TXT U L8R: Establishing Boundaries in a Digital Age

By Amy Thomson

Boundaries are an essential part of every relationship. Not only are they indicative of the level of value we hold for ourselves, but they also serve as guides to others as to how you expect to be treated in a relationship. Healthy boundaries allow both parties to feel safe, comfortable and respected in the relationship. Unhealthy boundaries often leave one person feeling unappreciated, undervalued, and used. Unmet or disregarded needs can cause resentment in some cases and trigger depression and worsen self-esteem in others.

Many of us associate boundaries with face to face interaction. However, they are also important to healthy relationships online. Technology and social media have made it easier than ever to stay connected with those we love and share with them what happens in our daily lives. Your boundaries should extend to social media platforms, email, and text communication.

Talking about boundaries with your partner may not be the most comfortable conversation, especially if you have a fear of rejection or are unsure of how they will respond. Still, it’s important to sit down together and share your needs, expectations, and limits. Open, honest communication helps build a foundation for a healthy relationship and serves as a framework of mutual respect and trust that will help both partners feel secure.

Do the Homework Before Initiating Conversation

Social media has changed the way we communicate and how much we share. Before having a conversation about digital boundaries with your partner, you should set aside some time beforehand and think about how much sharing is comfortable for you.

  • Should you become “Facebook Official?” Not everyone has the same view on updating relationship status. Some may expect it and question why their partner doesn’t want anyone to know, and others may feel like doing so invades their private lives.
  • Is it okay to tag each other in posts and post check-ins for status updates showing where you go together as a couple? Are there situations that you feel should be excepted from this if you are okay with tagging in general?
  • Are you comfortable sharing personal details about your relationship online? How much sharing is “too much?” Are certain situations okay while others – like disagreements and so forth – are off limits?
  • Are you comfortable with your partner friending and following your friends? Are there situations you feel should be excepted from this?
  • Are you ever okay to share devices with your partner? If so, are there exceptions like you being present? (You do not have to share your devices at any time, and you do not have to explain your reasons. Respecting each other’s privacy and personal space is important.)

Find an Appropriate Time to Talk to your Partner

Set aside some time in private to talk to your partner about your needs and limits to sharing your relationship on social media. Once you understand how the other feels, you can decide what is right for your relationship. You can be open to some compromise but be watchful if your partner starts pushing you to do something you find uncomfortable. A partner who is open to building a healthy relationship will not coerce or press you into anything you are not okay with; doing so can be either a sign of toxic behavior or early indications or relationship abuse.

Keep in mind that as your relationship grows, one or both of you may want to discuss changing your boundaries. Human relationships are dynamic, not stagnant, and often things we were okay with (or uncomfortable with) at the beginning of the relationship can change. This is normal, as you are not only growing as a couple but individually as well. However, be sure to remember that at no time should any changes in your boundaries make you feel disrespected, insecure, or unsafe in your relationship.

Technology and Intimacy

Intimacy in a relationship is a very personal, private connection between two people. Whether or not you use technology in any capacity in this part of your relationship should be a mutual choice of both parties that is made willingly. Before consenting to use any device to record, photograph, text, or email, remember the following:

  • If you send provocative images or texts to your partner, can you be sure they won’t share, forward, or show to anyone else? Do you feel comfortable taking the risk that they won’t? Have you considered whether or not they would retaliate if you broke up by publicly sharing things you don’t want others to see?
  • Are there circumstances you are comfortable engaging in this behavior? If so, what are your exceptions?
  • Just because you are intimate with your partner, it does NOT mean that you have to engage in sexting or sending provocative photos if you are not comfortable with it. You don’t owe your partner this; your body is not currency to appease them, nor is it your partner’s property. You always have the right to say no, and your partner should not press you for an explanation or try to convince you (or coerce you) to do otherwise.

Privacy and Account Security

While they are not foolproof, passwords and security questions are meant to help protect our email, phone, and social media accounts from being accessed by anyone other than us. Sharing your passwords and access codes allows the other person to view all of your activity and pose as you – including to send emails, texts, private messages, and public posts from your account. They can also adjust your privacy settings and change emails and passwords so you cannot log back in.

Your partner should never ask for your passwords or coerce you into sharing them. Further, it would help if you tried to create unique passwords that they would not be able to guess. Answer security questions they would not know the answer to. Should you agree to let them post something, make sure you are the one to log in and give them permission with you present to post.

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