Note: When I say, Boundaries in a relationship, I’m referring to romantic, committed relationships as well as the ones between two people who are casually dating or just friends.
Boundaries often receive a bad rap because people feel establishing them is selfish, but that’s far from the truth. Proper boundaries actually help us to become a better date, partner and human because by setting them, we help ourselves meet our emotional needs. And once we take care of our needs, we simultaneously and automatically begin to take better care of others’ needs.
Instead of starting this article with some dull explanation of what personal boundaries in a relationship are, I’m going to tell a story that will help you understand what they mean, or more specifically, what life looks like when you don’t have any.
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Chad’s Afternoon Alarm goes off as he’s finishing up a daunting design project at work. He became enraptured by the cheerful ring, and a second later, he whispered to himself with a giggle, “Finally. Finally, I can see Anna again.”
The alarm ring signified that only 30 minutes separated him from the start of his date night with Anna. They agreed to meet up at a fancy restaurant at 6 pm, but there was one problem: Chad still had a lot of work.
After several minutes of contemplating what to do, Chad decided that he’s just going to email his boss a generic excuse on how he got sick and couldn’t finish the project. Five minutes after deciding, he sent that email, dashed out the office building, and hopped into his car.
Chad looks at his watch and bitterly hollers, “Damn, I knew I should’ve quit working faster. I’m late!” He pushes the gas paddle almost through the floor and heads to the restaurant, driving like he never saw a stoplight before.
At one point, he almost crashed because of his careless driving — luckily, he avoided sudden death. However, the adrenaline from possible collision left him sweating like a beast.
“Dammit, I can’t stink for my date,” Chad snarls, before turning up the A.C. so low that the inside of his car felt like you the middle of Antarctica.
After a couple of minutes, he arrives at his destination, swiftly parks his car, and waits for his date at the entrance as they agreed — right on time.
The only problem was that she wasn’t there yet.
Twenty minutes go by, nothing.
Thirty minutes go by, nothing.
Chad never wanted to pressure her, so he didn’t reach out. He just kept on waiting. Time went by as slowly as a snail trying to win a race against a cheetah. Soon the boredom caught on to Chad, and he began to yawn.
It was 7 pm when Anna finally came from around the restaurant’s corner.
“Sorry I’m late, I had some things I needed to take care of at home before I could head out.” said Anna, to which Chad responded, “It’s ok, it happens to everyone, at least you’re here now, and that all that matters.”
They both smiled and went inside the restaurant.
Chad was blown away by the interior of the place. When he sat down on the masterfully designed dark oak chairs, he was astounded to find how comfortable they were. His “inner designer” got even more turned on when he saw that the gorgeously crafted circular table in front of him was covered with the most luxurious red velvet he had ever seen. The dark wood on blood-red color combo was like hearing the most exquisite symphony ever made.
“Pretty cool interior,” Chad remarks. “Yeah, but I’m more into the modern, slick style, you know, but it’s fine, I don’t mind. I’m glad you like it so much,” Anna responds with a smile.
Not even a split second has passed as Chad begins to act unsure and stutters, “Yeah, we can go somewhere else next week. I also don’t like all of the decorations here, you know…”
“It’s ok. We really don’t have to. Let’s enjoy this evening together.” Says Anna shyly. But Chad counters with “No way, I want the best for you. Let me go book us a table at that new modern restaurant you fancy right now.”
Before Anna could respond, Chad had already gotten up and went to the lobby to make a phone call to the other restaurant.
When he came back, Anna told him, “you didn’t need to do that, I don’t even know if I’ll make it next week because I’m working on a big project. And in any case, I’m grateful that you invited me here, and that’s enough.”
“Your work won’t be a problem because we can just reschedule our reservation if you can’t make it and go the next day,” says Chad, feeling all smart.
Anna feels frustrated because she knows Chad doesn’t like that restaurant, and he’ll only whine while eating there. Therefore she tries to convince him to cancel the reservation, but with no success.
“It’s ok. I already booked us a table, since you wanted it so badly,” Chad told her then and changed the topic. “What would you like to eat?” “Still checking,” said Anna, somewhat baffled by Chads stifling desire to grant her every wish.
