A husband yells at his wife, “How dare you show me such disrespect!” when she finally has the courage to leave the room when he gets volatile.
A woman plays the victim card–“That’s what I get for trying to help!”—when confronted gently about how her family member would prefer that she not rummage through his personal belongings.
A toddler throws a tantrum when his mother explains that he’s not getting any dessert until he finishes his dinner.
A man working at a mall kiosk continues to push you into buying a product when you have already told him no twice.
A husband ignores and emotionally distances himself from his wife who wasn’t in the mood for sex tonight.
A pastor scolds and guilt trips a member of the congregation who chose to go to his niece’s birthday party rather than attend the mid-week service.
A man coaxes and manipulates his girlfriend into being physical when she has communicated that she’s uncomfortable with how fast things are progressing in the relationship.
A man quotes scripture on submission when his wife questions his decisions.
A woman slanders her family member and spreads lies when said family member chose not to spend time with her.
A door-to-door salesman walks off in a huff when you refuse to buy his product.
These all have something in common. These are people’s unhealthy and hurtful responses to the boundaries of others. When you decide to set boundaries in your life—with your children, your spouse, your parents, your in-laws, your friends, and mere acquaintances—you will encounter resistance.
It’s important to realize that any resistance you experience from YOU taking authority over YOUR life is not your fault. Actually, resistance is a sure sign that you’re doing the right thing in these relationships. It’s a sign that these people do not value your freedom and would rather be in control of the relationship, or at least parts of the relationship.
The fact is, a relationship is made of two distinct individuals. All relationships require flexibility and adjustments so that it can flourish. The problem occurs when one person doesn’t believe he has to change in order for the relationship to work. He thinks the other person should merely cater to his needs and desires.
In my healthy relationships with others, my friends respect my boundaries and actually encourage them; and I do the same for them! I want my friends to know that, above all else, they are free in this relationship. I do not want them to feel pressured or obligated in any way. My personal boundaries also ensure that I am always giving willingly. My yes means yes—every time. In this way, we are giving from a heart of love: I want to call you! I want to hang out with you! (Read My Yes Means Yes for more on this topic).
The other point I want to make is that you need support. When I began implementing boundaries for the first time, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband and good friends who supported my decision. With so much resistance, it’s easy to think that we’re doing the wrong thing.
I have been called selfish, mean, rude, un-Christian, and other things just for taking authority of what is mine. With all this attacking, I was tempted to back down. I began thinking, “Am I really doing the right thing? How can this be good if this person is so mad at me?” Again, resistance is a sign that the other person does not value your freedom. They would rather control you.
So, get a support team before implementing boundaries. Make sure these are trustworthy people who will encourage you and help you stick to your boundaries. When you encounter resistance from people who don’t appreciate your new-found courage and freedom, you won’t feel the need to get in an argument with them because you know you have supportive people waiting to embrace you.
My last message is for any of the perpetrators out there reading this. I don’t know the exact root cause of your disdain for others’ freedom and their taking ownership of their lives, but I want you to know that sometimes your reactions can be downright hurtful. I’m sure this is not intentional, but this is causing a wedge to be driven further between you and your loved ones.
YOUR actions are pushing them away. YOUR actions are causing distrust in the relationship. YOUR actions communicate that you do not truly care about or respect these people; rather, they communicate that you’re only interested in the relationship if it’s on your terms.
My boundaries are how I communicate what I want and what I don’t want in the relationship. They are never an attempt to control anyone but myself.
My boundaries are my attempt at a healthy relationship with you. They are a way of communicating, “Hey, I matter too.” I’m not interested in a shallow relationship where you get everything you want and I just have to suck it up and deal with it.
One last thing: love ≠ saying yes. And hate ≠ saying no. Just because I have boundaries does not mean I don’t want you in my life and it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.
What do you think? Have you had people who resisted your boundaries? What kind of reactions have you gotten? Have you been on the other side of things and been the one who resisted someone’s boundaries? Why do boundaries sometimes feel hurtful? Please comment your responses below!
For more on this subject, I recommend:
The “Boundaries” series by John Townsend and Henry Cloud
“Keep Your Love On” by Danny Silk
“Safe People” by Henry Cloud
I’ve been dealing with this a lot. It takes so much courage not to let people walk on me. But if I do let them, it’s my fault. It always felt like their fault. But it’s my responsibility to set my boundaries. I just wish the how was as easy to figure out. Sometimes, I’m dealing with someone and I have no clue how to draw a line in that particular situation, like when permanently walking away isn’t really an option. Sometimes you have to deal with people (like, say, with a spouse) and if he/she doesn’t respect a boundary, that really hurts. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to know exactly what to do in the moment. It’s easier the further away the relationship is to you, obviously. But the closer the relationship, the more crucial boundaries become. Tough stuff.
Yes, so true. It’s so hard when it’s someone close to you. It’s a lot easier when it’s just the guy at the mall kiosk! There’s that balance of loving someone while still setting appropriate boundaries. It just sucks when it’s someone we love so much and they continually choose their way over real, intimate relationship.
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I love this!!! God has definitely grown me in boundaries and it’s amazing how people resist change and someone else’s growth. I still have leaps and bounds to grow in this area but I’m learning the only one I need to please is God and if others feel hurt, I’m very sorry but not responsible for their feelings. This is a lesson 8 years in the making!
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We’re not responsible for their feelings– excellent point that we need to remember when dealing with people who resist out boundaries. And I think you hit the nail on the head about only needing to please God. Things get muddled when we lose sight of what He’s calling us to do and we start living by the fear of man.
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Dani, this is so good! Thank you for articulating this topic so well. I’m the person who feels stressed when people set boundaries on time and doing relationship in time. In most other areas my boundaries are firmly in tact (I think).
I’ve been late for everything my whole life. I experience the feeling of being limited to and confined in/to time, quite stressful. This has more to do with time management, but I feel the allotted time for most things is never quite enough. This of course comes across as disrespectful of the other person’s boundaries.
I would appreciate your insight on this and how to get victory in this area.
Maybe we could get together and talk about this a little more. It seems like there’s more to it. I appreciate your perspective on this.