Do you have “repeat boundary offenders” in your life? People who keep doing the thing they said they wouldn’t do, even though it upsets you?
Are you tired of boundary violations, but don’t know how to get through to boundary bullies?
If you are nodding your head yes, this episode is for you
I am talking all about how to create appropriate consequences for boundary violations and how to communicate these violations effectively to the people in your life. It’s time to put a stop to this groundhog day of frustration, pain, and suffering and to be understood.
Of course, setting consequences doesn’t guarantee someone will respect our boundaries, but effective communication (as opposed to no communication) gives them a chance to.
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
What Are Boundaries?
Boundaries are your preferences, limits, desires, and deal breakers – your own personal rules of engagement.
Boundaries let other people know what is okay with you and what is not okay with you.
Beyond knowing your boundaries, you also need the ability to clearly communicate your boundaries with others.
This definition of boundaries is what my work and my book, Boundary Boss, are based on.
Why is it Important to Set Boundaries?
You might wonder why it is important to communicate your preferences, limits, desires, and deal breakers. There are three amazing benefits of boundaries:
1) Boundaries protect us and our sovereignty. If someone tramples on your boundaries, you can protect yourself by communicating your boundaries to them.
2) Boundaries promote healthy relationships. When our feelings and desires go unspoken, or our needs go unmet, what happens? We become resentful or pissed off. Telling the truth about how you feel, what you want, and what you need is kind. Often, people in our lives have no idea how we feel or why we feel this way because we stay silent.
3) Boundaries establish self-respect. Having healthy boundaries, knowing what they are, and being able to express them enables you to take personal agency over your life.
Boundaries are great, but… what happens when someone crosses them?
The Importance of Consequences for Boundary Violations
Before we talk about setting appropriate boundary consequences, I want to make a distinction between boundary first-timers and boundary repeat offenders.
A boundary first-timer is someone you haven’t had a boundary conversation with, who might assume everything is fine because you are not saying otherwise.
Given the opportunity, a boundary first-timer might get on board with your boundaries as soon as you communicate them. They might apologize and express regret for their actions.
This might sound unrealistic to you, but I’ve taught boundaries for decades, and I can tell you some people simply aren’t good with social cues or don’t have the ability to take your temperature on things. Many of us think, if they were a decent human being, they would know better but this is not true.
If you have not had a boundary conversation with someone, now is the time. It is never too late to bring up something if it is bothering you. Give the boundary first-timers in your life an opportunity to respect your boundary by clearly communicating it to them. If they do respect it, then you’ve established a new way of interacting with clear expectations. 🎉
Boundary Repeat Offenders
A boundary repeat offender, on the other hand, is someone who violates a boundary you have clearly expressed, says they won’t do it again and does. You might complain or cry, but their behavior does not change.
Why We Need Consequences for Boundary Violations
The sad truth about human beings is, generally speaking, pain is our greatest motivator. Setting a consequence for a boundary violation will likely (though not necessarily) inflict pain. For example consequences for boundary violations often involve no longer doing something. As a result, the other person feels the loss of you in an interaction.
Here’s the thing with boundaries and consequences: it is not about controlling the other person. It is about protecting ourselves and our relationships. We have to set consequences for boundary violations because if we don’t, we continue having the same fights in our relationships, further causing us to feel unheard, unseen, or trampled over.
This happens all of the time in people’s lives and it is completely avoidable. The whole feeling of being used and abused and underappreciated often stems from not asserting our preferences, limits, or deal breakers. If we have, and the boundary violations continue, we might not have set appropriate consequences.
What Are the Challenges of Setting Consequences for Boundary Violations?
Many of us hesitate to set consequences for boundary violations out of fear, even though it is an important aspect of having healthy boundaries and relationships.
We are often afraid of conflict, rejection, or being perceived as selfish. We might be afraid we’ll feel guilty for asserting ourselves.
In addition to fear, if you are a people pleaser, there might be a certain level of comfort you get from being a martyr. This may not feel great to hear, but I can tell you it is true from personal experience. (I sure as hell am not judging you because I have been there myself.)
If you aren’t sure what to say when setting a consequence, I will give you a bunch of scripts for boundary violations in the guide. Download it here to start using these scripts today.
How to Decide on Appropriate Consequences for Boundary Violations
Consequences need to be comparable to the boundary violation in question. Not all boundaries are created equally, which is why preferences, limits, and deal breakers are distinct categories. Your deal breaker is a non-negotiable boundary, whereas a preference is negotiable.
Deal Breakers (Non-Negotiable Boundaries)
Before I met my husband, one of my non-negotiable boundaries in relationships was someone who had been in therapy. I said no thanks to unexamined minds because the alternative had been too frustrating and exhausting. I needed someone who took care of their own mental health and could talk about it with me.
I also didn’t want to date anyone in recovery. One person with addiction issues in a relationship is enough for me.
Many of my friends didn’t understand these deal breakers, but we all have a right to deal breakers regardless of whether others understand them. The key is knowing what they are in order to establish healthy boundaries and appropriate consequences.
I say this because, in my therapy practice and groups, women tend to question whether they have a right to their deal breakers. You do, as long as your deal breaker is not about controlling the other person.
