A Guide To Enforcing Boundaries

concerned black couple sitting on bed in misunderstanding

Real Talk: There is absolutely no reason to set boundaries IF you do not enforce them.

Let’s face it: setting boundaries can be terrifying! If you are a “people-pleaser” or “go with the flow” personality type, the act of setting boundaries can be a challenging step to take. If you are willing to protect your space and set boundaries that help you build healthy, meaningful connections with others, then you deserve to reap the benefits of those boundaries.

If I create boundaries, won’t people just respect them? This is a multifaceted question. First, you have to share your boundaries clearly and explicitly with the other person in order for them to know where your boundaries are. However, secondly, people do not always believe that the boundaries apply to them, so they may not listen and act accordingly. Moreover, there are also people who will cross your boundary line simply because they can. If you do not enforce the boundaries you create, then many may feel inclined to exploit you and your boundaries.

But here’s the thing: you are allowed encouraged to draw a line between what makes you feel comfortable and what makes you feel uncomfortable. You deserve to feel good about yourself and your relationships. It does not make you a bad person for creating boundaries. Just remember to also respect other people’s boundaries as well!

So, once you decide on what your boundaries are, how do you enforce them?

Here’s my mini guide:

  1. Share your boundaries with the other person. Be clear and explicit. Examples:
    1. “It makes me feel uncomfortable when you touch my leg. I would appreciate it if you would not touch me without my consent.”
    2. “I feel hurt when you make fun of my intelligence. I understand you intend it as a joke, but I do not receive it that way. I would feel better if you would not make fun of me anymore.”
    3. “I am here for you, but right now, I am not in the right headspace to provide the support you need and deserve from me. I would love to help you find someone else who can be there the way you need.
  2. If they do not listen to your boundaries and cross the line, then remind them. Be forceful but polite. People do not often respond well when they feel attacked.
    1. “I told you before that this makes me uncomfortable. Please do not touch me again without asking if I am comfortable first.”
    2. “Please do not make fun of me. I have clearly explained that it makes me feel hurt.”
    3. “I am not in the right headspace as I mentioned earlier. I cannot provide the support you need right now.”
  3. Recognize that “no” is a full sentence. You do not have to explain yourself. We often feel like we need to give a reason after the word “No” or phrase “I do not want to.” You do not owe anyone an explanation. If you are not comfortable, if you do not want to, if you cannot, etc., you do not have to explain why. No is a full sentence and does not require justification.
    1. If you do not want to go out, you can simply say “No.”
    2. If you do not want to engage in an activity, you can simply say “No.”
    3. If you do not want to buy something, you can simply say “No.”
  4. Do not be afraid to change the nature of a relationship to protect the boundaries you have created. This may be an unpopular opinion, but it is okay to end or change relationships with people who do not respect you and your boundaries.
    1. It is okay to not spend as much time with someone who is emotionally draining you.
    2. You do not have to hang out with someone who is disrespecting your boundaries or even inadvertently causing you harm.
    3. Even if they are a family member or longtime friend, you do not have to compromise your own emotional health, space, or boundaries to satisfy them.
  5. Respect the other person’s boundaries. People tend to respond better when they also feel included and important. Someone is more likely to respect your boundaries when you also make the effort to respect theirs. Do not be afraid to ask them about their boundaries too!
    1. I want to also respect your boundaries. What are your boundaries?
    2. Is there anything I have said or done that has made you feel uncomfortable?
    3. How can I respect your boundaries?

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