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Watching for Poor Boundaries

Updated on May 19, 2016

Red Flags Waving

Have you ever met someone with whom you developed an instant rapport? The two of you shared so much in common that you could talk for hours on end.

Or, rather, she did most of the talking and you just listened. But that was okay, because she was so witty and entertaining.

Although you've only known this person a few short weeks, you've spent a lot of time with her. Even though she also has children, lately, it doesn't look like she seen them much. That's because she's usually at your house.

Even though your husband likes your friends, and he doesn't mind when they come over, he's been requesting a quiet night alone, something that hasn't happened since this new acquaintance arrived on the scene.

You'd like some time to yourself as well. You thought this would happen tonight, but, there she is again, ringing your doorbell. She's holding a big fruit basket. That's for you. She also has presents for each of your children.

She walks into your kitchen, to tell you all about her day. As usual, it's filled with adventure and lots of drama.

Oh, and by the way, she's planning a party this weekend. You're invited, along with several of your other friends, whom she just met a few days ago.

"But don't bring the kids, because mine won't be there," she says. "This party's just for the grownups."

When you tell her you can't get a sitter, especially on such short notice, she gets a little angry. But just for a second. She quickly regains her composure and insists you send your kids to her brother's house, where her own children are spending a few days.

This plan makes you uncomfortable. You tell her you'll think about it.

Meanwhile, she whips out her phone and speed dials her brother, to inform him he'll have some extra house guests.

"Okay, it's all taken care of," she says with a smile.

Personality disorders and poor boundaries.
Personality disorders and poor boundaries. | Source

A Breach of Boundaries

The above example is, perhaps, an extreme case of someone with little regard for psychological boundaries. It's a strong indicator this person is not mentally healthy. Also, the fact that's she's imposing her desires upon you indicates she doesn't respect you enough to allow you to make your own decisions.

Although she has some charming qualities, there's also a very good chance the friendship, if it develops, isn't going to last.

In fact, there's a strong possibility this woman may have some other issues, such as borderline personality disorder or malignant narcissism. Neither of these conditions are the least bit fun once you become involved with them.

Maintaining a relationship with someone who has a personality disorder can lead to what's often called "crazy making." Because that's how it makes you feel from the endless cycle of drama. To put it another way, there is no upside to having this sort of friendship.

People with personality disorders can be great company, but only for awhile. Sooner or later, things are bound to take a very ugly turn. If you're a woman, involved with such a female friend, the two of you are headed for a fall out. That's because people with poor boundaries have trouble maintaining relationships.

They become offended over very little things, or over nothing at all. Suddenly, you go from a good buy to arch-enemy number one. When this happens, their boundary issues once again come into play.

People with disordered personalities have a hard time keeping their self-created struggles and problems to themselves. So everyone gets dragged in.

Watch if an acquaintance has poor boundaries.
Watch if an acquaintance has poor boundaries. | Source

Spotting Poor Boundaries

The above example of a new "friendship" that quickly goes from zero to 80 is almost a caricature, because a number of different boundaries were crossed in a very short span of time. Most of the people we encounter, who push our limits, don't operate with such impunity.

Breaches of boundaries may not be quite so obvious, but they typically spell bad news. That's why spotting them, before getting in too deep with someone who pushes our limits, and becomes a toxic force in our lives, is a very good idea.

So, how can you tell when someone you've just met is bending your boundaries?

Too Much Too Soon

Healthy friendships usually develop over time. There is no pressure to see one another all the time, or every night. Most people nowadays have a lot going on in their lives. Someone with unlimited time to spend with you apparently doesn't.

Does he or she have a pattern of rushing relationships, and, then, doing something to make them implode? Does he or she have any other friends? Does he or she ever spend time with family members? Why not?

Pay special attention if this is coupled with anger or bitterness toward everyone they previously knew. No one, until now, has been able to understand them. However, you hold the keys to their happiness.

Deceitful, manipulative people often play the sympathy card, especially early on. Because they are so adept at reading other people, they use this ploy on those they know will respond. They like to take advantage of fixers and people who like to extend themselves for others. If you rush to their aid, they'll know they've hooked a live one.

Poor boundaries mean poor self control.
Poor boundaries mean poor self control. | Source

Probing, Prying Questions

No one has the right to ask pointed questions and then stare at you blankly until you answer them. This is a violation of your privacy, and it doesn't bode well for the future of this relationships.

