Setting and enforcing healthy boundaries is essential for healthy relationships, raising successful kids, and most importantly, your personal well-being.
Boundaries basically boil down to what behaviors you’ll tolerate from others. A failure to set healthy and strong boundaries is not only a disservice to yourself but it’s also a disservice to your loved ones.
First and foremost, setting and enforcing strong and healthy boundaries is a necessity for building a healthy relationship with your significant other and raising mentally healthy and successful children.
Here’s how it works:
The strength of your boundaries is usually a reliable measure of your personal strength. While strong boundaries don’t always successfully predict personal strength, they’re such a good proxy that a woman tests a man’s strength and children test their parents’ strength by testing their boundaries.
A woman subconsciously assumes that only a strong man is capable of setting and actually enforcing boundaries. Kids subconsciously assume that only strong parents are capable of setting and actually enforcing boundaries.
The reason why women want strong men and kids want strong parents is that from an evolutionary standpoint, the strength of their protectors is positively correlated to their chances of survival. This is the primary reason why women aren’t attracted to weak men and spoiled children are unruly and unhappy.
A man who’s afraid to scare away a woman by setting and enforcing his boundaries ends up failing to attract the kind of woman he wants. Parents who do everything their child asks of them end up spoiling the child. Spoiled kids cry a lot not because they’re spoiled but because they’re terrified to have weak parents.
If a man can’t even defend his own boundaries, how in the world will he defend his woman against the evils of the brutal world? If parents can’t even defend their boundaries against a powerless kid, how in the world will they defend the kid from the dangers of the world?
Moreover, the value of your boundaries isn’t limited to the relationships with your significant other and children. Healthy and strong boundaries are essential for developing healthy relationships with your parents, co-workers, close or distant relatives, and even with acquaintances you barely interact with.
Also, weak boundaries attract manipulative parasites into your life who are looking to take advantage of you. If there are manipulative parasites among your parents, relatives, co-workers, etc., you’ll be vulnerable to their manipulations as well.
Nature abhors weakness. If you fail to set and enforce strong boundaries, malevolent people will remorselessly take advantage of you.
10 Signs You Have Weak Boundaries
Since personal boundaries are invisible, we’ll first look at the signs you have weak boundaries and then analyze some common real-life problems that arise from weak boundaries.
1. You Find It Hard To Say “No”
If defending your boundaries is a war, the word “no” is your strongest soldier.
People with weak boundaries are uncomfortable saying “no” so they end up doing a lot of things they don’t want to do or solving problems they didn’t create; which add up quickly to turn their lives into a living hell.
2. You Regularly Attract Drama Into Your Life
Drama is basically a weapon of low-value people to get what they want out of you.
A low-value person in your life creates drama >> You want the drama to go away >> You give them what they want >> Drama temporarily ends >> A low-value person in your life creates drama.
This cycle repeats itself indefinitely until you decide to set and enforce strong boundaries that you have zero tolerance for drama in your life.
3. You Are Easily Guilt-Tripped
If you have weak boundaries, family members, friends, co-workers, and even strangers can guilt-trip you into getting what they want out of you.
- Your parents might guilt-trip you into working in a city you hate because they don’t want you to move to a faraway place for a better job.
- Your significant other might guilt-trip you into foregoing your leisure time to relieve his/her boredom.
- Your co-workers might guilt-trip you into covering up for their laziness.
- Your kids might guilt-trip you into buying them expensive gadgets you can’t afford.
- The government might guilt-trip you into paying exorbitant taxes in the name of being a good citizen.
Examples can be indefinitely expanded but you get the point.
4. People Interrupt Your Work For Trivial Reasons
If you don’t set strong boundaries around your work time, people will interrupt your work for non-emergencies.
Example: Your significant other texts or calls you for unimportant reasons even when they know you’re busy working.
5. If You Are A Parent, Your Kid(s) Throw(s) Tantrums And Is/Are Unruly In General
When kids aren’t reminded of their boundaries, they become unruly and spoiled.
Part of the reason why kids throw tantrums is that they subconsciously feel unsafe around weak parents. The other part is that if kids have weak parents, tantrums help them get what they want out of their parents.
Weak parents do what their kids ask of them hoping that the tantrum goes away and life goes back to normal. However, the tantrums will keep coming back as long as the kids get what they want by throwing tantrums. Humans repeat the behaviors they are rewarded for.
6. You Constantly Need To “Save” Adults In Your Family
They might be your significant other, parents, siblings, co-workers, or even your relatives-in-law who regularly act as if they’re in distress and in need of being “saved.”
Adults are capable of solving their own problems. If they’re behaving like helpless kids around you, it’s because they know they can get you to solve their problems by feigning helplessness.
7. Conflict Always Seems To Find You Although You Avoid It Like The Plague
While conflict is an inevitable part of life, people with weak boundaries tend to be conflict-avoidant, which ironically attracts more conflict into their lives.
Upon realizing that you’re conflict avoidant, manipulative parasites smell blood and deliberately create conflict or dangle the threat of conflict in order to get what they want out of you.
