So What’s the Difference?
By now, you may have figured out that boundaries and expectations go hand in hand. Our expectations help us think about what our boundaries are, and our boundaries inform our expectations. When boundaries are set, there’s an expectation that they will be respected, and setting boundaries helps us know what to expect in our relationship. Having agreed-upon boundaries and expectations gives partners a layer of security in the relationship that helps build trust. Once we know how we’re supposed to act in our relationship, we can trust our partner to hold up their end of the bargain. When boundaries and expectations aren’t clearly set, we might engage in monitoring or controlling behaviors to try to get our needs met, which isn’t healthy or fair to our partner.
We often go into new relationships with certain expectations based on boundaries of prior relationships. For example, if your past partner was cool with you tagging them in photos on social media, you might expect that behavior to be okay in your new relationship. However, it’s important to remember that your new partner is a totally different person, so it’s always a good idea to check in about their thoughts on a specific behavior, rather than assuming they’ll feel the same way your ex did. Similarly, just because a boundary existed in a past relationship doesn’t mean it automatically applies to this one, so make sure you are communicating with your partner about what you both want your relationship to look like.
When boundaries are broken or expectations aren’t met, partners may feel hurt, violated, disrespected, or even unsafe. If it’s safe to do so, we always recommend—you guessed it—open, honest, respectful communication to go over what happened, why it happened, and what should happen moving forward. If you ever feel like you can’t talk to your partner about how you’re feeling, that’s a huge warning sign that your relationship may be abusive. Try reaching out to one of our advocates instead to explore the situation further and talk through your options. Advocates can be reached 24/7/365 by phone at 1-866-331-9474, online chat at www.loveisrespect.org, or by texting LOVEIS to 22522.