As the couple was browsing the menu, a waiter approached their table and asked them what they would like to drink. Anna ordered a glass of water, and Chad, an avid beer lover, chose the restaurant’s signature brew.
“Why do you have to drink beer right now Chad, we’ve been dating for months now, and you know how I feel about alcohol,” complained Anna as soon as he ordered a glass.
“But I like beer, can’t I have at least one this time?” Chad asked her.
“I mean fine, you can have one, but I’m not too happy about it.” Answered Anna.
When Chad heard her answer, he exhaled, then turned to the waiter and, with a phony cheerful tone, told him, “The lady is always right. Bring me a glass of water with ice instead, please.”
The waiter left, and the young couple kept browsing the menu.
“You know, that stake makes me drool, I think I might get that one,” explains Chad.
“How about you pick pasta, while I choose tuna fillet, and we can maybe share? I don’t know, just a thought. What do you think?” Adds Anna.
Chad yearned for a big juicy steak, but because he didn’t want to let down his “almost girlfriend,” he falteringly replied, “Oh well, fine, I’ll have pasta.”
“Oh, you don’t have too. I can clearly see you don’t want to Chad.” Responded Anna irritatingly.
Chad, already in a lousy mood and full of resentment, said, “Oh, just stop it, I’ll order the damn pasta. Like I ever get what I want.”
After discussing additional topics, Anna thought that he’s finally in a better mood, but no — it all came tumbling down when she playfully teased Chad about his weight when he was deciding on which dessert to have.
By the end, he was so pissed that he desperately needed to go outside and unwind. So he stepped out of the restaurant on a windy pitch-black street, but instead of relaxing, he began to sneeze.
“Oh great, damn air conditioning,” He roared.
As they went home, the story didn’t turn for the better: Anna was devastated, and Chad angry and embarrassed by how he acted.
He hated his obedience, but he also didn’t know any better. The only time he felt like himself was when he couldn’t push down his resentment anymore and popped, which resulted in a temper tantrum.
But he wasn’t like this only in his relationships. His friends and coworkers also took advantage of him. Or to put it another way: he let them take advantage of him.
For example, his childhood buddies invited him to their pool party, and even though he didn’t like them, he always went. His excuse was still, “I don’t want anyone to be angry with me,” or “I don’t want to let anyone down.”
At work, his coworker Mary asked him if he could finish her projects at least two times a day, and even though Chad was already working 12 hours daily for the past few weeks, he kept agreeing and helping her.
But the worst part is that when he completed Mary’s projects, she never gave him any credit. In fact, she always took all the credit for Chad’s hard work. However, even though Chad knew this, he still kept on pleasing. Hell, he treated everyone at work in that way!
After a few weeks, when people got used to his lack of boundaries in his relationships, they began taking advantage of him, so he needed to work for 14, soon 16 hours daily — and this went on for weeks. The problem? He completely forgot to court and pay any attention to Anna.
His date eventually reached a boiling point and called him up after weeks of his near-silent treatment.
“Why are you working so long for the past few weeks? Is everything alright, Chad?” Asked Anna worryingly. You hardly answer my phone calls.
“Yes, I know I’m working a lot for these past few weeks, and I’m sorry, but everyone at the office needs me, and I can’t let them down,” answered Chad calmly.
“Why can’t you just say no to them? I also want to see you” She immediately snaps back.
“I don’t want to, they’ll think I’m an asshole,” Chad responded.
Well, I feel like you don’t want to see me anymore. You told me you loved me just weeks before…” Whimpered Anna, hardly holding back tears.
At first, Chad promised to spend more time with his potential girlfriend and actually followed through. However, after a few weeks, his coworkers became bothered by his sudden change of behavior, so they began criticizing him to the point where he mentally snapped and resorted back to being the office whore — back to square one.
And guess what?
Anna became pissed about how little time he spends with her again, and the arguing started once more.
Chad trapped himself in a devastating cycle of fighting with his date one week and listening to his coworkers’ criticisms the other; in essence, he was everybody’s bitch — a miserable bitch devoid of personal boundaries.
All Chad wanted was for the madness to stop. He tried to say no to his coworkers; he wanted to stop pleasing his date, but instead, he said yes to everyone.
