Healthy Relationships: Partner Boundaries

When I first started dating my forever husband Russ, God and I had spent a whole lot of time together discussing what I needed and desired in a husband. I was armed with God’s direction and a fierce spirit committed to never experiencing a toxic, dysfunctional romantic relationship again. 

Thankfully, Russ met me on equal ground because he had also been through the wringer with marriage and committed himself to the same goals as I had. 

We had, and still have, the hard conversations.

Communication is the key to healthy boundaries (and relationships–but that’s another post).

When to Set a Boundary with a Partner:

What I learned from years of dysfunction and emotional abuse is that my feelings are valid, and I refused to accept conversations that invalidated my feelings, attacked me, or gaslighted me.

That was a non-negotiable for me.

It was a boundary I set based on a previous relationship for my peace and protection.

I am blessed to be married to a man now who doesn’t resort to attacks, redirection, justifications, or invalidating my feelings as a means to his own ends, but I was prepared to deal with those behaviors with compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, and love if I had to.

I knew those were triggers for me.

I knew those were the foundations of toxic/destructive relationships.

I knew I couldn’t have those things in my relationship if it was going to be ordained by God and last.

I was prepared to set a boundary there in this new relationship if I needed to.

I want to encourage you today to think about the things in your relationship with your partner that you know in your gut are wrong, the things that make you stand in front of your washer and think that your life is never going to change, the things that leave you crying alone at night after they’ve fallen asleep.

Those are the places in your relationship with your partner where you need to work on communicating your needs, and if those needs fall on deaf ears, implementing reasonable boundaries for your own peace and protection.

I get it–that’s easier said than done.

These can be some of the most difficult boundaries to implement, and I should know because I am a recovering co-dependent human.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they would rather sacrifice their own peace and needs for the sake of their relationship or their family.

Let me ask you this, though:

  • What kind of relationship are you fostering if you’re sacrificing your own needs and your own peace?
  • If you have kids, what kind of example are you setting for them if this is what they see from you?
  • Is this the kind of relationship you want your children to have with their own partners and in their own families?

Those are some tough realities, though, aren’t they?

God’s Definition of Love

I want to pause right here for just a few minutes.

God is clear about what love looks like.

We don’t have to infer, guess, or write our own definitions. 

I know this is a ton of scripture, and I know we’ve read this list probably 1000 times in each of our lives, but I want to encourage you to stop for a few minutes and really, truly read and meditate on what Paul is saying in these verses:

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

I Corinthians 13:1-8 MSG

In the first few verses, Paul calls out those folks who talk a good talk, but their actions don’t match their words. 

Maybe that’s your life right now–you have a partner who says all the right things, but their actions don’t ever match up with their words. They make all the promises, say all the things you want to hear, but, at the end of the day, nothing ever changes.

That’s not love.

Or, maybe you’re life is what Paul describes in the second paragraph. Your partner knows the bible and scriptures and wields them as a weapon against you, in public, on the internet, and maybe even from the pulpit. Life at home, though–that’s another story. 

That’s not love.

Then there’s the last type of relationship Paul mentions–the one where they give their tithe every week, volunteer their time to help at the local food pantry, and make sure they write that check to send the kids in the church to camp. But, what they don’t do is actively love others.

That’s not love. 

So there can be no dispute as to what love actually is, Paul defines it by characteristics in the next several verses:

  • Love never gives up.
  • Love cares more for others than for self.
  • Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
  • Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head,
  • Doesn’t force itself on others,
  • Isn’t always “me first,”
  • Doesn’t fly off the handle,
  • Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
  • Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
  • Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
  • Puts up with anything,
  • Trusts God always,
  • Always looks for the best,
  • Never looks back,
  • But keeps going to the end.

I know this is hard to process.

Believe this today, friend–You deserve a love that looks like this.

As you look at these characteristics, if you’re gut is screaming at you that something is wrong in your relationship, it’s time to think about the changes that need to happen in your relationship. 

How to Set a Boundary with a Partner:

Last week, I talked about Colossians 3:12-14 (MSG). If you missed it, this is Paul’s teaching:

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. 

