Impossible People

Do you have people in your life who are so difficult, so demanding, that when it comes time for you to speak your mind or ask for what you want, it’s just not worth it?

Does the amount of stress this causes make you want to just appease them or continue to ‘suck it up’?

Today I am breaking down how to negotiate difficult relationships, and how to set boundaries with impossible people, including narcissists. In this week’s Real Love Revolution video, I cover:

  • What a boundary is
  • How to know your boundary style
  • The benefits of drawing healthy boundaries
  • Strategies and language for drawing boundaries with difficult people


Let’s start by identifying what boundaries are – the act of drawing a boundary is simply you being clear about what is okay with you and what isn’t in a relationship. If you were raised in a family system that didn’t teach you healthy boundaries, and most of us were raised with some kind of dysfunctional boundary system, it can be difficult to set healthy boundaries in adult life.

Drawing boundaries effectively is actually learning an entirely new language.

Think about who you are trying to draw boundaries within your life now. If you have a narcissist in your life, they will react very negatively to you trying to set a boundary.

Narcissists believe they are above the rules and feel entitled to get what they want. So when you try to set a boundary, they will do whatever they can to try to dissuade you.

Drawing boundaries with difficult people is not for the weak at heart, and you have to look at your own style of drawing boundaries to know what will work for you.

What kind of relationship do you have with these difficult people?

What is your part, your role, in this relationship?

Oftentimes when people are in these relationships, they give up because it’s easier to let the other person control every situation than to push back. But when you give in all the time to another person, you really lose yourself. It is your job to take care of yourself and to be clear about what you want.

The truth is, drawing boundaries is an act of love in relationships. When you draw a boundary, you are sharing valuable data about your authentic self. If the person is healthy enough to be flexible and really loves you, they will care about how you feel, even if they are initially defensive. And you can draw boundaries with kindness and love.

There are a few ways to set boundaries with difficult people.

Click here to download my Boundary Language Tips & Visualization Exercise to learn how.

The crucial element to setting successful boundaries is consistency, which can be challenging.

You have to learn the boundary basics and then use them over and over again to keep your boundaries firm, yet fair.

You need the courage to set boundaries, and I know you have that in you!

Drop me a comment here on the blog and let me know what resonated with you after watching the video above. Then head over to my YouTube Channel and SUBSCRIBE for FREE access to every Real Love Revolution vid! Join the conversation with #RealLoveRevolution on social media and share the love!

Thanks for watching, reading, and sharing!

And as always, take care of YOU.

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  1. My parents liked peace and quiet, we had a bully neighbor and she walked all over us, yelling at me when I was little for walking thru her yard and parents said nothing. I don’t know how to set boundaries, I have tried to talk to narcisstic parents and they are uncaring but I would like to know how to do it with people who do care. My good husband will raise his voice at me at times or drive me crazy complaining about drivers on the road, and I don’t want to hear it. I need to know how to tell him this is not ok. I tend to just give in and let him do it. I need to know how to take care of myself and this is helping a lot. Now I tell him Don’t Go There. This Is Not Ok. This Is Not Acceptable. He will back down and apologize but I usually just go into panic mode and freeze so I am trying.

