Boundaries in Relationships

Boundaries serve as a protection, a natural distance that you create between yourself and others to preserve your identity. Healthy people have moveable boundaries that they control and make choices about. People who have not learned about their own boundaries tend to be either rigid or very lax in their own boundary system. 

Components of the Boundary System 


  1. Physical: protects your body 
  2. Sexual: protects the sexual aspects of your body


  1. Emotional: protects feelings and behavior 
  2. Cognitive: protects your thinking 

Setting Appropriate Adult Boundaries 

Physical: I have the right to determine when, where, how, and who is going to touch me. 

Sexual: I have the right to determine with whom, where, when, and how I am going to be sexual with someone. 

Emotional: What I think and feel and do or don’t do is more about me and my history than what you are saying or doing in front of me. Also, what you think and feel and do or don’t do is more about you and your history than what I am saying or doing in front of you. I am responsible for listening, paying attention, and/or acknowledging the impact of my behavior on you and yours on me. 

Cognitive: I have the right to think what I want to think. I will face the consequences of my own thinking. 


University Counseling Service, The University of Iowa, 3223 Westlawn S, 52242-1100, 319-335-7294 




Category: Students

Tagged: Relationships