Colossians 3:12-14 MSG

When it comes to boundaries, that is a crucial part of the equation. 

We have to approach our boundaries with compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, and love.

That means:

  • No fighting
  • No arguing
  • No name-calling
  • No accusations

That’s the hard part.

There are so many scenarios here where boundaries need to be implemented. I’m sure your situation looks different than your neighbors, but let me give you a couple of examples, and hopefully, you can use this to think through your own situation.

For me, with husband #1, whenever I attempted to communicate my feelings, I was immediately met with arguments as to why my feelings were invalid.

It would have been easy for me to implement a boundary here to punish.

For example, I could have set the boundary that when this started to happen in our relationship, I was going to walk away, give him the silent treatment, and refuse to discuss the issue.

While it might have made me feel validated for a moment, it wouldn’t have solved the problem at all, and it would have been a punishment for him instead of providing peace and protection for me.

That’s not a healthy boundary.

That’s a punishment.

A healthy boundary might have looked like this:

  • When I express my feelings and advocate for my needs, we will discuss them as valid and work to seek a solution to the problem at hand instead of bringing other issues into the conversation. After we have reached a plan to address these issues, then we can discuss other concerns and issues. If those other issues are brought into the conversation before we reach a plan for my needs and feelings, we will redirect. If the redirection does not work, we will end that conversation and write out our feelings to share in an hour.

By setting this boundary, I would have been able to protect myself from attacks unrelated to my feelings and needs but also provide an opportunity to discuss the other issues that were constantly thrown back at me.

Maybe that’s not your issue, though. Maybe your issue is completely different. Maybe you need to set a boundary around an addiction–porn, drugs, or alcohol.

Those are difficult subjects too, and they are ones that require different types of boundaries. 

For example, if your partner struggles with porn, maybe you need to set a boundary on where the computers are located in your home or how doors have to be left open when they are in a room alone. 


For the peace and protection of you and your relationship.

That might look something like this:

  • When you are on a computer in our home, you will be in a common living space or a room with the door open. If that door closes or you leave a common living space, you will leave your phone/computer in that space. 

Again, this isn’t a punishment.

This is for your peace and protection and the sanctity of your relationship.

When a Boundary is Violated

I want to sit here and tell you that every single one of your partners is going to respect your boundaries.

The reality, though, is that not all of our partners will.

So, what happens then?

That’s where things get even more dicey.

As I look back on marriage #1, I can tell you that husband #1 wouldn’t have respected my boundaries even if I had tried to communicate them differently.

  • Not everyone has the emotional maturity and intelligence for this.
  • Not every addict is ready to change.
  • No narcissist is capable of empathy.

And, if any of those are your situation, then my best advice is for you to seek God’s guidance in your relationship and your next steps.

If your relationship is pulling you away from your Creator, then you will never convince me that God wants you to be in that relationship.

If your relationship is abusive–emotionally, physically, sexually, spiritually, or mentally–then you will never convince me that God’s will is for you to stay in that relationship.

Let me leave you with this last word today:

Those qualities from Colossians 3 that Paul says we should all have–you deserve them as well. God desires that we treat each other with compassion, humility, quiet strength, discipline, and love.

That means you deserve to be treated with compassion, humility, quiet strength, discipline, and love.

You shouldn’t be the only person in a relationship displaying these characteristics.

Your partner should be displaying them too.

And, if they aren’t, I pray that you seek professional help, that you plead with God for answers for your relationship, and that you obediently listen as God guides you to hope, blessings, restoration, and reformation.

You deserve that.

You deserve peace, protection, and love, friend.


  1. When you read that definition of love, what jumped out at you?
  2. Where are the places in your relationship where you need to start thinking about a boundary?
  3. How receptive is your partner to communication and working through problems with you?

Success! You're on the list.

2 thoughts on “Healthy Relationships: Partner Boundaries

Add yours

  1. What a real and vulnerable post! Thank you for sharing, as this is such an important thing to do. Setting boundaries becomes even more effective when both people are willing and committed to continually growing and learning more about themselves, and dealing with the hard things.


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