How to Draw Boundaries for Friends’ Partners

July 22, 2018 Morgan Meredith

Drawing boundaries with friends' partners is a sensitive topic that can end in tears. Learn how to draw boundaries with friends at HealthyPlace.

Drawing boundaries for friends' partners really means drawing boundaries for friends. One of my best friends maintains a somewhat troubling, even emotionally abusive, relationship. She’s beautiful, talented, insightful, and joyful, but she constantly receives scathing feedback that she’s not good enough. He tells her that if she would just fix her problems, the relationship would be happy. That constant, biting criticism is not good for her. That any and all work on the relationship should be entirely hers because she is broken is not good.

As much as I hate to see my friend in pain and hear the method of address she’s constantly a victim of, my concern for the situation extends further. Her husband’s addictions have brought potential danger into my home without my permission, as well as to parties where they were my guests. When I learned of the depths of his most recent inability to self-regulate, I realized that his behavior is a risk to my home. I knew I had to draw boundaries around my friend's partner.

3 Steps to Setting Boundaries for Friends

List the Reasons for Your Boundary

My new boundaries are about me, not anyone else. I see now that it’s better for my mental health (and potentially the wellbeing and safety of my other friends) if I don’t see her partner anymore. He isn’t welcome at my home or at parties I invite them to. I don’t want to see the two of them interacting anymore, either, because it hurts me to see her torn down.

Acknowledge Setting Boundaries Is Harder with Friends

While it’s hard enough to learn boundary-setting as a whole, we can often feel an extra sense of obligation to our friends that sometimes causes us to express our limits later or more weakly than we would with strangers. However, setting boundaries with our friends’ partners or other friends is important. 

Implement Your Boundaries with Sensitivity

Because her husband’s behavior isn’t something my friend can control, she might feel defensive or angry about my choices to set boundaries with him. The key here, therefore, is to kindly and gently ensure she experiences being heard and loved.

This kind of conversation merits an in-person talk, replete with hugs. A text or a phone call may cause confusion or distance between us. I’ll ensure she knows how much I care for her and how difficult this decision has been.

The conversation will also include a reinforcement of my affection for her and my acknowledgment that nobody can control whom we love. This base, as well as reiterating the boundaries for my friend's partner are for my own health, will create the right environment in which to share my decision.

Finally, I’ll ask how I can support her. I’ve successfully created boundaries with friends’ partners before using some of these methods, and I fully expect this will be a wonderful and loving exchange. 

APA Reference
Meredith, M. (2018, July 22). How to Draw Boundaries for Friends’ Partners, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 from

Author: Morgan Meredith

Find Morgan on  TwitterFacebookMediumLinkedIn and her personal blog.

Lizanne Corbit
July, 23 2018 at 8:00 pm

This is such an important read because it can be one of the most difficult to remember. Boundaries are vital to both ends of a relationship, but when it comes to friendships they can be some of the most difficult. It's important to remember that we don't need to "fix" everything and we don't need to self sacrifice to be a good friend.

July, 23 2018 at 11:19 pm

Thanks for that Lizanne - sometimes it's hard for me to remember I actually *can't* "fix" anything for anyone else, as much as I want to! When I start to, it's a sure path down the codependent lane. It seems like boundaries *should* be easiest with those closest to us, because we have much more open lines of communication than with less close people, but oftentimes it feels harder instead - because we have these ideas that we "owe" our closest friends the sacrifice that you mention. Life's a hard balance sometimes!

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