If you want to have less drama in your love life, you have to develop what Chad was lacking — solid boundaries.
Having solid boundaries in a relationship helps with maintaining mutual respect and attraction and appreciation between you and your romantic interest. They are also proven to increase confidence and self-respect in the person establishing them. In fact, they are a side effect of having higher self-respect and lower neediness in general.
We can define healthy relationship boundaries as basic guidelines that establish what behaviors you will tolerate and which ones you won’t. They are also heavily tied to responsibility. The stronger our boundaries are, the more responsibility we take for our behaviors and emotions (like we should) and the less for our other people’s behaviors and emotions.
Put differently; if we make anyones feelings and actions our sole responsibility, we’re naturally going to try to keep them happy — often forcefully — which lowers anyones’ attraction (fixer mentality).
Conversely, it’s the same shade of shit when we hold our date or lover fully responsible for our feelings and actions. This attitude makes us hand them our independence, often even our dignity (breaker mentality).
Both extremes suck and indicate a fatal boundary issue on our part. But it gets worse.
For example, we may make the person we’re seeing responsible for how we feel while being unable to say “no” to their desires, or we may decide we’re solely accountable for their satisfaction and begin forcefully helping them to be happy while being unable to accept any help ourselves.
In any case, there are four boundary related issues we can hold — each one with a unique twist.
And the worst thing?
We can have more than one issue at the same time.
Four types of boundary issues
Going through Chad’s story, we can presuppose that having no boundaries in a relationship solely means you cannot say “no,” however, the real answer goes far beyond our inability to say “no” to people — but it does start there.
Issue #1: Being unable to say set any boundaries in your relationship (nice guy/girl syndrome)
Nice guys and girls, wusses, pussies, manipulative fucks, or whatever cute name you have for them are people who do everything they can to please the person they like or love. And all of them possess the most common boundary issue on the planet — a difficulty saying “no.”
I like to think of them as mozzarella — they’re sticky and creamy, and when put on a hot plate, they melt and turn to liquid.
To put the smooth metaphor in more realistic terms, let’s pretend your partner asks you, if you’re the two of you are having a date night. Now, you have a tough exam in two days that you need to study for, but does that stop you? No. You respond with, “sure, let’s have one right now,” even though, deep down, you don’t want to.
The nice guy or girl – doesn’t want to disappoint the person they’re going out with. Hence, they disregard their emotional needs and do what their love interest asks — they melt and fuse with the desires of everyone around them instead of staying firm and robust, a.k.a emotionally centered.
People with this boundary issue also often don’t believe they’re worthy of love or a hot date or a decent relationship. Just the opposite! They think that if they don’t continue pleasing the dates they are going out with, they’re going to dump or reject them, so they never speak their mind.
These are the people who will pretend to like the same movies, video games, or foods as you, just so that you both get along.
“Oh yes, your highness, you think Jurassic Park was a shitty movie? Sure I do too.”
“Sure Chad, I also think I should clean the dishes every night, while you scroll through Reddit!”
““What? You think all men are pigs and only care about sex, well yeah, we kind of are if I think about it…”
These are the people who would rather lie and hold things in, instead of saying what they think aloud and getting into a potential but necessary argument.
These are the people who are more concerned with how other people perceive them than how they perceive themselves.
Ultimately, these people, are often the epitome of a neediness. They are submerged upon layers and layers of dense fears: fear of showing flaws, fear of not being loved, fear of rejection, fear of conflicts, fear of hurting another person, fear of being vulnerable, and the fear of not being enough — classic.
As a side-note, please don’t mistake nice guys and gals for bad people, even though their behaviors are often fucked up. They simply don’t know how to function in any other way. The sudden emotional attachment they make with people is their default psychological function, the same as their yearning for the approval and recognition of others. And their low self-esteem doesn’t help.
Issue #2: Being unable to set flexible boundaries in your relationship (frightened kitten syndrome)
While nice guys and gals have difficulty setting any boundaries in their relationships, these “frightened kittens” as I like to call them, set inflexible and unmovable ones, where nothing comes through them, not even the good in life.
