People who struggle to set boundaries in relationships often display these 11 behaviors

Have you ever heard the saying that good fences make good neighbors?

Well, the same is true when it comes to boundaries in relationships. The stronger your boundaries, the more likely you are to have a happy and healthy relationship.

“One of our most basic rights is the right to own our boundaries,” writes counselor Andrea Mathews. But boundaries are not about controlling the behavior of others.

“Boundaries don’t have anything to do with making someone else do anything. Boundaries have to do with ownership,” Mathews says.

So, for example, if someone says something that hurts you, you don’t have the power to make them stop. But you do have the power to decide for yourself whether you want to spend time with that person.

Boundaries are about your own behavior and how you will let other people treat you. They are about setting standards for your own behavior and what you will and won’t tolerate.

Unfortunately, some people really struggle to set boundaries in a healthy way.

And this inability to set boundaries can often show itself in other behaviors, too.

Keep an eye out for these behaviors in yourself and in others. Because when you encounter them, it may be a sign that your boundaries need a little work.

1) Apologizing too much

There’s nothing wrong with a good apology. In fact, being able to apologize when you’ve done something wrong is a good sign of someone with emotional maturity.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as apologizing too much.

These are people who say phrases like: “sorry for interrupting” or “sorry, but I don’t agree.”

In other words, they are apologizing for things that don’t need an apology.

It’s good to apologize when you’ve done something wrong. It’s not healthy to apologize for having any needs at all. But that’s what people who struggle to set boundaries often do.

They will apologize for speaking up in a meeting when the whole point is to get people’s views. They will apologize for being in somebody’s way, as if they can possibly avoid taking up space somewhere.

If you know someone who is always apologizing – even if that person is you – it may be a sign of someone who struggles to set boundaries.

2) Difficulty saying no

People who struggle with boundaries are often desperate to avoid any kind of conflict. Frequently, they are people who lack their own internal sources of validation, and so they seek it from others, meaning they want everyone to like them.

One of the ways this shows itself is in a difficulty with saying no to anyone.

That means they will agree to unpaid overtime if their boss asks them for it. They will agree to help a friend move, even when they have something else they should be doing. They will agree to host family events when they can’t afford it.

“Many of us are afraid of conflict. We don’t like others to be angry with us or critical of us,” says psychotherapist F. Diane Barth. “We therefore avoid saying “no” when we are afraid that it will put us into conflict with someone else, whether that someone is an intimate partner, a colleague or friend, or a supervisor or boss.”

Unfortunately, this desire to avoid conflict at any cost often leads to people sacrificing their own happiness just to keep the peace.

3) Overcommitment

Another sign of someone who has a hard time establishing healthy boundaries is overcommitment.

In other words, these people agree to do more than they should just because they don’t want to say no.

They may take on extra responsibilities at work that are outside the scope of the job. They may volunteer to help out at the kids’ school when they really don’t have the time.

You can spot someone like this because they are always busy. Not wanting to disappoint anyone around them, they agree to do whatever other people ask, even when they don’t have the time or resources for it.

Healthy boundaries help to prevent people from overcommitting themselves to please others.

Untitleddesign25 png to jpg converter People who struggle to set boundaries in relationships often display these 11 behaviors

4) Conflict avoidance

As I already mentioned, a lot of the difficulty people have in establishing healthy boundaries comes from a desire to avoid conflict.

Most people don’t like conflict. But for some, the desire not to get into an argument with anyone can lead to them putting their own needs last.

Unfortunately, this desire to avoid conflict at all costs often results in them doing things they don’t want to do just to keep the people around them happy.

5) Feelings of guilt

It’s hard for people who struggle with setting boundaries to prioritize their needs. Instead, they tend to focus on the needs of other people and sacrifice their own time, money, or other resources to make others happy.

And if they do finally take some time for themselves, they often feel guilty for it.

Maybe they feel they shouldn’t be enjoying themselves when they could be working harder to make more money. Or maybe they feel that they should be focusing on taking care of the kids rather than doing something for themselves.

The truth is, we all need to do the things that make us happy from time to time. And no one should feel guilty for taking care of themselves.

Unfortunately, those who struggle to set boundaries often do.

6) Seeking validation from others

This tendency lies at the root of a lot of the behavior of people who struggle to set boundaries.

“We often rely on friends and loved ones for support and encouragement. A part of that includes external validation,” says mental health writer Shahida Arabi.

“But like any behavior, validation-seeking exists on a spectrum — from the less harmful habit of impressing someone or occasionally compromising with others to keep the peace to the more harmful one of ignoring our rights and enduring abuse to avoid abandonment.”

The trouble is, some people don’t know how to validate themselves and their own behaviors. Maybe they were raised by highly critical parents who never taught them the self-esteem to get their own internal validation.

Whatever the reason, this leads people to rely too heavily on the opinions of others for their own sense of worth.

Therefore, they will do what they think other people want them to do to get them to like them. They will ignore their own preferences and even well-being just to keep others happy.

7) Neglecting their own needs

And often, focusing on the needs of others leads people with poor boundaries to neglect their own.

Maybe they don’t exercise because they spend all their time taking care of their family. Maybe they don’t make time for their own hobbies because they are too caught up in making their partner happy.

There are lots of different ways a person with poor boundaries can neglect their own needs. But ultimately, they all destructive.

If your partner says these phrases they love you more than you realize People who struggle to set boundaries in relationships often display these 11 behaviors

8) Being easily influenced

Do you know someone who tends to take on the views, opinions, and even personalities of the people around them?

That’s a sure sign of someone who is easily influenced. And that, in turn, may be a sign of someone with an inability to set boundaries.

Because they want to be liked so badly, these people will adopt whatever personality they think the people around them want.

They will like what everyone else likes and dislike what others dislike, all in an attempt to fit in and get the validation from others that they crave.

9) Putting up with bad situations

Often, people who have trouble setting boundaries put up with bad situations far longer than they should.

They may stay in a job they hate, lacking the confidence to apply for something else. They may maintain friendships with people who aren’t well suited to them just because they are afraid of being alone.

At the more extreme end of the spectrum, these people sometimes stay in abusive relationships because they don’t have the confidence to walk away.

10) Fear of rejection

Often, a desire to please others comes from a fear of rejection.

Some people are so afraid of being alone that they will put up with people who are not at all suited for them, just because they think it’s better than having no one.

Plus, a fear of rejection can stop people from going after their dreams because they don’t have the confidence in themselves to pursue them.

11) People pleasing

Finally, people who struggle to set boundaries often fall victim to people-pleasing.

This means they have a hard time saying no and will change their behaviors according to what the people around them want.

Signs of people pleasing include:

  •       Avoiding confrontation
  •       Feeling afraid to disagree with others
  •       Anxiety
  •       Feeling responsibility for the feelings of others
  •       Perfectionism

The importance of boundaries

People who struggle to set boundaries with others often appear like very generous and agreeable types.

But under that kindness there is an ocean of anxiety, self-doubt, and fear.

The behaviors on this list can point toward someone who struggles to set boundaries. Whether that’s you or someone else, it’s something that should be addressed if you really want to be happy.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

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