My parents were world class boundary violators so I’ve had some personal experience with this issue. My mother didn’t know where she stopped and I started. I used to joke that she was the kind who would say “I’m cold; you need to put on a sweater.”
My father could start out chatting with someone at a party and make them so mad they would end up threatening him with bodily harm.
I believe it is more difficult to handle boundary violations by people we are closer to. Here are some ways to understand and deal with them.
Types of Boundary Violations
As described by Pia Mellody, boundary violations can be either external or internal. External boundary violations have to do with physical space like standing too close, unwelcome touching or behaving in too familiar a way. When someone grabs food off your plate without asking it may be a violation of your external boundaries.
Internal boundary violations include things like taking responsibility for someone else’s thoughts, feelings or behavior. When someone assumes that they know how you think, feel or what you should do they are violating your internal boundaries. When someone tells you how to conduct your life or tries to manipulate you in covert ways they are violating your boundaries. Internal boundaries are also being violated when someone blames you for what they are feeling.
Who violates your boundaries?
Other people violate your healthy boundaries because they have poor boundaries. They have a weak sense of self and cannot maintain respect for your separate identity. This can result from a number of different causes.
Do’s and Don’ts of responding to the violating behavior
Boundary violations can be anywhere from vaguely annoying to traumatic. Here are some important things to remember about these types of situations.
Dealing with a boundary violator involves the ability to set good boundaries yourself. This may not always get the result you want. I am reminded of the slogan “accept it, change it, or leave it.” But whatever you do or don’t do it is important to see the violation for what it is.
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Last reviewed: 16 Jan 2014