  2. My mother in law is very controlling, narcissistic and a know it all. I’m very good at knowing how I feel, owning that and setting boundaries, but she’s extremely challenging. To make matters more challenging, my husband and I temporarily moved into his parents guest house to allow us a year to save extra for a house… I knew this was probably going to be a sh*t show, talked to my husband about it, and he assured me it would not be so bad and that he would handle himself well (she really get’s to him and he can’t control his emotions around her). Well, of course I was right. He’s not handling being here well, and i’m constantly trying to mediate situations. I want to say it’s good for us to be here because his dad’s health is not well, and the way his mother is caring for him concerns us both. I try to be helpful for the whole family, meanwhile trying to set boundaries with his mom, but she is a bulldozer. As an outsider looking in, I do not see this woman changing. Normally I would just avoid someone like this, but because of my husband and father in law I feel stuck. Sorry for the long backstory.
    Here are my thoughts on some replies to try to get through to her. I have to add this is a woman who will not take “NO” for an answer. I will use an example of the straw that broke my back today and i lost my temper with her, and then wished i dealt with it better:
    We are Easter making dinner together and I said “that smells good.” -“do you want to taste it?!” “no it’s ok, we’re about to eat” “taste it!” “no thanks” “TRY IT!” “Maria, i don’t feel like it. I know it’s delicious and we are about to eat.” “JUST TASTE IT! JUST TASTE IT!” “Maria! Stop.” (feeling extremely awkward) She glares at me “WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS?” (This was where i snapped)
    Potential responses: “Would you like me to do what you want, or can respect how i’m feeling right now?”
    “My preference is to wait till dinner, and i’m not going to argue with you about it anymore.” “You are making me feel uncomfortable. I need you to hear me and respect my feelings right now.” “I know you think offering me is a nice gesture, but ignoring how i’m feeling or my preferences is not a nice feeling.”
    What do you think?

    1. Thanks for sharing, Angela.I had a client once who had a MIL who said the most offensive and inappropriate things (especially when the MIL was drinking) and we made a plan that instead of being offended, getting into it or worrying about WHY the MIL was saying what she was, my client would say,” Oh my God, Janet you are so funny” and then she would smile or laugh (and find a reason to leave the conversation). This actually worked for her and the MIL stopped trying to provoke her in the same way because it stopped working. I am not saying this intervention is right in your circumstance but I am suggesting that you take back the narrative. Clearly, your husband has unresolved stuff with his mom and much of the time this plays out in triangulation with you basically being in the middle. I like the language you came up and think short, sweet and firm is the way to go. Remember you don’t need to convince her that you have a right to be the boss of you-you just got to BE the boss of you, ya know?

  3. I run into this video by chance and it was great! So I immediately subscribed to the Youtube channel, the FB page and I want to do the Bootcamp. Thank you Terri, it was so inspiring!
    When I had to visualize the problematic situation it wasn’t very difficult, because the persons with whom I have difficulties setting boundaries are my parents.
    I still live with them even if I am 51 and they are old now. I work and give them most of my salary. They would use and still use an educational method based on shame, so the last scene when I should have put better boundaries happened on Friday: I went to ask for a new passport and when I came back home my parents were waiting for me, asking where do I want to go with that passport and insinuating that I have a man abroad (trying to shame me). I reacted with anger, and I know it isn’t the right way to put boundaries. Could you suggest me away to put better ones? Thank you very much Terri! Compliments for the great work!


    1. Hi Terri, so eye-opening, thsnk you! I had always thought of myself as a very confident, strong and independent woman but somehow in all my love relationships I never asked for the other person to compromise, I somehow never dared to ask for what I truly wanted, mainly because I felt like I never wanted to change a person, or ask something of them (I don’t mean small stuff like doing the dishes which are never an issue but big things like commitment, cheating, lying etc.) I somehow had the idea that they will realize, and I saw myself as the cool girlfriend who doesn’t need to be clingy or ask for things (to stop) I expressed my feelings but I never made any ultimatums and somehow I realized my boundaries were never respected… My question: in my current relationship I now did set an ultimatum after 7months of giving him new chances to stop lying…I felt like I was breaking down as a person, I can mediate and grow and give him space to change but the past weeks I just couldn’t take it any longer..why can’t the person who loves me respect me enough to quit lying.. When I did ask him to decide, he totally shut down, no emotional reaction about me leaving, no possibility to talk – and it happened many times just mentioning whenever he did sth that hurt me. So my question: you propose how to react when the person raises their voice, picks a fight etc. What do you do when you can never talk about things that hurt you (no matter how softly I say it and how often I say that this is not about making him feel bad) because other person is totally unresponsive (even when I make him aware of his pain body activation… he had a very controling ex)? I feel so lost.. Thanks so much for all, Terri

