How to Deal With People Breaking Your Boundaries
It can be hard to distinguish what is acceptable and what is not, especially in your daily life. Understand your boundaries and what you can do when people break them.
There are many situations and relationships in life that can make you uncomfortable. However, instead of doing something to resolve these situations, many people choose to brush them off without thinking about why they were uncomfortable and what could have been done.
Not many people have a clear concept of what their boundaries are, and when that’s the case, other people can violate these boundaries. When your boundaries keep getting broken, it can result in:
- You begin justifying others’ bad behaviour
- You begin blaming yourself
- Feelings of shame, self-doubt, exhaustion and hurt
- Becoming accustomed to your choices and decisions being disregarded
- Resenting those around you
- Becoming overwhelmed
Understand what boundaries are and what you should do when they are broken.
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What Are Boundaries?
As told by American psychotherapist Sharon Martin, boundaries are imaginary lines. An imaginary line separates your space (physical and emotional), needs, wants, and more from everyone else’s. Your boundaries are important in letting other people know how you want to be treated and what is not acceptable.
When you don’t have clear boundaries, it enables other people to take advantage and repeatedly cross into your private space, which can be uncomfortable for you. According to Apollo Hospitals psychologist Dr. Savita Menon, ‘You don’t need to tolerate someone else’s bad behaviour for societal niceties,’ and it’s time to act when you know your boundaries are being broken.
According to Dr. Savita, people who have lived in close proximities with others throughout their life with boundaries constantly being broken cannot recognise what these boundaries are anymore. In areas where joint families are the norm, boundaries can remain unclear.
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How to Recognise Boundaries Being Broken
Once boundaries start being broken, there is never an end to it; recognising the signs at the start is crucial to take action. You should be able to identify questions and situations that are invasive and intrude on your privacy. It can include:
- Invasive questions: Where is your husband? Is he your boyfriend? How much is your salary? Why isn’t your child getting married? What are your plans for the future?
- Uncomfortable situations: Being touched in any way, constantly being asked to adjust, or if your personal space is being intruded upon.
Many boundaries can be broken, and you need to recognise how it makes you feel. It can be something as simple as someone not returning an item they borrowed from you, despite multiple requests. You have to decide what your boundaries are and what you can tolerate.
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What You Can Do
According to Dr. Savita, you should have several responses when your boundaries are being broken. Emotional boundaries require a different approach, whereas physical boundaries need a firm response. Here is what you should do according to her:
- Understand what (intrusive) questions you are not obliged to answer, no matter who it’s coming from – give evasive answers or choose to keep silent.
- Opting for answers like ‘I’m really busy,’ ‘Can we talk about this another time?’ with people close to you but where you still want to avoid giving answers.
- If evasive answers are not working, simply saying that you don’t want to talk about it is the best way forward. Firm and clear responses should be given so you can establish and protect your boundary.
Keeping calm and firm in situations where your privacy and personal space are in danger is crucial. You should not fall into the trap of giving information when intrusive questions are being asked, especially when it makes you uncomfortable. You might feel obliged to answer these questions, especially when asked by people close to you, but know when it’s too much for you. Some sample answers in these situations are:
- Let’s change the topic.
- No, I don’t want to talk about this.
- I am uncomfortable talking about this.
- Please don’t do this because I don’t feel okay.
- I don’t like this and need it to stop.
When your physical boundaries are being broken, a strict response is required. If you can’t brush off someone who is too close or touching you, try leaving the room altogether. You can try distancing yourself from people who are intruding on your physical space, or choose not to be involved in such situations from the start.
"It is never okay to not take care of yourself in these situations," says Dr. Savita. Learning your lesson from situations where your boundaries are being broken is essential, so you can keep your guard up in similar situations moving ahead.
If nothing is working, give a loud and firm statement that you don’t like being touched, or distance yourself physically and let them know it’s not okay to come close to you again.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
“You don’t ever need to accept your boundaries being broken because it means living with constant discomfort, and no one needs to live like that,” says Dr. Savita. If you don’t want to answer bluntly when your boundaries are broken, come up with softer responses that still achieve what you want. How you respond to these situations can depend, but a response re-establishing your boundary is crucial.
When you’re looking to establish healthy boundaries, understand that neither you nor anyone around you should be in the business of snooping. Asking intrusive questions or snooping on someone else’s phone (like your partner’s) is never okay. Asking is always the better option.
Some people may feel wronged when you ask them to respect your boundaries. It might take time, but you need to communicate clearly with the other person so they understand. Ensure that you are firm and clear on where you draw the line.
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All situations where boundaries are being broken require a response, but you have to navigate and choose the right response for yourself.
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