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Watching for Poor Boundaries
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
For Additional Reading
Advice on Setting Boundaries
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