      1. Thank you so much for sharing your story here. It’s important to know it is not your responsibility to point out his pain body activation, that is his responsibility to notice and manage. We cannot control what other people do, but we can control our reactions. You have the power to set boundaries of what is ok and what is not ok, and you can make a simple request that they do not yell at you. You have the right to state your boundary and enforce it (what will you do if the boundary is violated? End the conversation, leave the room, etc?). I’m witnessing you with compassion and sending you strength!

  4. Hi Terri! Thank you so much for your video on Boundaries. I love the idea of a Boundary Bootcamp! I’ll be on the lookout for these in August. I had a friend who I am almost positive was and is narcissistic. We were friends since grade school and over the years (40+ of them) I just tolerated her abrasive, bullying, controlling behavior because as you so aptly put it, it was easier than making waves and dealing with the consequences. I had tried talking to her gently about how her behavior made me feel, but nothing ever changed. I finally had it with her when she tried to bully me about how I was improperly taking care of my elderly father. THAT was the last straw! I called her, told her EXACTLY how I felt and gave her the ultimatum that she could make our friendship work for both of us by not yelling and grandstanding when I ask her not to or she could walk away mad and indignant. She got angry and defensive at me and then started dredging up all of these supposed ways I had wronger her in the past (the kitchen sink approach). That was over 2 years ago and I have not heard from her since. I do distinctly remember that it scared the hell out of me to confront her like that. I miss the companionship at times now, but I know my life is much better off (and calmer) without her in it.

  5. Hello Terri, thank you so much for all the focus you’ve been putting on narcissists & boundaries. I only came to the realization several years ago that my mother is a narcissist ….how elated I was to finally realize there was no way I would ever make her happy and then stopped. My dad just seems to go along with her and he stopped calling after I sent mom a letter. We live on opposite sides of the country, so I wrote her a long letter explaining how & what things were so hurtful to me. I told her I was not asking her to change, but that I needed to step back away from her and removed her from my inner circle. I don’t have to worry about sharing things with her because she NEVER asks about me, any communication is 100% about her. I saw her last month for first time in 3 years, there was no, you look great or bad, no how’s work, no where are you staying, etc etc etc. Other than removing her from my inner circle, I don’t know what else to do or say. We rarely communicate, and the odd email from me is just saying hello & hoping all is well, say hi to dad. The odd email from her is all about her and how wonderful everyone else, your brother works so hard, I’m sound proud of your niece etc. This weekend dad sent me a text with picture of all the dead fish he caught….I’m vegan. Even though communications is minimal, it still really hurts to know my parents don’t give a rats ass about my life or my feelings. I’d love some help & suggestions on ways that I can express & enforce that I matter and I won’t tolerate being invisible anymore.
    Thank you.

    1. Shelley,
      I am sorry to hear abut your painful family situation. I say focus on yourself and building relationships with people out side of your family of origin. You DO matter and you don’t need to convince them of that. As long as you know it. Drawing better boundaries around how and when you interact with them may also empower you. I am holding space for your healing.

  6. Thank you Terry, that was helpful ? Drawing boundaries in my personal life (as opposed to my professional where I’ve always been really clear, strong and balanced) has been a huge challenge in my life and for a long time i couldn’t even see it… Like the elefant in the room ☺️ However, 4years ago i decided to break that behavior pattern and – like you said- started to learn a new language. At first it was excruciating, all my abandonment issues surfaced intensely, but i perservered and today i am much more capable of drawing boundaries. However, what saddens me is that i lost a lot friends (though i get that some clearing had to happen) but still today i face this disappointment: someone i thought was a good friend cannot stand the moment when i claim a boundary and cut me from their lives. Is there still smt i am still doing wrong? Many thanks! J.

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