Last week we talked about what to do when someone is repeatedly disrespecting your limits, and we looked at Clarity and Consistency as initial principles. Today, third and fourth Cs around boundaries Consequences and Choices.
If you are sure that you have set the boundary in an appropriate and realistic place, have defined it with clarity and held it consistently yourself but it's still being disrespected, then you might need to look at applying some consequences to get the outcome you are after. In all honesty, this bit is not a lot of fun and might feel really scary - which is why we naturally tend to resist it - but it's an essential part of the process. We often are reticent to set boundaries, especially with the people we love. We take on responsibility for their emotional reality, and get can confused with loving someone and boundaries being applied; that they are mutually exclusive states. Not so. Loving someone doesn't mean having unclear boundaries or an absence of consequences. In fact, having really clear, compassionate and consistent boundaries can be one of the greatest expressions of love there is.
The key thing here is Choice. By making sure you include an element of choice for them, and that you follow through with whatever the consequence is. You do have to mean it. If you are not serious about your consequence, you can't expect other people to be serious about respecting your boundary. If you say you are going to withhold the car keys if it's returned empty of gas again, then you do need to actually do it and remove the keys.
Consequences can feel harsh, which brings up the resistance. We all want to be liked! However do consider the flip side before backing off. What are the consequences of you NOT applying a boundary? Living in a pigsty? Feeling resentful? Dreading Mother coming over for dinner? Turning up to meetings that are continually cancelled or running late?
Please don't make the mistake of thinking there are NO consequences if you don't enforce your boundaries. There absolutely are consequences - they just become yours! The consequence is that you feel resentful, or spend your time doing extra cleaning or staying late or sucking up another rude comment or whatever it might be. When boundaries are being continually disrespected there are always consequences somewhere - it's just who handles them that's at stake. So, the choice is there, isn't it? Either you choose to give someone else a choice of consequences or you take them yourself.
Is there somewhere in your life that you might benefit from introducing a choice of options with a consequence in order for a boundary to be respected? My clients find this process scary, but ultimately thrilling as they start seeing change happening around them and their life becomes freer of resentment and frustration. Apply the boundary with a clear choice and be prepared to follow through on your consequences if required. You've got this!
Through her online Happiness programme "Wellbeing Warriors", life coach Louise Thompson helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Sign up at louisethompson.com and find more from Louise at