs, without telling you
15. it is OK to have an online relationship without you knowing
16. it is OK to for me spend time with people who do not like you
17. it is OK to be involved emotionally with someone, without sexual contact
18. it is OK to be secretly involved with another person, whether face-to-face or online
19. it is OK to initiate a collaboration (work or otherwise) in order to spend time with someone I feel attracted to
20. it is OK to visit websites that you do not want your partner to know about
21. it is OK to be more concerned for a friend's wellbeing than that of my my partner
22. it is OK to show physical affection to a friend
23. it is OK to spend time alone with someone who I find attractive or who finds me attractive
24. it is OK to socialise frequently without my partner
25. it is OK to share my private thoughts and feelings (either online or face-to-face) before or instead of sharing with my partner
26. it is OK to... (fill in the gap with what feels important for you)
* This questionnaire is inspired by and has been adapted from Pat Love's Bold Boundaries exercise.