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When Talking Isn’t Enough

LindaMy friend Joe told me that when he was a boy, he grew up with three golden Labrador Retrievers that everyone in the family adored. His mom did most of the cooking. She was a good cook and spent a lot of time preparing tasty meals for the family. When everything was ready to go on the table, she called out to Joe, his two brothers and their dad. It annoyed her that she would have to call out to them multiple times before they would all arrive at the table.

One evening after calling them to the table three times with no response, Joe’s mom dumped the entire dinner on the kitchen floor for the dogs to eat, and then she left the house. Joe told me that this behavior got the family’s attention in a way that her verbal requests never had. They all got the message from her firm boundary setting. Joe told me, “Whenever my mother called us to dinner following this dramatic incident, everyone scrambled to show up at the table right away.”

When we have spoken of our needs and made specific requests about behaviors we want to see, boundaries we want honored, and they are ignored, it hurts us. When our verbal attempts are not getting the job done, another approach is called for. To think creatively and then find a behavior that can assist in the process of making or points is required.

When we lower our expectations of our partner, they will act accordingly. When we settle for unfair arrangements such as housekeeping childcare falling primarily on us and not being distributed more equitably, or a financial disadvantage with the way money is spent or saved, or one partner having much more influence indecision making to name a few, we are challenged to become more proactive about setting boundaries and speaking up in our own behalf by saying,” No, this is not working for me.”

What boundary setting is NOT:

  • It’s not a threat or ultimatum to leave the partnership.
  • It’s not a mixed message as in “I’m done with this” and yet we continue to live with it.
  • It is not an attempt to control our partner or to change them.
  • It is not get back, revenge or vindictiveness.

What boundary setting IS:

  • It is an announcement of what is true in our inner experience, as in “This what I feel. This is what I think. This is what I cannot do. This is what I can do.”
  • It is knowing ourselves well enough to know hat we can give with a pure heart and no resentment and what we cannot give.
  • It is an outgrowth of our self-respect that allows us to find the courage to speak up.
  • It is an honoring of the self and feeling of self worth that we deserve to have what we truly desire.

There is a place for tolerance, acceptance and flexibility in a partnership, but it can become too much of a good thing. We are all responsible for knowing ourselves well enough to know where the lines are to take a stand for our priorities beliefs and values. If we press over the lines of what is important to us, tolerant of behaviors from our partner that violate our well-being, we are sure to see our marriage suffer. It is only when we are willing to take a firm stand that we protect both the partnership and ourselves.

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When Talking Isn’t Enough


Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at:

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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2019). When Talking Isn’t Enough. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 Jan 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.