We can compare these people to the avoidant attachment types — they fear closeness, have a tough time opening up, and run away or withdraw from individuals who want to get emotionally closer or who keep offering help. The people with this boundary issue cannot even ask for help in the first place!
Interestingly, one can have both boundary issues simultaneously: the infamous nice guy/girl syndrome and the frightened kitten syndrome.
The worst from both worlds
A colleague of mine had is the perfect example of someone having both the above boundaries issues woven together. Emotional issues oozed out of his every pore, and his foul stench could be detected from afar.
He kept pretending everything was fine and dandy and retained a fake smile, but deep inside, he was like mashed potatoes mixed with tequila and sour milk.
Try that combo at a party. I dare you.
Working with him for a few months resulted in no issues, but soon he fell into a highly agitated state for some reason, and suddenly being inside the same room with him became toxic and troublesome. In fact, working with him began to feel like someone was slowly pulling my fingernails off with heavy-duty pliers while a Ricardo, the Brazilian male stripper, was butt-fucking me.
Whatever help I offered my boundary-less colleague, he shyly refused, and whatever opinion I expressed, he always mirrored it, and never really revealed what he truly felt.
No wonder he was also a chronic liar, telling everyone different things regarding his pay-check, contacts, social life, or future plans, out of straight fear of embarrassment. And to be honest, he made a great deal of chaos in the firm we’ve been working at.
In essence, this coworker had zero boundaries on how people should treat him, and had inflexible ones around how he should treat others. And don’t get me started on his sense of false pride and ego related issues. Talk about a disorganized attachment style!
BOUNDARY Issue #3: Possessing the Breaker mentality
People with the breaker mentality hold others responsible for the way they feel instead of taking any responsibility themselves. Moreover, they nag, blame, and criticize others who supposedly hurt their feelings so that they don’t have to feel responsible for their own pain.
These people believe that the only way for them to receive love is by projecting responsibility on to others.
In concrete terms, this means that a person with a breaker mentality, for instance, expects his date or partner to make them feel loved, appreciated, and thoroughly cared for. However, in actuality, no one but himself is responsible for making them feel those things. It’s each individual’s responsibility to take good care of themselves.
Breakers can also go to extremes where they begin manipulating and controlling others to meet their needs.
Here are some spicy examples of how people with the breaker mentality roar, “fuck your boundaries!” with a smirk.
“No, you can’t go out with Cindy because I’ll get jealous again.”
“Order a salad. You know how I get when you begin eating poor animals in front of me.”
“Block all the men you talked to or dated if you want to continue being my girlfriend. You know how insecure I get.”
Surprisingly, there’s a sad side to people with the breaker syndrome — they often don’t know that they’re disrespecting your boundaries; in fact, they probably don’t even realize that boundaries exist in relationships. That’s why they often get bewildered when you ask them to respect yours.
Boundary issue #4: Possessing the Fixer mentality
People with the fixer mentally hold themselves responsible for other people’s emotions, to the point where they want to fix all their issues because they feel guilty. For instance, they would believe it’s their fault that their date or partner has challenges and/or feels bad.
And deep down, they also falsely believe that the only way they’re going to keep seeing a date is if they act their best to make them happy. This leads to overcompensation, and overcompensation leads to rejection.
And when it comes to relationships, fixers believe that the only way they’re going to receive love and affection is if they solve all the problems their partner has. That’s why they keep buying them gifts, proclaiming their love and continually texting or calling.
And while these kinds of deeds are great for the first few weeks of the relationship, it gets old, unattractive, and repetitive quickly. Even worse, it makes the person you’re seeing feel as they owe you something when you overdeliver with generous and needy gestures.
Fixers, in general, have to realize two things: First, that there’s nothing wrong with helping people, but obsessively craving to fix their issues is suffocating. And second that it’s not their responsibility to make someone feel a certain way in the first place.
The breaker-fixer spiral
We can draw many similarities from observing a breaker/fixer dynamic in a relationship or dating context compared to the one between the avoidant and anxious type in the realm of attachment theory.
