I know that it’s not easy setting boundaries. You haven’t been told in school that it’s important for you, to know your rights and make sure that these rights are respected by everyone you come in contact with.

But what happens if you learn to set boundaries and, when you do set them, people will cross them without even feeling guilty for it. Some people in your life-parents, friends, partners, might feel entitled to know your personal stories just because they are painfully close to you.

If you suspect your spouse to suffer from an inflated sense of self, you might wanna be careful with them. Divulge as little information as possible and learn more about yourself and your limits.

Why do you tolerate others who cross your boundaries

I have had a few people in my life who insisted on breaking my boundary because they might have felt entitled to. Or maybe they felt too important to take a ‘no’ for an answer. My parents feel the need to show their importance and violate the rules that I so clearly stated. They don’t understand that it is OK to be separated from their child and have a life of their own. They live life through me and that is a typical attitude of a narcissistic parent.

The main reason you might not succeed at maintaining your boundaries is due to the anxiety that a healthy boundary can bring. You might feel guilty for ‘abandoning’ your parent or spouse. You might feel terrible for saying ‘no’ to your partner when he asked you to go to that trip with him and his relatives. Guilt and shame are strong emotions that are not easy to deal with.

When you break someone’s boundary

If someone has broken your boundaries or if you have not yet learned what boundaries are, there might be a chance that you have also overstepped someone’s boundaries in the past. Think of how you behave with your friends, partner or spouse. Are you pushing someone to stay past their bedtime so you can have someone to talk with over the phone?

Are you using guilt to make others feel pity that you don’t have a partner to go out with and constantly ask your friend for company even if she’s busy with her work?

If you don’t have boundaries with your partner or friends, you’re enmeshed with them. You’re expecting others to deal with your problems so that you don’t have to do it yourself.

Here’s an example of boundary-breaking behaviour:

Sara calls Tom on a Saturday evening assuming that her best friend will be excited to go out with her. They would often hang out during weekends and have a blast. When Tom picks up the phone she informs her that he’s got a date tonight with a girl he met recently. He was excited and happy over the phone but, instead of getting validation for his feelings, he was reprimanded.

‘But we always hang out during weekends! Can you just postpone seeing her? She’s just a fling, I’m sure.’ Sara manipulates Tom by making him feeling sorry for meeting a woman and not spending time with his old friend.

‘But she’s not a fling’, Tom says.

‘You always do this. You pick up a woman and after a while, you realize she’s gonna break your heart.’ Sara responds. ‘Isn’t it what you do? When are you going to grow up?’ At his point, Sara managed to crush Tom’s sense of self to the point that, he started doubting himself. ‘Maybe she is indeed just a ‘fling’. Who knows if we’ll end up together, she looked like she just wanted to have fun.’

A person who is not manipulative towards others will just reschedule and wait until her friend is available to meet some other time. However, by manipulating Tom, Sara succeeds in making herself more important in the friendship. She put herself first and didn’t even consider her friend’s needs and wants. However, in a healthy relationship, no one should feel pressured to do anything they don’t want to.

All in all, it is important to become aware of when you break someone’s boundary and disregard their needs.

Treat the other person like you’d like to be treated. If you want your boundary to be respected, treat other people’s boundaries with respect.

What to do when someone breaks your boundaries?

It is important to notice that, even people who are nice to you can break your boundaries. You are not born with instructions on how to set healthy boundaries and develop an emotional life, thus, you can go wrong many times.

However, in my experience, toxic or difficult people are more likely to violate your boundaries on a consistent basis. If this is the case, be careful. For example, narcissistic parents, won’t allow their children to separate emotionally from them and develop a strong self. They will try to instill guilt and shame in them so they can get back to being weak and dependent on the needy parents.

Narcissistic parents always need to feel validated by their offspring so they can cover up their childhood trauma that left them feel like they don’t matter. Narcissistic parents’ emotional state is that of a child who is looking for attention and recognition from the people closest to them. They really don’t have the maturity to care for anyone but themselves. They feel like they’re entitled to their child’s privacy because of their sense of importance. No one can deny what they want, especially their own children. Thus, setting boundaries with them can be very challenging.

