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How to enforce boundaries

Strong boundaries are an important part of every healthy relationship, whether it’s between romantic partners, friends, family members, or even coworkers and casual acquaintances. But enforcing those boundaries can be tricky. If you’re not sure how to make your boundaries stick, read on—we’ll give you some helpful tips, like how to set realistic consequences for when someone crosses your limits.

Well-defined boundaries are easier to enforce. Write down your boundaries as specifically as possible, so you’ll have a better idea of where to draw the line with other people in your life. Figuring out the details ahead of time makes it easier to communicate your boundaries to other people.

  • For instance, if you’re setting boundaries in a romantic relationship, you could write something like, “I’m comfortable talking about my past relationships in a general way, but I won’t answer a lot of detailed questions about things I did with my exes

Always choose consequences you can follow through on. When you set a boundary, it helps to let the other person know what will happen if they cross it. Be as specific as possible. Avoid setting repercussions that are vague, unrealistic, or out of proportion to the boundary violation.

Inconsistent enforcement may confuse others. If you don’t stay on top of your boundaries, other people are more likely to keep crossing them. Once you set a boundary, do your best to stick to it and always carry out the consequences you’ve stated.

People may find your new boundaries upsetting at first. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a coworker, other people in your life may take it personally when you set boundaries with them. They might get angry or sad, or they may even intentionally try to push your boundaries to see what they can get away with. If this happens, be firm and calmly remind them of your boundary and the consequences if they cross it.

Explain that your boundaries aren’t meant to be hurtful. Setting boundaries with someone you care about can be especially difficult. If the person’s feelings are hurt, remind them that you care about them and that the boundaries are meant to help your relationship—not damage it.

Setting and enforcing boundaries is a process. Don’t overwhelm someone with a bunch of new boundaries all at once, or expect them to make a sudden, major change in their behavior out of the blue. Instead, start small and gradually expand or modify your boundaries as needed

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