Your entire life is constructed of boundaries.
Your coworkers know how to treat you because of your office culture, because of your company’s policies, because of common sense. Your family knows how to treat you because of what you have shown them you’ll tolerate. The people around you know how to treat you based on how you treat yourself.
It is not only important to have boundaries, it’s fundamental. No relationship can thrive without a strong sense of another person’s limits, and your entire life is built of relationships in different forms.
The most basic social boundaries are what we call showing simple respect. Usually, people know where these boundaries are and they know not to cross them. But when you find yourself in a codependent relationship, or a relationship in which another person does not seem to be able to interpret your boundaries at all, the first question you must ask yourself is this: did I ever set them in the first place?
You cannot fault other people for crossing the boundaries you never had the courage to set. Nobody else is responsible for mind-reading, or interpreting your passive-aggressive cues as constructive feedback on how to treat you.
When someone crosses one of your boundaries for the first time and you tell them that their behavior isn’t okay, it tends to adjust on its own. That person either adapts, or you stop engaging with them if they don’t respect you enough to honor your comfortability.
But when someone crosses one of your boundaries and you don’t say anything about it — which most people don’t, not initially — you swallow that feeling of being disrespected and violated, and it starts to churn into something sickening. Little by little, your resentment of this person breeds. You begin to pick out unseemly facts about them. Your perception of them, over time, skews more negative than positive. This is all a defense mechanism. This is all your way of unconsciously detaching because you don’t feel safe.
If those boundaries keep getting crossed and you still don’t speak up, then eventually that annoyance boils into anger and outrage.
You start blow-up fights over otherwise innocuous moments. It’s confusing to be on the receiving end, because it feels as though you’re just overreacting. What that person doesn’t see is that the problem is really a tipping point.
If you don’t set boundaries in healthy ways, you will eventually have no choice but to set them in unhealthy ones.
Everyone sets boundaries eventually.
Everyone feels the need to protect themselves eventually.
Everyone gets pushed to the point of having to fight back eventually.
The question is only when you do it, which largely determines how you’ll do it as well.
When you can state your boundaries from the onset, communicating in a completely clear way what you’re willing to do, how accessible you’re going to be, and what kind of relationship you’re able to have, you’ll find that your entire experience of another person is shifted.
When you can’t and don’t, you end up waiting until they’ve walked over you so far, you have no choice but to retaliate.
Is it right for someone to cross your boundaries? No, of course not. But it’s also not right to assume that everyone else around you can intuit exactly what you need and when.
The best way to ensure that other people honor your limits is by telling them what those limits are.
You cannot fault someone for crossing the boundaries you never set in the first place.