Someone has crossed your personal boundary, now what?
As an empath, it is difficult for you to set healthy boundaries because you care about the feelings of others. You worry that you will hurt their feelings or make them angry. You probably have a difficult time dealing with the negative emotions of others. It drains your energy when someone is angry or upset with you.
Your being so worried about the feelings of others works out well for some people. The people that want you to give in to their wishes are more than happy to make you feel a little uncomfortable. The people that respect you, on the other hand, will be considerate of your feelings, but even they sometimes cross your boundaries without meaning to.
What are some consequences that won't ruin your relationship?
You can set boundaries with people you care about that will not ruin your relationship. Anyone that truly respects you will agree to your boundaries. In fact, boundaries will probably improve your relationship. Try these first:
- Be honest- Tell the person how you are feeling. Don’t hurl accusations, but tell how what they are doing is making you feel. “When you made that comment at dinner with your family, I felt embarrassed.”
- Tell the person what you prefer they did instead- “When we argue, I would like for you to speak to me in a calm voice.” Again, don’t throw accusations like, “You always yell.” Just matter-of-factly tell them what you would like to happen.
- Leave the room- If someone is becoming aggressive with their words, calmly tell them that you cannot talk to them when they are yelling or being rude. You will leave the room, and you can talk again later. (If you ever feel that you are in danger, call for help immediately.)
- Time- If you live with the person, this one is more difficult, but if not, you can stay away from them for a period of time until you both feel calmer. You can take a walk, go for a drive, or lock yourself in the bathroom even. If you don’t live with the person, you can limit conversation to text messages, or don’t reach out for a few days (even longer if necessary).
- Emotional distance- You may have to see this person every day, like your spouse, your coworker, or a neighbor, but you can guard your heart a little. Don’t share things that are sensitive. Talk to them only about things that are necessary for daily life (what’s for breakfast, what time your meeting is, etc.). You can talk to them about superficial things, like what you saw on a TV show or a new song you heard.
What if they still cross your boundaries?
Occasionally there will be a person in your life that will still cross your boundaries, even when you’ve tried the things above. Then it is time to make the boundaries more severe.
- Leave for a longer period of time- If you live with the person, go stay with a friend or family member for a while. It may even come down to finding a new place to live, filing for separation, or divorce. If you are living with a person that continually crosses your boundaries and refuses to change, that is not healthy for you.
- Cut contact- This is the most severe and hopefully will never happen to you, but in the case of a narcissistic person, this may be the only way you get peace and can begin to repair your health. It may be for a few months, or maybe even forever if necessary. Don’t think that just because someone is a family member or the parent of your children, that you have to be continually emotionally abused. See other family members that you still get along with at your home or a neutral location. In the case of joint custody, you can communicate through an app monitored by the courts.
- Restraining order- If this person continues to violate your requests for them to leave you alone, a restraining order may become necessary. Check with local law enforcement.
People that truly care about your well-being want to have a good relationship with you. They will work hard to adhere to your boundaries. Yes, they may fail at times, but they will genuinely want to do better.
A client of mine had trouble setting boundaries with her husband. He would yell during arguments, talk over her, and bring up past grievances. She told him she would leave the room when he didn’t talk to her calmly. It took several tries, but he eventually started to realize that he wasn’t getting anywhere with her when he yelled. She reported that he is not bringing up touchy subjects from the past anymore and even if she has to leave the room, they are able to work things out quicker than they did in the past. Her husband is a person that really wants her to be happy. Old habits die hard, but she can see how much he is trying.