Telling people your boundaries isn't supposed to feel comfortable at first. You aren't supposed to walk away jumping for joy. But slowly, with practice, you'll find a deep sense of relief and freedom around certain aspects of your life. Nedra Glover Tawwab is a Charlotte, NC-based therapist, boundaries expert and best-selling author of Set Boundaries Find Peace: A Guide To Reclaiming Yourself.
She frequently talks about boundaries practice on her Instagram page and has excellent insight in her book. Here's what I've learned about why people might not be respecting your boundaries.
1. You haven't communicated your boundaries clear enough.
You think people can read your mind, but they can't. People simply don't respect your boundaries because you haven't stated what they are. Giving your partner the cold shoulder isn't communicating your boundary. Either is shouting, "you should know what you did!' Maybe they should. But just to be clear, why not tell them? Be specific. How we interpret the meaning of one word might not be how others receive it.
For example, what do you mean when you say," you don't respect me?" Respect can be interpreted in many ways. Communicate what respect looks like for you. "Please do not talk over me when I am speaking. I find it disrespectful when you do that." We come from different ways of being. Some of us may have grown up in families where behaviours like talking over each other were perfectly normal. When we come together, the way to show what acceptable behaviour means to us is to communicate them.
An article published by Psych Central says that boundaries are the lines we draw for ourselves around how comfortable we feel around other people. They can include physical space, emotional comfort, verbal interactions, our workplace, and so much more. We must declare to the world what we want and what we don't. Another boundary statement is, "I don't respond to emails after 5 pm. If you send an email after that time, expect a response in the morning."
2. Your boundaries are too loose.
Loose boundaries are a shaky attempt at creating new boundaries. You've made a boundary, but you've given the impression that it's up for negotiation. This may show up as wavering your voice, speaking softly, lowering your head or any other type of body language that makes you seem uncertain. Ideally, people should still respect your boundaries, but let's face it, a lot won't. People think that if they annoy you or guilt-trip you enough, they'll get what they want. Is this true?
Changing your boundaries as your needs and life change is okay. Changing your boundaries every time someone puts pressure on you tells them that what you want isn't a priority. It shows that you're willing to compromise your needs.
Remind yourself why you made the boundary. Maybe it's to protect your health when people keep pressuring you to eat harmful foods or make demands on your time. Remembering the significance of your boundary can help you uphold them. Maybe you want to eat healthy because it reduces your risk of getting a heart attack. And that's important because you promised your daughter you'd hike Everest base camp with her after high school. Communicating boundaries firmly and intentionally can help support your why.
3. You think communicating your boundaries only once is enough.
People need time to adjust to this new boundary setting you. They'll push your limits to see if you mean what you say. Expect this. Often, you must repeat your boundaries until the other person knows you're serious. Family members can push your boundary limits like no other. Family members may think you owe them more of yourself and that your boundaries are selfish or unloving. Boundaries are the blueprint of your life and how you show up in the world. It can be one of the most loving things you do for yourself, thereby showing others how to love themselves too.
You must remind people of your boundaries. Suppose your mother gives your son milk in the evening when you explicitly told her not to. You can remind her that you don't want your son to have dairy products after 6 pm. The next time she forgets, you can remind her again. At a certain point, you say, "Hey, that's enough."
Now you have to decide the consequence for disregarding your boundaries. Maybe you'll write a list of what your son is allowed to drink and what he's not so that you're clear. Maybe your Mothers visits with your son will have to be supervised.
Remember, boundaries can take some adjustment time. People need reminders.
4. You don't have any consequences for violating your boundaries.
Boundaries need consequences when violated. The result of overstepping your boundaries will have to be an act of self-governance because you can't control other people. People hear your boundaries but don't know how important they are until you show them. Let's face it. Everyone isn't going to be happy with the boundaries you've set. And deep down, you're scared of the relationships you might lose. If others reject your boundaries, it may mean losing a friend or distancing yourself from a family member. It could mean walking away from a job. You must be willing to stand up for what you want.
5. You haven't asked them to stop asking you.
People don't respect your boundaries because you haven't asked them to stop asking you about a request you already said no to. They might not know that you're annoyed or irritated. People will assume everything is fine until you tell them otherwise.
Maybe they think they're being proactive by repeatedly asking. Telling others to stop asking lets them know that you don't plan on giving in. It can also let them know that you've heard them but don't plan to change your mind at this time. Boundaries are always a communication game that you have to be clear and consistent at to win.
Here's asking someone to stop, might sound, "I've asked you to stop asking me to get drunk with you. I understand you want to drink and have a good time, but I already said no. If you keep asking, I won't be able to hang out with you anymore."
“The ability to say no to yourself is a gift. If you can resist your urges, change your habits, and say yes to only what you deem truly meaningful, you’ll be practicing healthy self-boundaries. It’s your responsibility to care for yourself without excuses.”― Nedra Glover Tawwab
Boundaries may not be the easiest conversation to navigate, but your boundaries are worth it. When you set boundaries, you find peace. When you set boundaries, the right type of people and relationships stay in your life.
WRITTEN BYArlene Ambrose