The 5 steps to take when your ENM partner violates a relationship boundary

Here's what to do to uphold your boundaries

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last updated
April 18, 2023
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In ethical non-monogamous (ENM) relationships, mutual respect for each other's boundaries and agreements is crucial for the relationship to thrive. ENM relationships encompass a range of practices such as open relationships, polyamory, and swinging, where partners consent to being involved with multiple people at the same time. However, especially in these relationships, boundaries are essential to ensure that all partners feel safe, respected, and cared for.

But what happens when one partner violates a boundary in an ENM relationship? It can be challenging to navigate this situation and can potentially harm the relationship if not addressed appropriately. That's why it's crucial to have clear communication, mutual understanding, and respect for each other's feelings and boundaries. In this context, it's important to understand how to respond when a partner violates a boundary, so the relationship can continue to grow and flourish while maintaining the trust and respect of all involved parties.

Reflect on your feelings

Take some time alone and really asses how you feel about their actions and formulate what you would say to them. It helps to have pre-determined β€œspeech points” to guide you through the conversation and to keep you on track with what you want to say so you don’t stray away from the message or forget any important points to discuss. It’s best to talk about these matters in an informative way, to communicate your feelings and inform your partner, and not in an accusatory way that will only end in escalation.

Communicate, communicate

It's important to have open and honest communication with your partner when they violate a boundary in an ENM relationship. Be clear and specific about the boundary that was crossed, how it made you feel, and why it's important to you. Listen to your partner's perspective and try to understand their intentions. It's important to approach the conversation with empathy and a desire to work through the issue together.

Re-evaluate boundaries

After communicating with your partner about the boundary violation, take some time to reassess your boundaries and agreements. Determine whether they need to be revised or clarified to avoid future misunderstandings. It's essential to be flexible and open to change, as boundaries can evolve and shift over time in ENM relationships.

Establish consequences

If your partner continues to violate boundaries, it's important to establish consequences. This could include taking a break from the relationship or ending it altogether. It's crucial to set clear boundaries and consequences and stick to them, as this shows that you respect yourself and your partner's boundaries and expect the same in return.

Seek support

Dealing with a boundary violation can be challenging, and it's okay to seek support from a therapist or a trusted friend who understands ENM relationships. They can provide a safe space for you to process your feelings and provide guidance on how to move forward. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength and self-care, not weakness.

In summary, addressing a boundary violation in an ENM relationship requires communication, boundary reassessment, consequences, and seeking support. By approaching the situation with empathy, respect, and a willingness to work through the issue together, you can strengthen your relationship and maintain a healthy ENM dynamic.


our take.

Remember, open or polyamorous relationships require constant communication and effort. It's important to work through any issues that come up and put your well-being and your partner's well-being first.