SELF-CARE: The Top 6 Reasons Why People Violate Your Boundaries + My Personal Compass Worksheet

Oct 14, 2022

A big part of my journey of breaking free of overgiving was to learn how to set healthy boundaries.

As I’ve shared before, setting healthy boundaries was something that I really struggled with before I became a therapist.

Part of the reason why I struggled so much was because I felt very guilty about setting boundaries. I truly believed that if I put a boundary in place with someone, I was being selfish and denying my loved ones what they needed and deserved to be happy.

But it wasn’t just the guilt that made it tough for me to set boundaries. Boundary setting was also hard for me because in those early days, I often found that people violated the boundaries I set.

Whenever I set a boundary and someone violated it anyway, I used to think one of two things: (a) that boundaries don’t work or (b) that the other person was completely unreasonable.

The reality, though, is that boundaries are usually very effective when you set them skillfully. And most people in your life can be reasonable about them (even if they initially need some time to warm up to them).

So if someone is NOT respecting your boundaries, what’s going on?

That’s exactly what I’m going to tackle in this blog post.

Keep reading below to learn the top 6 reasons why people violate your boundaries.


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1. You Don’t Communicate Your Boundaries Clearly


One big reason why people may be violating your boundaries is because you don’t communicate them clearly enough when you set them. Boundaries tell the people in your life what you’re okay with and what you’re not. But if you aren’t clear enough when setting your boundaries, people might genuinely not understand where this line is.

For example, let’s say that you have a friend who loves to call you and text you all the time. You enjoy her company and like being in touch with her. But the constant calls and texts feel annoying in the evening when you want to eat dinner in peace, quickly tackle some chores, and have some downtime. So you lovingly tell her that you aren’t available to chat in the evenings.

In your mind, you’ve set the boundary, and you expect the evening calls and texts to stop. The calls do, but the texts don’t. Why?

Because your friend thought that when you said that you weren’t available in the evenings, she could still send you texts in the evening and you could just respond later when you want to. What she didn’t understand is that when you said you weren’t available, you meant that you don’t want any calls or texts coming through. Because even if you don’t have to respond right away, the constant text notifications disrupt your evening.

Why didn’t your friend understand it this way? Because you didn’t actually communicate it this way. That’s why when you set a boundary, it’s important to be clear about exactly what you are and aren’t okay with. For example, when talking to your friend, you might say, “I love you and enjoy being in touch with you, but my evenings are very hectic. So feel free to contact me earlier in the day, but please don’t call or send texts after 5 p.m.”


2. You Make Your Boundaries Seem Negotiable


Another reason why people might violate your boundaries is because you make them seem negotiable. You might do this without realizing it by expressing hesitation when you set them, explaining or rationalizing your boundaries, apologizing for them, or showing a lack of confidence in your body language.

When you communicate like this, you may be saying the right words to set a healthy boundary. But the way you say them might make it seem like you’re not fully sold on the boundary yourself or that you even think that it’s wrong to have the boundary. And as a result, it might make the other person think that your boundary is up for debate.

For example, let’s say that you’re dating someone new and aren’t ready to have sex with them. Because you feel awkward or worried about setting the boundary, you might communicate your boundary by very nervously saying, “I know this is a lot to ask, but I don’t think I’m ready to have sex yet…if that’s okay with you.”

By communicating your boundary like this, you end up giving your partner a reason to believe that you might be willing to rethink or forget about your boundary altogether.

After all, when you say “I know this is a lot to ask,” you’re essentially apologizing for your boundary and implying that maybe you shouldn’t even be expecting your partner to respect it. When you say “I don’t think I’m ready” (instead of “I’m not ready”), you make yourself seem unsure about whether you’re ready to have sex yet. And when you say, “if that’s okay with you,” you imply that it’s your partner’s right to decide whether the boundary is valid. So it’s not surprising that your partner might think that they can both talk you into having sex anyway and make you realize that it’s actually what you want too.

When you communicate a boundary, you want to communicate it with confidence and certainty so that it’s clear that your boundary isn’t up for debate. For example, you’d want to confidently say, “I love you and our relationship. And I know that you’re looking forward to having sex, but I’m not ready for it yet. I hope to be ready one day in the future, but I’m not there yet."


3. You’re Too Willing to Change Your Boundaries


Let’s say that you’re pretty good about communicating your boundaries clearly and confidently. But you find that people still violate them. Why?

