How do you love someone with loose boundaries?
March 10, 2024

Think about that person in your life who you constantly try to set boundaries with but who always seems to find a way to test your limits. They might disrespect your time (for example) by consistently showing up 30, 40, 50 minutes late then become angry with you because you did not want to wait for them, or they might regularly make and break plans with you, complaining that they are just so busy and that you should be more understanding.

Or this type of person might be a co-worker who steals your collaboratively built ideas, claiming them as their own or who disrespects your personal space even after you’ve politely told them that you care about personal space. It might even be a loved one who leaves their belongings everywhere or who constantly leaves unclean dishes in the kitchen sink even if they know that it’s very important to you that the kitchen is cleaned thoroughly every night.

We’ve all experienced these types of people in our lives, those whom we ask to respect our boundaries, but who constantly ignore our wishes by being disrespectful, disingenuous or just plain indifferent to our needs. These may even be people we love and who love us, but the constant disregard of boundaries is their standard operating procedure). What do you do? How do you address this?

I encourage you to do 2 things FIRST: 1) NAME YOUR EXPERIENCE and 2) ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS. You deserve emotional validation and you deserve to be treated with respect. START THERE.

Then try to remember that often, how the person who disregards your boundaries acts is not personal. This is how they live their lives and treat EVERYONE they encounter. It is learned and reinforced behavior that they often do not even recognize in themselves. That does not make it right, it just puts the behavior in context. Next, practice RE-setting and naming your boundaries with this person. For example, every time they make a boundary misstep with you, initially remind them with something like, “Remember last night when we talked, we agreed that the kitchen would always be cleaned at night before we go to bed? I noticed this morning that you left a lot of dirty dishes in sink and I would really appreciate it if you would honor our agreement.” Or “You know I adore you, but the next time you are more than 10 minutes late to meet up, you will arrive to an empty venue because I’m leaving boo! (lol)”

Sometimes you can’t walk away from the boundary crosser forever because you share a home or workplace. If this is the case, you may have to make a decision that your mental health and well-being comes first which means you need to step back or step away (i.e. disengage). Rarely are these easy decisions to make, and sometimes you have to enlist professional support to help you process, but know that these are always important decisions for your healing and growth.

Whichever words you use to help you reaffirm boundaries for those major missteps (from the person who never seems be able to respect your boundaries), recognize that part of self-care is loving yourself and that certain someone enough to TEACH them how to treat you. Ultimately, if their need to overstep outweighs their need to honor you, then you may want to consider their role in your life. It’s ok, you SHOULD feel safe in your relationships.

Part of loving someone with loose boundaries is understanding that they may have neither the desire nor the capacity to tighten up. Either way, YOUR boundaries are important for your mental health and you have the right to move on and take care of yourself if you need to. Remember…

Loving someone with loose boundaries often requires you to be firm in securing and maintaining yours.

Always wishing you, #LoveLightScience. Dr. Alfiee