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People don’t always do a good job of respecting personal boundaries. Sometimes it’s malicious, sometimes it’s not.
Sometimes your expectations may not be in line with what other people are willing to accommodate. That’s okay – in fact, it happens all the time. The important thing to remember is that you have the final say on what you are and are not willing to accept.
There are a few questions you want to ask yourself when someone won’t respect your boundaries.
Is the boundary reasonable? Does it respect the other person’s boundaries?
It’s relatively common for people to over-correct when they are trying to work through their personal issues. You may find that you set unhealthy boundaries if you have struggled with boundaries before.
As an example…
Mark recently got out of a bad relationship. His ex cheated on him with her male best friend after Mark trusted her to respect the commitment of the relationship.
Mark gets into a relationship where his new girlfriend also has a male best friend, making him feel anxious and insecure. He doesn’t outright demand that she end the friendship, but keeps applying pressure and complaining about it to her, hoping that she will discontinue or pull away from the friendship.
Mark views this as setting an emotional boundary, so he won’t get hurt again. In reality, it’s manipulative and abusive behavior that his new girlfriend shouldn’t tolerate. He either trusts her, or he doesn’t. That boundary does not respect his new partner.
The best way to determine whether or not your boundary is reasonable is by listening to the person you are having a problem with. If they can articulate what problem they are having with the boundary, then you can determine whether or not your boundary is fair and necessary.
How clearly have you communicated your boundaries?
A person is going to struggle to respect your boundaries if they are not clear on what those boundaries are. So, it’s important to make yours crystal clear.
For example, perhaps you have a boundary around name-calling from your partner, a family member, or someone else. It is one thing to say that you don’t like it when that person calls you names, but it is another thing altogether to express that you will not accept that. By stating clearly that it is NOT okay, you avoid any confusion as to how you wish to be treated.
There’s another aspect to boundaries that must also be communicated in a clear way: repercussions. What will happen if a person continues to walk over your boundaries? What actions will you take?
In the previous example, you might say that continued name-calling will result in you breaking up with your partner, cutting off your family member, or disengaging with whoever is saying those cruel things.
And the important thing about those repercussions is that they must be something that you are actually willing to follow through on because if you make empty threats and then don’t take the action you say you will, the person will see this as a green light to continue disrespecting this boundary and any others you might state.
How flexible are my boundaries?
Boundaries are not always a hard and fast thing. Sometimes there are exceptions to the rules. You may find that a boundary you erected does not serve you in the way that you thought it did or that it is too restrictive.
You may find yourself wanting to readjust your boundaries when you’ve grown more comfortable with a person or want to give them a chance.
It’s also possible that you may have some initial conflict with a person as you both try to sniff out and gauge where your respective boundaries are.
You will want to take some time and really consider which of your boundaries are flexible and which are not. There are some kinds of boundaries and beliefs that people just cannot be flexible with. It might be something they find morally wrong, feel is hurtful to them, or they just decided that this particular boundary is not flexible.
A good example would be cheating in a relationship. Some people will choose to stay and work it out, to fix whatever broke and preserve the relationship. And other people immediately end the relationship and walk away, as they view cheating as a significant breach of trust and respect that they cannot tolerate or forgive.
Neither choice is wrong. It all depends on the person with the boundary and how flexible they choose to be with it. It’s okay if the person decides to try and work it out. It’s also okay if the person decides that it’s the end of the relationship, and there’s nothing left to do but leave.
Consider how flexible the boundary is that is being pushed. Is there room for flexibility to accommodate and build the relationship? Or is it something you feel you must stand firm on?
Should you disengage from the person?
Let’s assume that your boundary is reasonable, that it is not flexible, but the person is still pushing. Now you have to make a choice on how you engage with this person.
You may find that their general behavior is not healthy or appropriate and pull away completely. You may also find that although you want to do that, you aren’t able to due to other responsibilities, like if the person is a coworker or a family member who will turn other people against you.
Disengaging can be a better choice than going no contact if the situation doesn’t warrant it, or if going no contact is impractical.
Ways to disengage include:
1. Keep all conversations purely business – no more casual conversation with the person past basic politeness.
2. Don’t spend any time with the person that you don’t have to.
3. Don’t react or engage with disrespectful behavior. They may just be trying to get you angry, so they have a reason to interact with you or give them ammunition to paint you in a negative light.
4. Remain silent or walk away from casual conversations. That includes phone calls. It’s okay to tell someone that you’re not going to put up with their behavior and end a call.
Remember, you cannot control the actions of others. Your boundaries will help inform and guide them, though. If you don’t hang around to put up with their disrespect, they will eventually get the message that you are not going to tolerate having your boundaries violated.
You may find it helpful to predetermine how much time you are willing to give the person if you need to disengage.
An hour-long phone call may not be taxing, but if it goes too much further or starts wandering into disrespectful territory, it’s okay to end it. Limiting time can help scenarios where you can’t or don’t want to go full no contact.
Should I go no contact?
There are some people who will just not respond to or respect boundaries. In that scenario, you may find that the best option for your mental health and boundaries is to go no contact with the person.
Going no contact can be a tricky thing, and you will want to make sure you have explored as many other options as possible.
Many of us want to see the good in our loved ones and think they could change if they really wanted to, but eventually, you realize that not everyone wants to. Many people are more than happy to live and fester in their own misery because it’s a place of comfort where they don’t need to take responsibility for their well-being and growth.
If you find that a person constantly leaves you drained, anxious, angry, or exhausted, then it might be time to evaluate whether or not you need that person in your life at all.
Don’t let other people shame you into accepting bad behavior. At the end of the day, you’re the one that needs to live with it, so you have to do what’s best for your emotional and mental health.
Still not sure what to do about someone who repeatedly violates your boundaries? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.
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- What Are Emotional Boundaries And How Do You Set Healthy Ones?
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