Friends Who Criticize & Disregard Your Boundaries

Take special care of yourself during the challenging work of enforcing boundaries.
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Personal boundaries are essential to the maintenance of healthy relationships. By enforcing your personal boundaries, you demand respect -- including your self-respect, according to therapist Darlene Lancer in her article for Psych Central, "What Are Personal Boundaries? How Do I Get Some?" It makes sense that when these limits are ignored, demeaned and violated, your sense of security and self-worth may be threatened. Responding to such offenses in a firm, straightforward manner will help minimize these effects.

1 Nature of Offenses

When responding to friends who criticize or disregard your boundaries, consider the context and magnitude of the issue. The manner with which you handle each violation will fluctuate depending on the relationship and issue. You will probably be more inclined to forgive one friend for borrowing money from your purse without asking than another friend who flirted with your boyfriend, for example. You need not respond uniformly to all boundary violations. React in a way you feel is appropriate and assertive.

2 Assertive Response

The way you set boundaries and deal with violations of them can affect how your friends treat you. If you are passive and hesitant, they may be unaware of your boundaries. Even if you vocalize your personal limits to your friends, they may not be taken seriously if you fail to respond when boundaries are violated. This might be a time when friends minimize, ridicule or insult your personal limits, which is why assertive communication is crucial. Speak up when actions or behaviors offend you. You are not obligated to provide explanations or apologies.

3 Next Steps

Enforce ramifications to protect yourself. If your friend continues to borrow clothes from your closet without asking, even after you've let her know it is unacceptable, refrain from inviting her to your home again. If your closest confidante steals your journal and distributes its pages to the school, you may wish to end the relationship. It is critical to abide by the ramifications you instill -- while it may be tempting to reconnect with your confidante, for instance, she may interpret it as a message that she can mistreat you. Instead, she should work hard to regain your trust.

4 Reestablish Boundaries

If you've been repeatedly mistreated by the people who should be caring for and supporting you, it may be necessary to thoroughly reassess and strictly reaffirm your boundaries, according to the Psych Central article, "The Importance of Personal Boundaries." The article highlights the importance of saying "no" to others' requests and to confront underhanded comments that are disguised as humor. Some of your friends may not be comfortable with these changes. You may lose relationships during the process of reestablishing your limits. But the friendships that endure may prove to be the most valuable.

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.