Have Trouble Enforcing Your Boundaries? Here’s How You Do It.

Sep 28, 2020

Wouldn’t it be nice if, when we confronted someone, it ended positively each time? Wouldn’t it be nice if every time you confronted a hurtful person, he or she realized what they did wrong, and you could go on? Of course it would.

That’s not always the case, is it. So, now what do you do? You’ve established your personal boundaries, and you can’t force someone to change. What’s left?

If the person doesn’t respond to the initial confrontation, we need to take a stronger stand by giving him or her some consequences. Consequences work at times when talking does not. For example, if your spouse gets argumentative when you bring up an issue, and continues to do so despite your requests otherwise, you can tell your spouse, “I would love to talk about this. But as I have told you, I don’t like the angry attacks. So I will only talk to you when a counselor is there. I will make an appointment, and if you want to talk to me about it, I will talk there.” Consequences should be punitive, just something that naturally follows the behavior.

Here are some other examples of natural consequences:

“I value talking to people, not being yelled at. I will be in the other room when you stop yelling and want to talk.”

“I have asked you to limit your drinking. When you don’t, I will ride home with someone else.”

“I do not associate with drugs. As long as you are not dealing with your problem, I won’t be seeing you.”

“I will not sleep with you as long as you are into pornography. I will not share myself with others, even in your mind.”

“Honesty is one of the most important things in any relationship. What happened the other day was not honest. I cannot go forward until we resolve that.”

“Kindness is an important value to me. What you did was mean, and it hurt. I do not allow myself to be treated like that. When you can see that what you did was wrong, let me know.”

“I desire feedback, not condemnation. What you gave me is not helpful. They were only put-downs. If you can be constructive in your criticism, I will be glad to listen. Do you understand?” If the person says “yes,” great; but if the person says “no,” say, “Then until you can say it nicely, please keep your thoughts to yourself.”

“Faithfulness is one of the most important things in a relationship. I will not tolerate being cheated on. You can leave until you figure out what you are going to do about making this right.”

In addition, you might need to bring other people into the conflict, as in an intervention. We bring in others who have some leverage in the person’s life in order to turn up the heat and to get the person to see the problem. It’s critical to remember that we cannot control another person’s response to confrontation and the truth. All we can do is confront in love and offer consequences. If that person does not respond to the light, and the issue is serious, the blueprint still applies: Stand on your values. Do not go forward to participate in the bad. You remain in the light. If the person wants to remain in the darkness, so be it, but you are not to participate. You may need to separate yourself from this person until he or she faces the issue and is willing to change the harmful behavior.