As the avoidant and anxious type attract each other due to their push-pull dynamic, so do breakers and fixers. The result is a turbocharged cycle of D.R.A.M.A. on steroids that can go like this:
The breaker never takes any responsibility for their actions or behaviors and keeps blaming others for their shortcomings while the fixer thinks the breaker’s failures and negative feelings are all their fault. That’s why the fixer showers the breaker with gifts and compliments to a suffocating degree. In essence, they are trying to make the breaker feel better.
One shields themselves from any responsibility; the other makes themselves exceedingly responsible — like it’s all his fault. The breaker keeps blaming others, the fixer keeps blaming themselves for the breakers’ sorrow, and the cycle repeats.
The only way breakers can break free from the drama is by taking full responsibility for their feelings and behaviors for once. And the only way fixers can get out is if they dismantle their falsely attributed responsibility and stop trying to make everyone happy.
We can even argue that whenever we are dealing with a boundary problem, there’s presumably a confusion of responsibility in a relationship between the two people.
Consequences of poor boundaries in a relationship
The most notable aspect of relationships where both people possess some kind of boundary issue is the constant struggle to keep things stable.
Drama driven boundary-less relationships often fluctuate in intensity. You could be on cloud nine for the first two months of your relationship, but after a week, you end up ending things with your lover. Then you might get back to seeing each other after a few days, and part again shortly afterward.
In general, your relationship might feel like butterflies and rainbows for a week, and like hell for the next two or three weeks. And this chaos keeps looping back around whenever you feel like the drama is finally stabilizing.
One person blames and plays the victim, while the other one chases and tries to fix everything. However, it doesn’t stop there.
While the torturous drama loops are the main culprit of boundary-less relationships, other problems also pop up:
- Getting used: If you can’t say “no,” you can very well be taken advantage of and used.
- Breaking trust: Instead of getting into a civilized confrontation, you let your date or lover take advantage of you without ever vocalizing your opinion. And if you keep letting anyone take advantage of you for too long, it eventually leads to breakage of trust from their side — and that’s challenging to repair.
- Pointless arguing: You can get into pointless debates and conflicts that drag for days or, in some cases, even months before the couple calls it quits.
- You begin to lose yourself: You can start to sacrifice your values and bend your identity for others, which leads to feelings of hopelessness and dread.
- You begin to repel others: You can become so obsessed with making everybody feel good that you become smothering and a pain in the ass to be around.
How you can set boundaries in your relationships
Setting boundaries is different for everyone, but it’s merely about understanding, discovering, and setting your limits.
So what is your limit?
In other words, what behaviors are you willing to accept and which ones you won’t tolerate? Decide on those and pick the consequences that follow when you get mistreated.
Often these consequences need to be lovingly, yet directly vocalized to your date or partner if they mistreat you.
Now, some of you might be ok if your date demands you to call them five times a day. Some might find that crazy.
Our values and the things we tolerate are different; that’s why everyone has slightly different boundaries. But, let’s assume you’ve decided which ones you will have.
Now the only thing left to do is decide how you will respond to situations where someone crosses your limits. Here are two short but sweet examples of how to react when that happens:
YOUR DATE: “I don’t want you to meet your friend Luke. You know how jealous I get when you see other men, even if they’re just friends from childhood.”
YOU: “I understand but, Luke was there for me when I was going through a tough time in my life, and I was there for him. He means a lot me, and I have no interest in putting my friendship on hold because you’re jealous. I would love to keep seeing you, but not if you can’t respect my decision to hang out with an old friend.
YOUR DATE: “I want you to always return three hours earlier from work from now on; I feel pissed that you’re spending more time there than with me.
YOU: “Well, we can have Sundays off to enjoy each other’s company, but other days, I just have to work. I love what I do, and It gives me a lot of fulfillment and meaning, please be so kind as to respect that.”
YOUR LOVER: “(yelling): Why haven’t you taken out the garbage, why isn’t the grass mowed, why are you not ready yet, we’re about to be late for lunch with my friends.”
YOU: “Ok, you know I really care for you and will get the chores done after lunch as I promised, but you have to stop with the yelling because it’s making me feel like shit. If you keep screaming, I’m going to spend the night at uncle Jim’s house.
Setting rock hard boundaries in your relationships could also mean that you don’t let yourself tolerate crappy dates who have a history of cheating, per se, or ones who can’t take any responsibility for their actions.
