Non-negotiable boundaries are a very specific type of limit you set—either regarding your physical body or in a relationship.
Non-negotiable boundaries are best thought of as hard stops or deal-breakers. They are boundaries around which you are not willing to negotiate or compromise.
There are two types of non-negotiable boundaries:
- Non-negotiable personal boundaries
- Non-negotiable relationship boundaries
Physical and sexual boundaries are non-negotiable personal boundaries, meaning that when you say “no” to physical or sexual touch, your “no” must be respected. This is a hard stop. If your “no” is ignored, prodded, or otherwise over-ridden, you have experienced a boundary violation.
Non-negotiable relationship boundaries involve more complex, interpersonal dynamics. They are relationship deal-breakers, signaling that when the boundary is crossed, the relationship will end. If a non-negotiable relationship boundary is crossed, the person who established the boundary will leave the relationship.
Unless you have experienced a significant betrayal or revelation in an important long-term relationship, you may not have thought about or established your own non-negotiable relationship boundaries.
For those who do establish non-negotiable relationship boundaries, here are some of the most common:
- Sexual abuse of a child
- Untreated addiction or mental illness
- Ongoing deception (e.g., lying repeatedly and over a long period of time)
Non-negotiable relationship boundaries are very personal and specific. No one can—or should—tell another person what their non-negotiables should be.
The best question to ask yourself if you want to create a non-negotiable relationship boundary is,
What would absolutely, positively, without question, cause me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can no longer stay in this relationship?
Your answers to this question are your non-negotiable boundaries.
You must be absolutely sure that you’re prepared to follow through if you set a non-negotiable boundary.
This is true of any boundary you set, but it is especially true when it comes to non-negotiable relationship boundaries. If you tell your spouse that you will leave him if he is unfaithful and you don’t, you become untrustworthy to yourself. Your words become hollow, lose their power to protect you, and to communicate your wants and needs.
Whether you’re talking about non-negotiable personal or relationship boundaries, they are extremely important for your self-care. If you’re in a relationship with someone who repeatedly challenges or violates your non-negotiable boundaries, you must increase your level of self-care—boundary work—to protect yourself.
Want to learn more about non-negotiable boundaries?
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2018)