(If you’re dealing with narcissistic parents, you can read ‘5 ways to deal with toxic, narcissistic parents‘ and ‘5 ways to deal with unhealthy levels of guilt‘.)

Check out the following steps in dealing with those who engage in boundary-breaking behavior. I think it’s no one’s responsibility but yours to make sure your boundaries are preserved.

1. Become aware of your own importance

This is crucial in understanding how boundaries work. When you become aware of your own self, of your needs and rights, then it’s easier to maintain boundaries.

When you doubt your own importance, you’re allowing the manipulations of difficult people to gain a foothold’, says Ryan Howes, a psychologist from Pasadena, California.

To develop a sense of self, you need to start a loving relationship with yourself. How? First, start by being kind with yourself and putting yourself in situations that will help you grow and not hurt you emotionally. This means, if someone in your life is making you miserable or dumps their negative energy on you without feeling guilty, walk away. If your need is to be in an environment that helps you heal, find that environment and spend time there.

2. Be with people who respect you as a person

Ryan Howes also agrees that, your social circle reflects back your sense of worth. If you surround yourself with selfish people, you prove you have little appreciation for yourself.

Cutting the toxic people out of your life is important for your mental well-being. I’m not saying that toxic people are bad people. They also need support from others. However, they are a work in progress and, by letting them go, you’ll show that they need to get help for whatever emotional problem they might have.

3. Be firm but kind

The author of ‘The burnout cure: an emotional survival guide for overwhelmed women’, Julie Hanks, says that you can be firm but kind and loving when asserting boundaries. You don’t need to shout and become emotionally abusive. Maintaining calm is important, especially when dealing with difficult people.

Another author, Savannah Grey, who writes at www.esteemology.com believes that actions are very important when setting boundaries.

If you don’t let someone know their behavior is inappropriate, it will continue. You must communicate directly and immediately following the incident, that this behavior is not acceptable.

And if it does continue, then you follow it up with immediate action, like ending your involvement with that person, because they are then showing you that they are the type of person that does not respect boundaries.’, Savannah says.

When you set boundaries, don’t explain yourself. Be clear and just say it once: ‘I rather you not call me lazy’. If your friend continues to insult you, cut her off. The same applies to parents, relatives and partners who engage in toxic behavior. Remember that no one deserves to be yelled at or ridiculed. Including you.

4. Cut the ties

Distance yourself from anyone who violates your boundaries on a consistent basis. They are not the type of people you’d want to have a healthy relationship with. I’m talking here about emotionally and physically abusive partners, parents, friends or colleagues. I had in my life one physically abusive friend who would pull me closer to her on the street so she can yell in my face about how I don’t understand her and I’m just immature and never listen to what she has to say.

She would often use emotional manipulation to make me feel guilty for ignoring her or not tuning to her every need. I cut the ties with her and it felt like I dropped an iron ball of pain from my chest. Even though I cared about her a lot, our communication was incredibly difficult.

5. See a therapist

Margarita Tartakovsky, writer at www.psychcentral.com thinks that, seeing a therapist will help you discover your level of self-esteem and plan ways to increase it. Having normal levels of self-esteem will benefit your relationships, for sure. When you’re not confident or are too scared to open up to others, you’ll make it difficult to form healthy relationships.

Having a strong sense of self will protect you from the negative influence of toxic relationships. When you discover your rights and build an electric field around you so that abuse cannot cross over, you’ll be happier to connect and be yourself with others without being controlled by the fear of being criticized, ridiculed or rejected.

After many years of going back and forth with some friends who were either verbally abusive, ignoring or controlling, I let go of them, which paved the way to new and fulfilling relationships.

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Written by Marlena Bontas
I'm a writer of fiction and non-fiction with an MA in Social Psychology. My favorite subjects to write about are mental health, wellness, society, culture and art. I relax with a cup of coffee or while listening to music.