As we discussed before, boundaries are all about responsibility — when we establish them, we begin taking responsibility for ourselves and developing self-control. It’s also attractive when we have them.
Boundaries vs threats — the common misconception
While establishing boundaries is a healthy, mature, and self-empowering act contributing to your overall emotional sanity, giving out threats is not.
In fact, giving them out is a toxic practice performed by control freaks and weak people since they force the opposite person to choose not just any option but also a bad and painful one. And the scary truth is that many individuals can’t really distinguish a threat from a boundary. Let’s resolve that problem once and for all.
Boundaries never imply any physical harm if someone breaches them, which means you won’t choke your date or lover if they keep shouting at you, nor will you begin screaming back and throwing barbs at them. What you should actually do in that case is remove yourself from the encounter to cool off. The other person probably won’t like that, and it will hurt them, but it’s not like you’re physically or emotionally harming them, so it’s not a threat.
Let me be even more precise with the differences between boundaries and threats by providing you a few examples:
Note: keep in mind that these are not things you would naturally say to someone, but only think and then execute.
Boundary: If you keep shouting, I will hang up the phone.
Threat: If you keep shouting, I will punch you in the face when I see you.
Boundary: If you don’t let me pick my own music in the car, I will bring headphones next time.
Threat: If you don’t let me pick my own music in the car, I’m going to delete all the songs saved on your iPod.
Boundary: If my date doesn’t respond to my text in the next two hours, I’m just going to go to the theater alone.
Threat: If my date doesn’t respond to my text in the next two hours, I won’t respond to her for a whole day, even if it’s an emergency.
Boundary: If you keep arguing with me, I’m going to end the date and go home.
Threat: If you keep on arguing with me, I’m going to begin screaming and flailing at you and bombard you with F-bombs.
Compromises in boundaries
There’s one common question on boundaries in a relationship that I’ve come across on the internet, and it goes like this: “How to strike a balance between having solid ones and making compromises?
Let’s unpack the question so we can better understand it:
“What to do in cases when my date or lover expects and wants me to do something that I’m not too crazy about, but it wouldn’t hurt performing it from time to time?”
Let’s assume your partner or date wants a good “night text” every Saturday and Sunday when you don’t hear from each other. Now I get that doing this might get tiring, but making a small sacrifice here and there is healthy, sometimes even necessary for a great relationship to blossom or continue.
So, in this case, I would give the person you’re seeing a surprise “good night” text once in a while if they ask for it. Now, the number of messages you send doesn’t matter that much. The point is to do that loving action with the right intentions.
With that said, when you call your date or lover even though you desperately don’t want to do it, you have a boundary issue. Or if you’re doing it because you’re afraid that they’re going to like you less or leave/reject you, it’s again, a toxic boundaries issue. Put differently, your intentions are unattractive and unwelcome.
What attractive sacrifice looks like, for instance, is calling the person you’re seeing not only because they told you how they miss you but also because you want to do it— because you want to show how much you care about them.
Basically, you sacrifice a bit because you feel like it.
Whenever you’re not sure if what you’re doing is a result of shitty boundaries in a relationship or if it’s a healthy sacrifice, focus on your intentions, focus on one question: “why the hell am I doing this?”
Is the intention wholesome, or is it based on fear and anxiety? Are you thinking about what scary event may or may not happen, or do you just perform certain deeds with a “no strings attached” attitude?
Consequences of newly set boundaries in a relationship
While you might think setting boundaries is hard work, that’s actually the easy part. The real struggle is keeping your boundaries intact when someone doesn’t respect them or reacts negatively to them. Interestingly, that “special angry someone” might discharge two common reactions when they hit your freshly made boundaries: raw anger and guilt-tripping. Let’s explore further.
Pure ungovernable outrage is a character defect of a self-absorbed person and a typical reaction to firmly set boundaries. The people who get angry because of your limits are just not used to hearing “no” and turn into an emotional cluster-fuck as soon as they do.
If your date or partner is angry with you because of your boundaries, they might be afraid that they will lose you if they can’t control and mold them. They might also be worried that they’re not good enough for you, and behind that worry, is always fear. Most often the fear of loss.
