In all relationships, whether romantic or not, boundaries have to be set if you want the relationship to work.
But what if your partner or even a friend decides to overstep and disrespect certain boundaries? This is not only inconvenient to both sides but it can also result in the relationship hitting a snag.
If you’re not someone who normally speaks up for themselves, it might be difficult to determine how to handle this type of situation, but it is important nonetheless.
What to Do When Someone Doesn’t Respect Your Boundaries
If you find that someone is disrespecting your boundaries, it’s better to do something about it sooner rather than later.
The longer you wait, the more comfortable they’ll become taking advantage of you and the more difficult it will be for you to correct things. The first thing that you’ll want to do is decide if this person really is disrespecting your boundaries.
Look for these signs to know for sure:
- You are constantly setting the boundaries and reminding this person of what those boundaries are
- You sometimes feel a little “off” when you’re around that person
- You remind them of the boundaries and they make fun of you or don’t take it seriously
- They put pressure on your or blame you for the situation
- You feel resentful for going along with their behavior
- You keep expressing your discomfort even though they don’t listen
- The other person doesn’t acknowledge you or listen to you
In fact, if you really think about your reactions to this person and look deep inside of yourself, it’s usually very easy to tell if this person is disrespecting your boundaries.
If they are, your smartest option is to try to correct the situation, but the success of this option depends largely on the other person’s response.
To handle a situation where someone isn’t respecting your boundaries, it’s best to:
- Determine how safe it is to confront this person. Being honest with the person is smart, but you also need to be kind and non-threatening. People will never react in a good way if you speak with them in a confrontational tone. If you know that this person needs to start respecting the boundaries you’ve set but you don’t feel safe talking to them about it, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a trusted mutual friend or even a therapist.
- Communicate clearly with the person, even if it isn’t the first time that you’ve done so. You should sit down with that person and tell them they have to listen to you until you’re finished. Then, go into detail about what you expect from them afterwards. Don’t let them interrupt you, and make sure that they completely understand what you’re trying to tell them after you’re done.
- Realize that compromise might be the best solution. Boundaries can be small or large, and the smaller ones tend to be not as important as the larger ones. Because of this, make sure that you know the difference between which one is which and then try to reach a compromise between what you want and what they want. If they disagree with this, you might have to go with a Plan B, which can include cutting yourself off from the other person entirely.
- Professional help might be the only answer for your situation. If you’ve tried everything and it hasn’t worked, and you’ve determined that this is an important relationship in your life that you don’t want to give up, a professional therapist may work for the two of you. Help from a neutral party can help when all other options have been unsuccessful.
How to Apologize for Crossing Boundaries?
When you yourself find yourself crossing boundaries, the best thing to do is to apologize and then assure that person that you are going to change your behavior.
It’s always awkward to apologize even when you know that you’re wrong, but if you really don’t expect to take advantage of this person any longer, an apology is crucial.
Make sure that you acknowledge that you were wrong, make sure that they realize exactly what action you’re talking about, assure them you’re going to change from that point forward, and most importantly, actually say the words, “I’m sorry.”
The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries: A Book by Topher Payne
The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries is a book that consists of an alternate ending to writer Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree.
At the point in the story where the Boy goes back to the Tree and asks for a house, the alternate ending begins. It consists of the Tree telling the Boy that he never comes to him unless he wants something.
Both The Giving Tree and The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries are good books to read, but make sure that you read the latter if you want an especially good lesson on setting boundaries while not making the other person feel terrible about it.
Stepping Over Boundary Lines: Some Examples
When people step over the boundaries you’ve set, the lines can sometimes get blurred. If you believe that someone is disrespecting your boundaries but you aren’t sure, ask yourself these questions:
- Do they keep doing something that I’ve already told them not to do?
- Do they continuously disrespect your time, which is important to everyone?
- Do they make you feel inferior or bad when you tell them “no”?
- Do they not respect your privacy?
You have a right to value your time and your privacy, so if you have a roommate that continues to play loud music at all hours of the night even after you’ve voiced your dissatisfaction about this, that person is clearly disrespecting your boundaries.
When someone doesn’t respect the boundaries you’ve set, it can be difficult and frustrating, but if you voice your concerns over the situation, remind them again how they’re being disrespectful, determine that they aren’t willing to compromise with you.
Or they simply refuse to do anything about it, it’s time for you to move onto the next course of action, which can involve cutting off that relationship in some instances.