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  • Kim Keys, LCPC

Boundaries with the Boundary-Less

Updated: May 30, 2019

You know the story. You’re in a huge fight with your spouse and emotions are mounting and you’re afraid you’re gong to say something you regret, so you try to walk away…and they just follow you.

Or you’ve asked that your friend be on time so you can carpool to class without getting another tardy!

Or you’ve asked your dad to stop cussing around your young kids and he just keeps at it.

It’s an easy thing to set boundaries with people who respect boundaries. It’s a whole other ball game to set boundaries with individuals who are BENT on not respecting them. Here’s our 3-step rule.

1. State the boundary. “Dad, I’d like you to please watch your language around me/the kids, we don’t talk that way in our home and it undermines the modeling we’re trying to provide them.”

2. Repeat it. “Dad, I’ve asked you to not cuss around the kids, I’m asking you to respect that.”

3. Take action. “Dad, I’d love to invite you to dinner, but I can’t because you can’t seem to respect my boundaries, we’ll try again when you can.”

Those seem easy right? Well they’re not! They are simple, but it’s not easy. Here’s what you can expect. When you set a boundary (Step 1), you can expect the person to get WORSE! (What? That doesn’t make any sense). People expect their relationships to function in a way they are used to. When you set a boundary you’re changing that pattern, and like children, people who don’t have their own boundaries will push the limits to see where they REALLY are. So they’ll get worse and they’ll test. You’ll repeat the boundary (Step 2) and again they’ll push! They’ll get worse. They’ll get louder, meaner, cuss more, follow more, etc. And when you take action (Step 3) they will be SHOCKED and maybe hurt. They’ll accuse you of all sorts of things. “How could you do this to me?” “You’re so selfish,” etc. All because you’ve set a boundary.

This is where the ‘hidden’ fourth step comes in. The reason it’s hidden is it doesn’t apply to all relationships. It only applies to the relationships you care to keep or protect in some way. The fourth step is to do what you can to correct the misconception of your boundary. It might sound like this:

“Dad, no. I don’t hate you. In fact I really love you and want to spend time with you. What I SAID was I would like you to not cuss around the kids.”

We often encourage our clients to repeat Step 4 as many times as it comes up. Whenever you’re accused, whenever the other person TWISTS your boundary into something it’s not like, “You’re mad at me, you hate me, you’re selfish, etc.” You can correct that misconception and re-state the boundary. After all, boundaries are the WAY we can deeply LOVE the individuals in our lives instead of bearing hidden resentments because we’ve set a boundary that was disrespected.

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