Keep in mind that you don't have to answer. A good way to respond is with a question of your own, such as, "Now, why would you ask such a thing?"

People who can't mind their own business aren't good companions. They are information gatherers, not true friends. Be mindful if they have a habit of talking badly about others, when they're not around. Few things in life come with a guarantee. But here's an exception. If someone gossips about others behind their backs, this means they have no control over their tongues. They'll say similar things about you, when you're not around. This is something you can count on.

Setting Better Boundaries

Say "no" and mean it
Don't justify your answer
Set time limits
Stay detached
You don't have to justify why you are saying "no." It's your decision and it needs to be respected.
Don't apologize for saying "no." Instead, ask why he or she won't stop asking you to change your mind.
You don't have to spend hours entertaining someone with poor boundaries. Politely excuse yourself.
Narcissists love to create drama. Refuse to participate.

Not Taking "No" For an Answer

People with personality disorders can be very pushy. They expect you to go along with their plans. It doesn't matter if you don't agree with the agenda, or doing so poses a major inconvenience. Since everything is about them, your needs don't matter.

A new acquaintance, or an old friend, should be able to take "no" for an answer. Any response stronger than, "Oh, are you sure?," unless they joking, probably means they're pushing you beyond what's appropriate. It's also a sign this person does not respect you. Otherwise, they'd accept your decision.

Someone this pushy probably has a history of wearing people down, in order to get her own way.

More Tips on Spotting a Narcissist

Seizing Upon Your Other Relationships

The fictitious character in the first part of this article crossed a very big boundary when she contacted your other friends through Facebook to invite them to her party. Since she had just met these people, they were a little reluctant to attend. However, she assured them you'd be there, even before she confirmed this with you.

In the weeks to follow, these people will also receive a host of other invitations, ranging from golf dates for the husbands to girls' nights out. It will be dizzying. But it's happening because this new acquaintance has little regard for conventional social mores.

A Vague Feeling Something Isn't Right

Oftentimes, a lack of boundaries is more subtle than the over-the-top example I described above. But if you're engaged in such a dynamic, you'll likely know, on some level, that things aren't quite right. It may be just an uneasy feeling whenever you're around this person. You might even think it's your fault, and that you're being too judgmental.

However, if it's persistent, listen to your gut and take a step back. Non-stop talking is also a symptom of poor boundaries. Actually, one study of job applicants conducted by Dr. Peter Harms, PhD., a researcher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln demonstrated that people with strong narcissistic traits spend a lot of time moving their lips.

I'm not a licensed psychologist, or a social worker, so I may not be right about this. However, from my own experience dealing with a covert narcissist, I believe that morally disordered people who manage to blend in with the rest of us are the most dangerous. These "higher functioning" types are good at breaking boundaries right in front of you, without setting off too many alarms. Unfortunately, sometimes, we only realize this in hindsight.


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  • Brie Hoffman profile image

    Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan

    Another very good article, voted up!

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Brie, thanks so much.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Great hub ologsinquito. Everything you say here is spot on. I have personally met people like you describe. Voted up.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Jodah, Oh yes, these are the types that can cause trouble.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

    This is quite a new look at forming friendships which I found very interesting and well done. I am a little uneasy whenever I meet someone who proclaims I am their best friend after only knowing them for a week or so. It happens. Great advice on forming good bonds with people.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

    You definitely have these people figured out. I'm following your sensible advice in reading and responding to them. Voted Up!

  • Maggie.L profile image

    Maggie.L 2 years ago from UK

    . I personally have never been involved with someone like this as I'm wary by nature, but this is great advice you've given out for those in this situation.

  • Janellegems profile image

    Janellegems 2 years ago from United States

    My family and I have experienced people as you described, asking personal questions too soon or someone who would not take no for an answer and listen to our side of things, spending too much time with us, till we strongly put a stop to it. Your Hub helps many to recognize types of people like these and how to deal with them.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Janellegems, it is very frustrating dealing with this type of personality. Thanks so much for reading.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

    This was an especially good one. I liked the description that you provided: "They like to take advantage of fixers and people who like to extend themselves for others. If you rush to their aid, they'll know they've hooked a live one." It was so appropriate and I have also seen that to be the case. Pinning this!

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi teaches, MsDora, Maggie, Jane and Flourish, thanks so much for reading. Maggie, consider yourself very fortunate. It's not fun to be involved with these kinds of people. Jane, no one has a right to ask such personal questions. teaches, this makes me very uneasy as well.