When you encounter anger as someones reaction upon your boundaries, be sure not to mirror their attitude. Getting outraged yourself will only magnify the current conflict. Therefore, instead of being vicious, keep your composure and warmly state your boundaries and what you’ll do if they are not respected.
Being guilt-tripped is when others try to make you feel bad for the decisions you made by playing the victim and saying things like, “How could you do X.Y.Z., when I was always there for you.”
It’s a weak tactic used by insecure and controlling people. In essence, guilt-tripping is just a way for the other person to cloak their anger, sadness, and emotional pain in a subtle, passive-aggressive message instead of owning up to their feelings and telling you what’s bothering them directly.
Here’s an example: you told your grandmother how you don’t have the time to visit her this weekend, and she responded with, “Yeah, I thought you have work to do, I mean who would spend time with an old lady like me. But do you remember all the things I’ve done for you, how can you not return me the favor and come visit for once?”
Here’s another example: your friend whines, “Why don’t you visit us anymore? We always stuck by your side. I guess you must have other, better friends now, right?”
In the context of your dating, guilt-tripping can look like your date telling you, “Yeah, I thought you’re still going to meet with your friend Luke, you always liked him more than me, anyway.”
And in the context of romantic relationships, guilt-tripping can look pretty similar. Perhaps your partner tells you, “Yeah, I thought you’re still going to meet with your friend Tamara, you always liked her more than me. To be honest, you probably don’t even care about me anymore. Go, have a great time. I’ll be fine.”
I don’t know about you, but if there’s anything that makes my blood boil is when somebody tries to guilt-trip me. Seriously, the first thing I think about when they do is how I’m going to punch them in the face.
The way to handle guilt-induced messages is to point them out to the person expressing them as soon as you notice them. Don’t engage with people who guilt trip you, don’t explain yourself, don’t get pissed off. Calmly and with composure, call them out on their bullshit endeavors.
In the end, whatever adverse reaction you get from guilt-trippers, you have to be able to keep your boundaries, or you will end up like all the infamous nice guys and gals: taken advantage of.
Ultimately, your date or lover may react with anger, guilt, and general drama, but it can also escalate further. They might threaten you how they’re going to disappear or leave you if you don’t block all your ex-lovers, per se. Or they might say how they’re going to stop seeing you, or actually DO stop because of their frustration that you’re not doing what they want.
But here’s the deal: if you let go of your boundaries, you’ll lose the respect your date or partner has for you. And then consequentially their trust and attraction. In the end, you’re going to end up rejected, dumped, or in a dysfunctional relationship. So never, lose your boundaries.
In general, we need to view boundaries in a relationship as a quality control mechanism. Some people will respect them and live by them, while others will rebel, cause drama, or threaten us because of them. Some will stay because of them; others will leave and reject us because of them, and guess what? It’s a win-win situation. If they leave, they weren’t a good match in the first place, and if they stay, it means you have a pretty healthy individual on your team, who puts up with your wants, needs, and desires. If that’s the case, congrats. Go nuts!
Meeting Chad once more
We’ve worked through a lot of material, and let’s pretend Chad had done the same and actually created some damn good boundaries in his relationships.
How would his same day turn out now? Well, let’s find out.
Chads Afternoon Alarm goes off as he’s finishing up a project at work. He doesn’t budge much but get’s some pleasant thoughts about meeting Anna again.
The alarm ring signified that only 30 minutes separated him from the start of his date night with Anna. They agreed to meet up at a fancy restaurant at 6 pm, but there was one problem: Chad surprisingly still had a lot of work. But he didn’t sweat. He just picked up the phone and called Anna.
“Hey, mind if we put our evening dinner off for about an hour? I got swamped with work.” He said calmly. “No problem, Chad, I understand. See you at 7!” She responded.
Chad finishes his project and sends it to his boss. Satisfied with his work, he makes his way to his car with a smirk. Casually opens up the doors, makes himself comfortable, and drives to the restaurant, where he parks his car and heads to the entrance where he waits for his date.
