Love is Setting Boundaries: When Boundaries Aren’t Respected

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Love is Setting Boundaries: When Boundaries Aren’t Respected

For Teen DV Month, we’re talking about setting healthy boundaries in relationships. Today, we’re discussing what happens when boundaries aren’t respected.

In our previous post, we talked about how boundaries help you honor your own needs and feelings by defining what you are comfortable with and how you’d like to be treated by others. In a relationship, both people have the right to set their own boundaries AND have those boundaries respected, no matter what. But what happens if someone crosses a line? How do you deal with it? Here’s what to consider if…

…Your Relationship Is Safe:

In a healthy relationship, open communication is crucial. If your partner does something that upsets you or makes you uncomfortable, you have a right to address it with them. If you don’t have any safety concerns and you feel like your relationship is in a pretty healthy place, having a conversation with your partner about a boundary violation could be really helpful. Depending on the situation, you can address it as soon as it happens, or you can take some time to think about what you want to say. It might even help to write down what you want to say before talking with your partner.

For example, let’s imagine you and your partner are hanging around the house and your partner slaps your butt as you’re walking past. If that makes you uncomfortable, in that moment you could say, “Hey, I’m not ok with that,” and take your conversation from there. But if you and your partner are out to dinner with family and your partner does something that makes you uncomfortable, you might feel like it’s best to wait until the two of you are alone to bring it up. Either way, you do have a right to say something to your partner.

When discussing the situation, use “I” statements (ex. “I feel this way when…”), and talk with your partner about why the boundary was crossed and any steps you can both take to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Being able to hold each other accountable is part of building a healthy relationship. To read more about how to approach that conversation, you can also check out our pages on conflict resolution and healthy communication. And remember, our advocates are here to help!

…Your Relationship Might Not Be Safe:

If your partner is repeatedly crossing your boundaries, they aren’t willing to discuss boundaries with you, or you notice that your partner is guilt-tripping you for even having boundaries, your relationship is likely very unhealthy and could become abusive if your partner’s behaviors continue and escalate.

If you are in an unhealthy relationship and a boundary is crossed, having a conversation with your partner may not be a safe option for you. You do have the right to be firm and clear about your boundaries, because you always deserve to have your boundaries respected, but it is also important to consider your safety. You might talk to a trusted friend or family member or chat with a loveisrespect peer advocate, and try thinking about whether or not this is a relationship in which you can feel safe and respected. It’s important to remember that if someone doesn’t respect you, they won’t respect your boundaries, and vice versa.

You might also consider documenting any instances of harmful or abusive behavior in case you decide to file a protective order or get legal help in the future. Having your thoughts or feelings written or saved somewhere where your partner can’t access them may also work as a reminder of times you were hurt or major boundaries were crossed, in case you ever start to question yourself or believe the abuse was your fault (hint: it never is).

…Your Relationship Is Definitely Not Safe:

Maybe you’ve realized that your relationship is abusive and your partner isn’t a safe person to talk to about your boundaries. What now? If your partner isn’t allowing for you to be safe, it might be time to consider leaving the relationship. Breaking up can be really difficult, especially when feelings are involved, and if your relationship is abusive breaking up might also be dangerous. You have a right to make your safety a top priority, so it’s important to have a plan in place for how you can break up safely or stay safe in the meantime. You might talk to someone in your support system about what’s going on, or one of our advocates can help you create a safety plan that works for you.

Here at loveisrespect, we recognize that your safety is the top priority and you are the best person to decide what is right for you. We’re here to talk with you about your plan to stay safe whether you want to stay in a relationship or you feel ready to leave. To talk to an advocate, call 1-866-331-9474, text loveis to 22522 or chat via our website 24/7!

Comment section

7 replies
    1. Hey Jac,

      Thank you so much for you kind words, I am glad you have been proactive and resourceful by utilizing our material! Maintaining a healthy, respectful relationship is always important, so I hope you continue to educate yourself and follow our blogs.

      If something changes and you feel you may need to reach out to us directly, we are always here 24/7 by phone 1-866-331-8543, by texting “loveis” to 22522, or through chat online in the upper right hand corner of our homepage.

      Stay safe!
      Advocate KB

  1. I would really appreciate an article about what to do if your teenage boyfriend tells you his Dad is abusive.
    Is this a reason to break up?

    1. Hi Holly,

      Thanks for your comment. We’re so sorry to hear that your boyfriend’s dad is abusive. No one deserves abuse, ever, and it’s always so difficult to see someone we care about deal with an abusive person. This sounds like a complicated situation, and we’d be happy to talk through it with you. Just give us a call at 1-866-331-9474, chat here on our website or text loveis to 22522 anytime!

  2. Thank you It really got me thinking and it helped me find out what I have to do stop this repugnant relationship Im in thank you for now on Im coming here for him with my relationships…. THANK YOU!!!

    1. Hi Kaitlyn,

      Thanks for your comment! We’re so glad you found this post helpful. If you’d like to talk confidentially with one of our advocates about any concerns you have, please call, chat or text any time!

  3. This is a great article and really helped me sort through a lot of confusion about a terrible relationship i have been in. My boundaries were definitely not respected and I was not free to have them and it was not safe to discuss them despite 4 years of trying! I was shamed and ridiculed for treating him badly if I dared to state a boundary. We just broke up and I am feeling safer and more relaxed already. It was getting worse and worse. Phew. Thank you for existing loveisrespect.org

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