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Relationships: 12 Ways To Spot Unhealthy Boundaries

sneaky photoDo you know how to make someone respect your boundaries? Would you know what to say or do to keep your boundaries firm?

Most people struggle with boundaries because we, as a society, tend to see things at face value and with the intent of communicating in a peaceful manner. We hardly ever anticipate that someone would mistreat or misuse us.

This article will discuss and highlight 12 characteristics of someone with unhealthy boundaries. All of these characteristics are based on personal and professional experience. Some of these are also based on the experience of clients.

‘Stay tuned for next week’s article on ways to combat individuals attempting to push your boundaries.

Developing and maintaining relationships can be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever have to do. Relationships are never as easy as we think they should be. They are often fraught with emotional, behavioral, social, genetic, and psychological components that make them complicated. If you find yourself stuck in a relationship with someone who is unstable, unhealthy, or abusive, getting away is the only hope you have.

Below are a few behaviors that are often characteristic of someone intent on pushing your boundaries:

  • Psychological urgency: Psychological urgency is a concept that explains another person’s intent to cause you to “jump” for them when they report something to you or tell you something that triggers you. Psychological urgency is a form of manipulation. It can be used by retail stores to get you to purchase things much sooner than you would like to. It’s a way to kickstart your decision-making process in hopes that you will impulsively react. I talk a bit more about this here:
  • Frequent attempts to “capture you:” Have you ever seen a person who seems to constantly have you on their mind? You being on their mind should not be flattering. You being on their mind is often because they see you being beneficial to them in some fashion. You are not valued. You are not respected. You are being used. I once counseled a young lady whose neighbor would always send her lovely notes, shovel snow for her without charging, offer to drive her to school, and make lunches for her. It was so sweet until one day this neighbor decided to ask her if she would help her care for her dying mother. When my client said “no, I won’t be able to do that” and offered an explanation as to why this neighbor became satan.
  • No recognition of your emotions: Users and abusers never have your best interest at heart. They are constantly trying to keep you confused. In fact, gaslighting and stonewalling are two terms that best describe this. Stonewalling is the act of refusing to answer questions, reply to you, or engage another individual in conversation so as to control them or undermine them. It’s an evil way of confusing and abusing you. Gaslighting is the act of engaging in behaviors that cause the other person to second guess themselves. It’s another evil form of control. I can almost guarantee you that most of these individuals are narcissists.
  • Little care or concern about your health/safety: An individual who has an ulterior motive or vendetta will most likely engage in behaviors that place you in danger. For example, a co-worker may ask you to lie for them even knowing that you lying could result in you losing your job. A family member may ask you to back them up in an argument even if they know you are likely to get hurt in the process.
  • Multiple attempts to “team up” with you: Some people just can’t take no for an answer. And some people simply can’t move on with their lives without trying to involve you. When someone can’t seem to engage in their own life without involving you or wanting you to be apart of something they are apart of, you’ll need to re-evaluate their intentions. I was contacted a few years ago by an executive who had been apart of a law firm for 25 years. He couldn’t understand why his high-powered colleague refused to move on when he told him that he was not interested in working on a client case together. This colleague became vindictive, angry, and abusive. He then made statements about him to other colleagues who then made the work environment very difficult to survive in. A simple “no” resulted in years of abuse. He is still in therapy.
  • Lack of respect for your need for privacy: Your need for space and privacy should be respected. You deserve it. Everyone deserves it. But for the individual who is incapable of respecting your boundaries, you’ll want to get away. This individual has no respect for two essential needs most humans have. This not only tells you where their head is at, but also can tell you a lot about what they value and don’t value. Is this kind of person really capable of truly respecting you?
  • Attempts to “chip away” at you or your life: Manipulative people often don’t fear authority or the feelings and thoughts of others. They like to push boundaries and get what they want through coercion, fear, or manipulation. These individuals have a way they work and think. They tend to work subtly by revisiting a situation over and over again until you give in. They tend to say the same things, do the same things, or manipulate their way into your space by tiring you out, getting on your nerves, or not letting up. This kind of manipulation is subtle and can be a form of triangulation.
  • Entitlement: Someone with an entitled attitude is always going to be difficult to live with and deal with. Nothing is ever going to be equal and shared. You will always end up feeling like you are being used, abused, or demeaned. Don’t put up with entitled behaviors.
  • Attempts to test you, repeatedly: Testing you might come in the form of refusing to talk things out with you, refusing to be equal or fair, refusing to listen and engage with you, and ignoring your needs in favor of their own. Testing you might also come in the form of manipulation to see how far they can go with you. These behaviors don’t just happen once.
  • Sneaky behavior behind the scenes: Sneakiness can be one of the most detrimental behaviors in a relationship. We all know that you cannot trust a sneaky person. They are always doing things behind your back and without your knowledge. They are controlling and have a need to always be “in the know.” They have to be on top and know what is going on while keeping you in the dark. This behavior is evil, to say the least.
  • Split personalities: We all have good days and bad days. We all change as we age. We all change as life gets harder or as we experience various things in our lives. But this is acceptable. A person with “switchable” behaviors and attitudes as well as emotions can be very difficult to deal with. They often violate boundaries because they are frequently changing. These individuals may come across as confused or uncertain about their decisions and emotions. And although this may be true, they are manipulating your boundaries by keeping you on-guard or confused.
  • Emotional and psychological manipulation: Emotional manipulation may occur when you refuse to give in to the manipulative person. Emotional and psychological has a lot to do with how you think and feel about yourself and the other person. Emotional and psychological manipulation involves gaslighting, stonewalling, reaction formation (showing an opposite emotion of what is actually felt), lying, deception, etc. All behaviors are engaged in to negatively affect you in some fashion.


Can you relate to any of the behaviors above? Have you ever experienced them at the hand of someone you live with, work with, or talk to?

As always, looking forward to learning about your experiences.

I wish you well


All references are embedded in this article.
                                                                                                                                      Photo by Conor Lawless
Relationships: 12 Ways To Spot Unhealthy Boundaries

Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC

Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC, is a licensed therapist and internationally certified trauma professional, in private practice, who specializes in working with children and adolescents who suffer from mood disorders, trauma, and disruptive behavioral disorders. She also provides international consultations and works with some young and older adults struggling with grief & loss or life transitions. Hill strives to help clients to realize and actualize their strengths in their home environments and in their relationships within the community. She credits her career passion to a “divine calling” and is internationally recognized for corresponding literary works as well as appearances on radio and other media platforms. She is an author, family consultant, Keynote speaker, and founder of Anchored Child & Family Counseling. Visit her at Anchored-In-Knowledge or Twitter and Youtube Youtube If you are interested in scheduling a telehealth family consultation, feel free to let me know. *Ms. Hill has moved all content to her other social media platforms. Take care!

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APA Reference
Hill, T. (2018). Relationships: 12 Ways To Spot Unhealthy Boundaries. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Feb 2018
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