The time was precisely 7 pm, but Anna was nowhere to be seen. Soon half an hour went by and still nothing. But instead of waiting much longer, Chad sends Anna a text message. The conversation that unfolded went like this:
HIM: “Hey, Everything, ok? Did you get to the right restaurant?”
HER: “Bulwark one, on 5 street, right?”
HIM: “Exactly. Is your clock set correctly? I’m waiting for almost an hour?”
HER: “Sorry, I should’ve called you sooner. I forgot about it. I have some errands to take care of with my mom and lost track of time.”
HIM: “Anna, you know I want to see you, but it wasn’t respectful of you to not call me so we could do a rain-check. Look, I’m going to stay here for about 20 more minutes, but if you’re not going to come, I’m going home, and we’ll rather meet up at some other point when you’re going to be more sure of your schedule. I’m getting exhausted standing here in the heat.”
HER: “No, I’ll be there In 15 minutes, promise, I really want to see you again.” “And I’ll make sure I’m not late on our dates anymore.”
HIM: “Sounds great.”
Anna came to the restaurant in the next 10 minutes, and they walked inside together. Chad sat down at the same gorgeous dark oak table with the red velvet described in the initial story and gazed upon its beauty.
“Pretty cool interior,” Chad comments. “Yeah, but I’m more into modern style, you know, but it’s fine, I don’t mind. I’m glad you like it so much,” Anna responds.
“Modern style, is that even a real style?” Chad exclaims jokingly, hardly keeping a straight face. “Oh, stop it,” Anna playfully responds.
“Well, Hon, if you’re going to be on time for the next few dates, I just might reconsider inviting my favorite date to that new modern restaurant that just opened at 6th street”, he said with a smirk.
Anna’s eyes opened up as she gasped, “you would to that?” “Sure I would, but it depends on you, fruitcake,” responds Chad with a wink.
As the couple was browsing the menu, a waiter approached their table and asked what they would like to drink. Anna ordered a glass of water, while Chad, an avid beer lover, said their homemade brew would be excellent.
“Why do you have to drink beer right now, Chad. We’ve been dating for months now, and you know how I feel about alcohol,” murmured Anna as he ordered a glass. “Well, I’m going to drink it slowly for you, don’t worry,” he responds, then tells the waiter, “Bring me a glass your signature brew, however, make it a small glass.” (Slight sacrifice, while still holding boundaries)
While the waiter went grabbing their drinks, our young duo browsed the menu. “Damn, their stake selection looks tasty,” said Chad.
Well, how about you pick pasta instead, and I’ll have this tuna fillet, and we can maybe share. I would love that, but it’s just a thought. What do you think?” Anna responded.
“Not feeling it. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely would share if this was just any other restaurant, but there are some really unique dishes on the menu that I would rather try,” responded Chad. “Oh well, as long as you give me a bite when you get your meals,” exclaimed Anna light-heartedly.
When Chad ordered dessert, Anna playfully reminds him about his gained weight, but he didn’t lose his composure. He just casually responded with, “Fuck it, it’s not like I’m in such a lavish restaurant every day; I’ll even finish your dessert if you won’t.”
Amid the calm drive home, they took turns in picking their favorite songs instead of having just one of the characters in charge of the radio. And when they arrived at Chad’s place, they took a shower, cuddled up in bed, and kept watching senseless YouTube video for hours until they both fell asleep in each other’s arms.
The next day, Chad was invited to a party one of his childhood friends hosted, but he never liked spending time with the guy, so he told him he’s swamped at work and couldn’t make it — a white lie.
And at the office, his coworker Mary asked him numerous times already if he can help with her projects. But Chad’s answer was always the same, “Look, I can surely help your next month, but right now I’m already working two hours overtime because I have to take care of my projects. I hope you can understand that. I wish you all the best.”
Mary was pissed at him for weeks because of that response, but she got over it, and the world kept spinning. And no other soul asked Chad for any additional help that month because he always gave the same, kind yet self-respectable response as he gave to Mary.
Even better, since Chad didn’t have 16-hour workdays anymore, he could continue to court Anna successfully. Soon they even became exclusive!
That’s how having solid boundaries in a relationship looks like, and while it’s not the most crucial ingredient of them — committed or casual, it’s unquestionably one of the most neglected and misunderstood ones.