For example, saying, “When you are out with your friends, you have to call/text me every hour” is not setting a boundary, it is trying to exert control.
Preferences (Negotiable Boundaries)
Unlike deal breakers, preferences are negotiable. If you and your partner live apart, you might want to talk with them once a day, while they find talking every day distracting.
Instead, your partner might suggest speaking Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then spending all weekend together. Compromising is only possible when you voice your preferences.
Establish boundaries in relationships early and often because healthy boundaries help train people to treat you well. When you establish a boundary, you are saying, “What I want, how I feel, and what I think is important.” When you stay silent, you deny the people in your life a chance to know you.
When you have self-consideration and a friend wants to hang out when your schedule is full, rather than canceling your plans, assert yourself and say, “Hey, Wednesday doesn’t work for me. I’m free on Thursday, though.” Advocating for yourself and getting your needs met avoids potential resentment if your friend cancels last second, and it helps you cultivate self-respect.
Examples of Boundary Violation Consequences
Consequences For Deal Breakers
We often only have immediate consequences with deal breakers. My friend Lisa Bilyeu (author of Radical Confidence and host of Women of Impact) communicated two big deal breakers to her husband when they began dating: “If you ever cheat on me or lay a hand on me in an aggressive way, there is no coming back. Those two things will end the relationship.”
This may sound ‘extreme’ to some people, but I thought it was amazing. There is a lot of respect in knowing who you are and what you will or will not stand for.
Consequences For Repeat Boundary Offenders
Let’s say you have a family member who constantly stops by your house with no notice. You can say, “I appreciate you wanting to visit me, but I’d like to make a simple request that you text to see if it’s a good time for me because I work from home, and it is not always a good time for me.”
If this family member continues to cross this boundary, you can say, “Hey, I asked you multiple times to let me know when you are coming over. Now I am telling you straight up: do not stop by. If you do, and you do not text me ahead of time, I will not open the door.” This consequence may sound extreme, but I do not think it is.
I had a client whose parents moved close to her and often visited her house unannounced (they had a key). After asking them not to do this multiple times, my client changed the locks on her door.
Her parents were upset, and they had a family meeting where she said, “I asked you many times not to stop by unannounced. You violated my boundary, my need for privacy, my home, my sanctuary – where I also work. I gave you plenty of warnings and asked you multiple times not to do this. Your lack of respect for my feelings upset me, and this is where we are.”
They began to respect her boundary after this meeting, and eight months later, she gave them a key to look after her plants while she was away.
While changing the locks was an extreme step for her, I do not think it was unreasonable. Family of origin can be the worst. It’s like her parents could not stop thinking of her as a child and felt like they had free run of her house.
An important note: my client was willing to let the chips fall where they may. When setting consequences for boundary violations, you cannot threaten to do something you are not willing to do.
Setting a Regular Boundary + a Consequence With a Colleague
Let’s say you have a colleague who constantly interrupts you in meetings. You can set a boundary by saying, “Hey, I would appreciate you letting me finish my thought before jumping in. I would love it if we could take turns speaking during the meeting.”
If they continue interrupting you in meetings, you can tell them, “I cannot continue to have productive meetings if you keep interrupting me. If your behavior continues, I will need to talk to our supervisor and HR to help us find a solution. I am not willing to sit in a meeting just to be interrupted.”
You’ve 1) set a boundary, 2) communicated it to them, and, after the boundary was crossed, 3) named a consequence to let them know, if this happens again, this is what I am doing.
In the guide, which you can download here, I give you step-by-step instructions to come up with your own consequences for boundary violations.
Simple Requests + Simple Consequences
If someone is always late, you can say, “If you are going to be late, please let me know.”
If they continue to be late without saying anything, then you can say, “The next time you don’t let me know you’re running late, I am leaving the restaurant. Sitting here for 20 minutes is infuriating and hurts my feelings, and I do not want to do it.”
Next time, if they leave you waiting for more than 10 minutes, leave. (This is how I established a better relationship with one of my sisters who was always late, and never let me know.) Leaving is better than being infuriated, right? You don’t have to put yourself through these situations if you don’t want to be in them.
Setting a Boundary Without a Consequence
One of my dear friends consistently ran extremely late, so I stopped meeting her in public places because I did not want to wait around for her. Instead, I invited her to my place when I knew I would be home and wouldn’t mind if she was late.
In this situation, a consequence to inflict pain wasn’t needed because I got something out of our friendship and wanted to spend time with her. I protected myself by changing what I was willing to do.
I hope this episode gave you food for thought about how you can be more effective with setting boundaries. Let me know if you set a consequence for a boundary violation and how it worked out for you over on Instagram (@terricole).
Don’t forget to download the guide for more examples and ways to come up with your own boundary violation consequences. Thank you, thank you, thank you for spending time with me today, have a great week setting boundaries (and consequences if you need to), and as always, take care of you.
P.S. The inspiration for this episode came from feedback on a 10-Day Boundary Challenge I did with Insight Timer (I have over 20 free meditations on there if you want to check it out!) Someone asked for more information on boundaries and consequences, and I thought I would do an episode on it. ♥️