how do you handle situations where a partner has broken a boundary?

snippets of what people shared on campfire.


The first question is how explicitly understood is the boundary between partners? Often people get upset about some slight that stems from an expectation not being fulfilled but that has never been communicated clearly to others. So as a first step the responsibility is on those having expectations to communicate them. And if you feel uncomfortable communicating them, then that’s a clear sign you need to evaluate those expectations.

In situations where expectations have been clearly communicated and agreed, the appropriate response is to give the situation cooling time, then engage and discuss about the motivations behind the behavior. Showing you’re hurt, angry or being emotional in any way isn’t going to solve the problem but create difficulties in dispassionately and methodically addressing the behavior that has caused strife.

What comes out of those discussions may be an expression of contrition or it may lead to the dissolution of the relationship. There may be various other outcomes depending on what has transpired and how mature each of the partners is. Sometimes expectations can be renegotiated and changed. Relationships are entered into freely and consensually, at least in the western world (I had a very involved debate about this point at a philosophy conference last year and many people disagree with this being the basis for relationships, citing the lack of cultural hegemony of the western model). So with that in mind, the key goal is to reach mutual understanding and consensus moving forward.In practice, all of this is easier said than done, but if you remember to approach each situation with kindness and compassion, you’re gonna do better


I feel like this comes down to communication but you cannot prepare every scenerio from the beginning.(Spitballing/devils advocate).

If the initial conversation came to "if you feel like it could be wrong, let's discuss it", everyone's threshold is different. I could think being open means I can hook up with my colleague where for my partner it would mean no friends, colleagues, ex's and the like.

I feel that if the boundary was broken, the next thing to do is have an honest conversation with the person and try to understand where the boundary broke down. Was it a miscommunication between the two of you or did your partner completely disregard everything that was discussed in the past? From here, you can hopefully establish the next steps


I tend to go on the side of understanding and forgiveness, but if it keeps happening, that reflects a disrespect for my personhood, and I’ll just walk away from that person. Not always easy, but better in the end.


When we set boundaries in any kind of relationship it’s an expression of limits and edges we feel the need to state, in order to protect our feelings & emotions. So, necessarily, these limits are different for each individual (and they don’t necessarily have to be reciprocated in the relationship either)Stating boundaries can lead to agreements that we make from the place of who we are, in a given moment in time. But none of us are static beings; we are all growing an evolving. And so our boundaries could evolve too.

I believe the foundations of any relationship (esp an ENM one) are open honest compassionate conversations, in relation to every aspect.

Since emotions are involved, it would be easy to feel like trust has been broken. So this is where the conversation around feelings needs to focus I think.15:09In my personal experience (as a cis-woman practising ENM for around 5 years now) if a partner crosses a boundary that I feel I have agreed with them, I would want to talk … to explain how it feels; what the felt impact was, and how does that leave me feeling now. And I would undoubtedly want to feel that my experience is heard and acknowledged (an explicit apology usually helps in this regard!)But I would also want to listen … to hear what was going on for the other person; has something changed or shifted in them - in who they are, what they want/feel/need etc… or was there a misunderstanding of what teh boundary was.And from that place of re-assessing where we both are in this new moment of time, see if there is a new agreement to be made, or just be a tweak/clarification of the old one.In my experience, being told the truth as soon as possible usually helps to reduce (or even remove) that feeling of broken trust. As does an acknowledgement of my experience, and an explicit apology!

If it was something very important to me, and it became apparent that our needs / limits were no longer compatible - it would probably lead to a questioning of whether this relationship should continue.I don’t see this as a relationship failure though - I see this as a healthy outcome…. even if it might be emotionally difficult to accept.


in a recent relationship, the heavy enm conversation was a trigger. -- it wasn't that I wasn't willing to have it- but It wasn't going to end well if I did beforeall the pachinko balls in my brain tumbled down to a settled state. He pushed repeatedly - because ENM best practices and stumbled face first into trauma and the relationship was ended in anger- because I'd asked him to trust my process and give the time and he didn't/couldn't. Was a total bummer - because I enjoyed him-- but he's his own person and gets to decide what parts of my trash he's willing to put upwith.

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