Boundaries and Relationships: How Secure Limits Help Build Better Trust

Trust is the glue that keeps relationships together.

If you feel unsure about whether you can trust your partner, it may be that you haven’t established secure boundaries. Having secure limits in place can build better trust in your relationship.

Here’s why they help and how to create them.

How Boundaries Help

Avoid Conflicts by Establishing Limits

Some conflicts are inevitable—even healthy—in relationships. The goal shouldn’t be to try to achieve a relationship in which you never argue. At the same time, a lot of couples have completely preventable conflicts because they don’t establish boundaries from the outset.

If you won’t accept certain behaviors from your significant other, they need to know. It’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to needs and wants.

Boundaries Help You Know Where You Stand

Boundaries can help you feel more secure, especially if you’re prone to insecurity in relationships. Your partner can’t fulfill all your emotional needs. But you can ask for specific behaviors that make you feel more secure in the relationship.

For example, asking your partner to check in by text or phone if their plans have changed and they won't be returning home at the expected time.

Understand the Difference Between Boundaries and Control

While limits are important in relationships, it’s essential to understand the difference between setting a boundary and trying to control another person’s behavior. In relationships, both partners should feel free to be themselves. Because you want your partner to feel free, you don’t have the right to stop them from doing things they want to do.

Boundaries are more appropriately used in explaining acceptable communication and determining what you will not accept. But the list of “dos and don’ts” should be relatively short. Setting boundaries is about the tone and respect conveyed for each other.

Boundaries Include Taking Responsibility

Both partners in a relationship need to take responsibility for their own words and behaviors. No one is responsible for the words or actions of the other partner. Nobody can “make” you do anything.

A common pattern in many unhealthy relationships is the blame game, in which one partner says they wouldn’t have done “X” if their partner didn’t do “Y.” A healthy guideline includes refusing to accept blame for things you didn’t do.

How to Establish Trust

Boundaries help to establish trust. As you see over time that your limits are being respected and not violated, you come to trust your partner. Trust is something that needs to be earned by repeated behaviors, rather than given in advance.

Benefits of Open, Honest Conversation

Establishing trust and boundaries requires a series of open, honest conversations. You and your partner have naturally different backgrounds and perspectives. It can take some attentive discussion to iron out the differences between you.

Expect to have many conversations about establishing boundaries, as new situations or arguments come up. You or your partner will likely renegotiate boundaries as circumstances change.

Have Courage to Stand Up for Yourself

Setting boundaries gives you the opportunity to make your relationships stronger and more trusting. But first, you must have the courage to stand up for yourself. You need to be able to tell people about your boundaries—and to enforce them if they’re violated.

It can take a great deal of courage to enforce boundaries with people, especially if it’s something new. But as you get used to setting limits and holding people to them, you’ll come to have more confidence. When you feel more confident, you know that you’ll be less likely to be treated in a way that is unacceptable to you. That gives you a stronger footing in your relationship.

All relationships benefit from having greater boundaries. When you have the courage to expect healthy behavior, you will also find it easier to trust others.