It could be that when people try to push your boundaries, you seem willing to change your boundaries in response. And if you’re willing to change your boundaries, it communicates that your boundaries aren’t that important to you after all.

For example, imagine that you set your boundary about not having sex yet but your partner keeps bringing up the topic every few weeks, hoping that you’ll change your mind. Feeling the pressure, you might decide to make a concession by saying something like, “Okay, let me think about it” or “Maybe we can have sex by the end of the summer.”

You might respond like this because you want to stop the conversation and don’t know what else to say. But what you might not realize is that instead of successfully changing the topic of conversation while maintaining a firm boundary, you’re communicating that your boundary isn’t so firm after all. And your partner might see it as an invitation to push even harder to change your mind.

Remember that when you want to put a boundary in place, you can’t just set it and forget it. Instead, you need to enforce your boundaries on an ongoing basis. Avoiding pressure to change your boundaries is one part of enforcing them. In the next section, I’ll share another key step to enforcing your boundaries.


4. You Communicate Your Boundaries Only Once


People might also feel free to violate your boundaries if you communicate your boundaries only once.

Often, the people who are most likely to push or test our boundaries are the people we’re closest to. And because we’re close to these people, whether they’re family or close friends, they might think that they’re entitled to have more of our time and energy than other people are. So they might believe that it’s okay to push our boundaries and even convince us to drop them altogether.

That’s why especially when you first start setting boundaries in your relationships, it’s important to remind people about them by communicating them as often as you need to.

For example, let’s say that you share pictures of your kids with your mom, but you don’t want her to post them online. If your mom posts photos of your kids after you communicate your boundary, you’ll want to keep reminding her of your boundary. Continuing to communicate your boundary makes it clear to the other person that you’re serious about it. It also makes it harder for them to violate your boundary simply out of forgetfulness or because they think you won’t notice or care.


5. You Don’t Have Consequences for Repeat Offenders


It’s also possible that people violate your boundaries because they don’t face any consequences when they do it.

For example, if your mom repeatedly shares photos of your kids but doesn’t face any consequences for doing it, she’ll probably just keep doing it. After all, if she’s getting to do what she wants and isn’t facing any repercussions for her actions, why would she stop?

That’s why it’s important to create a consequence for people who violate your boundary. For example, you might decide that because your mom has violated your boundary several times, she won’t be able to receive photos of your kids for a period of time. If she can’t handle the photos responsibly and in line with the way that you, as the parent, have asked her to, she doesn’t have the right to receive them.

When you have consequences for those who violate your boundaries, it communicates that you’re serious about your boundaries and makes it less appealing to violate them.


6. They Don’t Respect You


When you communicate a boundary clearly and express that you’re serious about enforcing it, most people eventually respect it. But you might have someone in your life who violates your boundaries no matter what you do about it. Why? Because they don’t respect you.

If you know someone like this, you might spend a lot of time thinking, “Why don’t they respect me? What is it about me that makes them disrespect me?”

But the truth is that their actions probably have nothing to do with you. Instead, they’re probably like this with many or even most of the people in their life. They might feel entitled to get whatever they want from whomever they want no matter how much it violates the other person’s rights. And their behavior probably stems from their own issues within themselves that they need to deal with.

Until they’re able to work through their issues and respect you, you might need to walk away from the relationship or create enough distance that they can no longer violate you.


Be Clear, Confident, and Consistent When Setting Boundaries


Often, when people violate our boundaries, it’s because we haven’t set or enforced a boundary effectively. This gives people an opportunity or invitation to test our boundaries and, if they get far enough, to violate them.

That’s why when you set a boundary, it’s important to state it clearly, communicate it with confidence, and be consistent in enforcing it. This way, the people in your life know that you’re serious about it and that it isn’t worth their time or effort to push it.

Of course, to be able to set boundaries clearly, confidently, and consistently, you need to have a deep understanding of what’s important to you, what your values are, and what you’re not okay with.

To help you do this, I’ve created a FREE worksheet for you called My Personal Compass.

The My Personal Compass Worksheet will help you gain clarity on the boundaries that are right for you so that you can tell people exactly what your limits are and do it with confidence.

And if you haven’t done so already, follow me on my Facebook page Vera Velini – The Assertive Happiness Coach. That way, you’ll be among the first to hear about new blog posts, resources, and courses.

Until next time!



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