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.
- ...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 love is respect 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.
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