I seem to be thinking about this a lot lately and writing about it too so I thought I would copy and paste my thoughts from another thread on how I describe the following; compromise, boundaries, and rules. I find that often people don't speak the same language around these things and for me, to have something to use as a guide has been very helpful. One can use it to ask, "where are we at?" and if they aren't at the same place as their partner (s) then everyone can get on the same page by using this... it's worked for me and I wanted to make sure I have it written down.
Compromise to me is what we do before a boundary is agreed upon. It's the space between something coming up and getting to the point of comfortably sitting in an established relationship dynamic. It's the space where everything stops and no one moves forward until there is communication. It isn't comfortable for one or the other, but isn't meant to be... what the goal is that discussion/communication will happen until there is a balance of semi-comfort for both parties (or more) so that there can be movement forward in a relationship.
Boundaries for me are what is established at the end of negotiation of compromise. It's the end result that is known to be fluid but that I can sit in and try out for a while, knowing that my partner is somewhat comfortable and willing to see if something works. Quite often the new boundary is like a young seedling that needs nurturing together in order to grow into a strong tree that everyone is comfortable with and needs no more discussion about. When negotiations and communication has occurred to the point of a boundary being set, I know that my partner (s) feel comfortable in the knowledge that they have been heard, respected, considered and cared for. I should come out of the discussion feeling the same way and if I don't or they don't, then there is still a compromise going on and I still need to encourage talking... sometimes a break is needed before jumping in again as it is quite exhausting.
Rules are ultimatums and completely off the table for me. I have never done well in a relationship where their are rules, unless I am setting them, in terms of BDSM
otherwise they have no place in my relationships. I will not be with someone who attempts to set rules, unless they are willing to turn to communication and negotiation that would bring us to compromising with the future goal of setting boundaries that work for the us. If they are unwilling then I will not stay with them. Simple as that. My life is my own and they will not be a part of it.