Protecting and respecting limits

    • Brief

    • Your limits tell you what is acceptable for you in a relationship or in contact with someone outside of a relationship. Someone who crosses your limits is not respectful. Your integrity may be harmed.

    • Limits and respect

    • The situation can be about many different matters in your relationship. For example:

      • You do not want to be insulted.
      • You do not want to have sexual intercourse (yet).
      • You do not like certain kinds of sex.
      • You do not want violence.

      Someone’s limits are crossed when they do not agree with what happens and the way in which it happens.

      To respect limits, both partners:

      • Have to agree with what is happening.
      • Should not use or feel any pressure.
      • Should be equal partners (one should not have power over the other).

    • Saying "no"

    • If you feel like your limits are being crossed, say “no”. Your partner has to respect your choice. Talk with your partner about what you want and how you feel:

      • Be very clear.
      • Stand or sit up straight and look into your partner’s eyes.
      • Explain why you say “no”.
      • If necessary, repeat your message.
      • Do not feel guilty.
      • Do not make promises you cannot keep.

      Saying “no” is difficult, but it is a way to communicate to your partner what your limits are. Your limits have to be clear to your partner. If “no” is not accepted by your partner, get professional help or confide in a person who is close to you.

      You may be afraid of losing your partner. Decide whether your partner is good for you, if they continue to force you into doing things you do not want to do.

    • Sexual abuse

    • When you are persuaded into doing something by force or threats, this is called coercion. When there is coercion, your limits are not being respected. If you are coerced into doing certain sexual acts (for instance: sexual intercourse, kissing, touching, sexual comments, sex work), this is called sexual abuse.

      Respecting each other’s limits is important. Abuse can cause psychological and health problems. Moreover, sexual abuse and other partner violence are forbidden by law.

      If you have difficulties persuading your partner into having sexual intercourse, try to discuss this together. Sex is more than just sexual intercourse. Being physically close to each other is equally important for your well-being and relationship.

      Sexual abuse can also occur outside a relationship, for example, with relatives, acquaintances and ex-partners.

    • Seeking help

    • If you experience sexual abuse or other partner violence, look for help:

      • Talk with a person you trust.
      • Talk with a health professional. Do not feel guilty or ashamed. It happens to many people.

      Contact the police if you want to accuse someone officially of sexual abuse or another kind of partner violence.