  • Purpose Embraced profile image

    Yvette Stupart PhD 2 years ago from Jamaica

    Thanks for writing on the issue of boundaries in relationships. Poor boundaries could be an indication of relational dependency. Here, there is a loss of individuality and a focus on pleasing others. But there could also be manipulation and control stemming from a fear of losing relationships.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Purpose Embraced, thanks for reading. Poor boundaries are a bad sign, no doubt about it.

  • macteacher profile image

    Wendy Golden 2 years ago from New York

    Great hub! I've had a lot of experience with malignant narcissists, and they are exhausting indeed. You mentioned your experience with a covert narcissist. I'd love to see a hub about that. I think I may have just dodged a bullet with a covert narcissist. Her behavior was not pushy like other narcissists - but she ended up creating just a much drama in very bizarre, quiet ways - just as sneaky and manipulative though. Thanks for writing about this topic. Our culture is crawling with these people.

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

    Trusting your instincts is a great way to protect yourself from such characters. Often, we feel uncomfortable doing just that. We tend to lean toward being "nice" and not wanting to hurt someone's feelings. When I met a new neighbor who was just like that, pushy, showing up too often, unloading too much information, I wanted to avoid her. But I didn't want to be rude. So, silly me, when she came to the door, I hid. Once, she was knocking on the back door and I was scrunched up on the floor just below the door feeling like a total idiot. But it worked. She stopped coming around. I didn't reinforce her behavior. Or, she thought that I was the nut because she saw me crawling around the house and hiding! Haha.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi macteacher, our culture certainly is crawling with narcissists. Forewarned is forearmed. Thanks so much for reading.

    Dolores, it sounds like this wasn't a relationship you would want to develop. It is very hard to balance our need to be nice, with not getting entangled in something that would be very difficult to extricate ourselves from. If you opened the door, you would have been drawn in.

  • firstday profile image

    R Beggs 2 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

    Thumbs up and useful…been there with someone and dealing with it now. People without boundaries that have the qualities you mentioned are difficult to deflect without offending them.

  • Vonda Gee profile image

    Vonda Gee 17 months ago from New York

    I don't have children so I cannot relate to this specific scenario, but I'm guessing as an adult we all run into as well as meet individuals that will have certain qualities that are nothing like ours. Maybe even a bit more dramatic, but hey, you can step away from them or continue to entertain for whatever reason you choose. Personally I find it strange that grown people become so engulfed in name calling and categorizing people based on differences. A married person, no different than a single person can have quirks that do not necessarily fit comfortably in how you've designed your life, and if you feel like it will disturb your peace, you're free to step away, especially if you believe they will cause you harm. Outside of having a friendships, some individuals will marry individuals with whatever personality quirks, only to speak ill because it "doesn't fit". It's every individuals responsibility to know who and what you can handle, deal with, entertain without prolonging a connection you either do not want, or feel is a hazard to your life.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 17 months ago from USA

    Hi Vonda, what I'm describing is way beyond benign personality quirks. I'm trying to warn people to avoid certain individuals who will go to great lengths to do them harm, psychologically, spiritually, financially and even physically. Thanks so much for reading.

  • Vonda Gee profile image

    Vonda Gee 17 months ago from New York

    Ok I was just commenting from what I read, as I didn't see the harm, but I can see where it is capable of going if this persons character is questionable. I've had friends that were some what like this, always planning or making a way just so you can join them in whatever, and personally I didnt see the harm in it. Then again we weren't married and had to favor one persons wishes over the other.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 17 months ago from USA

    Hi Vonda, it can be devastating when a malicious person starts to act out at work. Workplace bullying is an epidemic, and it usually loses to job loss for the victim. Watching for poor boundaries can help someone decide how much information to share when they first meet someone. I don't know if you've ever had experience with someone with a serious personality disorder. They can and will use every bit of information gleaned from you. Sometimes we have to judge someone's behavior, to decide if we want to develop a relationship with this person, and what type of relationship. Thanks again for reading.

  • Vonda Gee profile image

    Vonda Gee 17 months ago from New York

    You're absolutely right! Unfortunately experiences as such, will deter people from being genuine........but I get it, you're right!

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 17 months ago from USA

    Hi Vonda, thanks again for reading. I didn't want it to turn into a right/wrong thing. Your opinion is very valid.

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