Establishing healthy boundaries in a relationship is an important component that allows both individuals to feel safe. Boundaries can be thought of as knowing what you want and do not want within your relationship. There are three main types of boundaries: physical boundaries: those connected to space and the body; emotional boundaries: those connected to being in touch with your own emotions and letting others own their emotions; and mental boundaries: those connected to your thoughts, values, and opinions. It is important to identify your own boundaries by thinking about what Healthy Relationships at USD makes you comfortable and uncomfortable, then to share these boundaries and expectations with the other person. Both individuals should feel comfortable to share their boundaries and not fearful of what the other person might say or do.

Here are some general examples of healthy and unhealthy boundaries in a relationship:

Physical Boundaries


  • Be aware of and respect your own and other’s comfort with physical touch (including handshakes, hugs, putting a hand on a shoulder, etc.)
  • Respect other’s space and property
  • Decide when, how, and to what extent you will be intimate
  • Respect when others tell you “no”


  • Violating other’s space preferences
  • Inappropriate touching, including sexual advances
  • Looking through another’s phone, emails, or other property
  • Being intimate because your partner wants to, not because you want to

Emotional Boundaries

  • Recognize when you are happy/unhappy
  • Separate your emotions from other’s
  • Love and take care of yourself
  • Trust yourself and others
  • “Dumping” emotions on others
  • Not noticing your own unhappiness because enduring is your concern
  • Manipulated by flattery so that you lose objectivity
  • So strongly affected by another that obsession results

Mental Boundaries

  • Have clear preferences and act upon them
  • Trust  your own intuition while being open to other’s opinions
  • Have interest in self-enhancing hobbies and projects
  • Appreciate feedback and can distinguish it from attempts to manipulate
  • Only do favors you choose to do (you can say no)
  • Changing yourself to meet another’s standards
  • Being afraid to disagree
  • Taking as truth the most recent opinion you have heard


  • Balancing Time Together and Time Apart: as wonderful as time together can be, it is Healthy Relationships at USD important to spend time apart as well. Both individuals should feel free to spend time with friends or alone without having to get permission. It is healthy to have independence, friends outside of the relationship, and hobbies in order for each person to grow individually and bring their best selves to the relationship.
  • Allowing Privacy: you shouldn’t have to share everything with the other person. Everyone needs space and a sense of privacy. Passwords are private and you shouldn’t feel like you need to share them with the other person. What is ok to share online about the relationship is an important conversation to have.
  • Accepting Changes in the Relationship: it is natural for relationships to change and grow over time. The things we prioritize in our lives, our interests, and even the things we like to do together develop as we do. Both individuals need to allow for change to happen and this often involves communication. Sometimes the best decision might be to end the relationship and if so, it is important for both individuals to respectfully accept the change and be able to let go.
  • Respecting Limits: it is always important to respect one another’s limits, especially those Healthy Relationships at USD connected to intimacy. Limits can change over time and even day to day. Always listen to and respect the limits expressed by the other person. Being comfortable with something in the past does not imply comfort in the current moment.

Need additional help thinking and talking about boundaries in your relationships? The Counseling Center is a confidential resource open Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, with extended hours until 6pm on Wednesday during fall and spring semesters. The easiest way to secure an initial consultation is by making a same- or next-day appointment via the Wellness Portal. Students can also call or come by the Counseling Center to arrange for an appointment.