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People who are disrespectful in a relationship lack boundaries. Establishing boundaries is usually easier in a new relationship, but what happens when you need boundaries in an existing relationship? New boundaries can be scary to present and enforce especially in long standing relationships.
In an effort to avoid awkwardness or disconnection you may try to accommodate unwelcome behaviors until you figure out how to gently ensure the other person respects your new boundary. Or until you figure out how to avoid the smear campaign they may launch. Both leave you in difficult and exhausting positions.
Clarify Your Feelings
Before setting boundaries with someone, you’ll want to gain clarity on why you’re setting the boundary. This will allow you to feel strong and confident if push back occurs. Take some time to explore your thoughts and feelings. Journaling is a great way to self-reflect and openly discuss how you view a situation.
You could also talk to a trusted friend or therapist that can help you sort through your feelings and the needs behind them. When you feel clear on your feelings, needs, and the boundary that will support you, you’re ready to talk.
You are worthy of your feelings. You are deserving of your needs. You are entitled to take up space.
Your boundaries are for you, they’re not meant to benefit anyone else. Setting boundaries can feel selfish, you may have guilt or worry about what other people will think. This is normal, so prepare yourself to face this normal circumstance by boosting your confidence with some self care. Use affirmations, spend time with people you connect with, do something you love.
Taking care of yourself before having a difficult conversation allows you to feel grounded and worthy.
Set the Scene
First, know that you don’t need a sit down conversation or full on explanation of what our boundaries are or how and why you’re engaging them now. You’re allowed to start enforcing boundaries at any time.
So, for example if your mother is always guilting you over visits or phone calls, try saying, “Please stop making this situation uncomfortable with guilt.” People often respond to these direct communications with disingenuous curiosity, “What are you talking about?” But that’s not your problem. State your needs clearly. They’ll get it if they want to.
Getting involved in conversations about someone’s behavior and how it impacts you can be helpful but can also be futile. Be careful with how much information you’re willing to offer about your feelings and boundaries. There’s never a need to debate.
In an existing relationship it’s more difficult to explain our boundaries because of the patterns of behavior we’ve established. If someone in our lives seems defensive or unaccepting of our new boundaries that doesn’t automatically mean we must cut them off and abandon the relationship.
In this example, continually shoterning contact after clearly expressed feelings can lead to modified behaviors. If your mother wants to remain in the relationship with you, she’ll learn through a new pattern of behavior what is and is not acceptable. This may take time, it may take growth and growth can be uncomfortable, but will lead to authentic, sustainable change that supports a peaceful and fulfilling relationship.
Relationship resilience is about knowing there will be pushback and we can love each other through it. There will be ebbs and flows, and we can grow together. Initial responses are not permanent decisions.
Return to Consistency
The second part of protecting our emotional energy is being consistent with our new patterns of behavior. Continued respect happens through consistently enforced boundaries. This doesn’t mean remain consistent at all costs, you are human and you are fallible. Trying to return to consistent behaviors over and over leads to healthy habits that we can eventually follow naturally.
Establishing or enforcing boundaries in new relationships don’t often lead to explanations because they’re unnecessary. Existing relationship don’t require explanations either. Boundaries that are not followed result in limited or rescheduled the contact. This gives both parties time and space to reassess their own behaviors and communication.
Explaining or defending boundaries and emotional needs means they’re debatable. Everyone has a right to establish their own healthy boundaries and enforce them as they see fit.
Know When It’s Time to Quit
People who are disrespectful in a relationship often lack respect for themselves. Healthy relationships consist of people who know how to ask for help in getting their needs met. People who disrespectful in relationships are usually getting their need met in unhealthy, unskilled ways. Emotional immaturity is most often the cause for disrespect in a relationship.
Once you’ve discovered you’re in a relationship with someone who is emotionally immature, the healthiest thing to do is focus on your personal needs and boundaries.