8. You Are Often Treated With Disrespect (By Your Loved Ones, Colleagues, Friends, And Even Strangers)
As we’ve already covered, people equate a lack of strong boundaries to weakness.
Humans are biologically hardwired to respect strength and disrespect weakness. It’s a subconscious process. They can’t help it. Even if they are careful not to disrespect you especially in front of other people, their disrespect will leak out in the most unexpected moments.
Disrespect usually results from an accumulation of tolerated small offenses which goes to show that defending your boundaries is not really about refusing to tolerate major offenses but about refusing to tolerate minor offenses.
9. You Put More Effort Into Your Relationships Than Other Counterparts
People with weak boundaries have tumultuous relationships where they need to extend extra effort to prevent a particular relationship from derailing.
A lack of strong boundaries is attempted to be compensated by an extra effort which makes relationships a chore to maintain rather than a pleasure to enjoy.
10. You Prioritize Other People’s Happiness Over Your Own Happiness
Selflessness is trumpeted as a virtue but this is a trap. Selflessness isn’t a virtue. Selfishness gets a bad rap because it’s often confused with solipsism. It’s solipsism that is bad, not selfishness.
Selflessly prioritizing other people’s happiness over your own happiness neither results in your own happiness nor the happiness of your loved ones.
For example, “happy wife happy life” is the motto of many married men with weak boundaries who foolishly think prioritizing the happiness of their wives will lead to their own happiness. Ironically, these men usually have neither happy wives nor happy lives.
Also, parents with weak boundaries prioritize the happiness of their kids over their own happiness which leads to spoiled and unruly kids.
Common Real-Life Examples Of Weak Boundaries
John works as a software engineer. One day his male colleagues invite him for a couple of drinks at a pub after work. John wants to go but he fears that his wife will nag. He declines his friends’ invitation by making up a reason.
If John was able to set and enforce strong boundaries, he wouldn’t have to worry about his wife nagging about him spending time with his friends.
James is a mid-level manager at an accounting firm. He hates the dad bod he developed due to sitting all day in the office and wants to join a gym to lose fat, build muscle, and develop an athletic look. However, he doesn’t join the gym because his wife gets jealous of the fit women that he might encounter in the gym.
James’s failure to set and enforce strong boundaries costs him to settle for an out-of-shape physique and sets him up for an ugly bunch of illnesses related to a lack of exercise.
Jill is a teacher and a mother of three pre-school kids who is busy with work during the weekdays and busy taking care of her kids at other times. Her parents guilt-trip her into visiting them occasionally and she grudgingly complies although she neither has enough time to visit her parents as often as she does nor this is how she wants to spend the little leisure time left out of her busy life.
Jill’s parents are adults who are responsible for their own lives. If Jill was able to set and enforce strong boundaries, her parents would sooner or later stop acting like spoiled children.
Jack is a 30-year-old financial consultant. He’s happy with his life living alone in a condo he recently bought. His parents have been complaining that he is old enough to get married and form a family. He grudgingly caved in and recently proposed to her girlfriend.
Jack is an adult who has a life of his own. He’s not responsible for fulfilling his parents’ solipsistic demands at the expense of his own well-being. His poor boundaries with his parents cost Jack to live the rest of his life not the way he wants to live but the way his parents want him to live.
Paul is a married banker who often works overtime and goes back home late at night. The reason why he works overtime is not that he needs to do it but that he can’t stand babysitting his wife at home since she demands him to spend his entire leisure time with her after work until he sleeps. He pretends to have too much work to do at the workplace just so that he has time to spend by himself.
Paul should have informed his wife that he needs his personal space at home. His wife is an adult who’s capable of spending quality time by herself without Paul’s assistance.
Jennifer is a mother to two pre-school kids. Jennifer’s own needs were neglected by her parents when she was a kid. She doesn’t want her kids to share the same destiny as her so she does her best to give her kids everything they ask of her even when their demands are unreasonable. She increasingly hears complaints from people around her that her kids are kind of spoiled.
Kids test the boundaries of their parents by making unreasonable demands and throwing tantrums to see if their parents are strong enough to stand up to them. Since kids die if adults don’t take care of them, they feel safe if they’re raised by strong parents with strong boundaries. Jennifer should have established strong boundaries and told her kids “no” for their unreasonable demands and not reward them for throwing tantrums so that the kids feel safe and not grow up spoiled. Jennifer is doing a massive disservice to her children because spoiled kids grow up to be entitled adult children who are despised by everyone else and they usually become failures in life.
Michael’s wife has long been reluctant to have sex with him. Michaels motto in life is “happy wife happy life”. He complies with everything his wife asks of him but her attraction for him seems to diminish with each passing day. Michael would like to have sex with his life more frequently but he’s grudgingly coming to terms with the idea that marriage kills sex.
Women are sexually attracted to strong men with strong boundaries. By prioritizing his wife’s needs over his own needs and failing to set and enforce strong boundaries, Michael is inadvertently killing his wife’s attraction for him. If he starts to put himself first and enforce strong boundaries, her wife’s attraction to him will probably go up leading to better sex life.
Steve is a young and successful entrepreneur who makes good money but his relationships with women and his friends suck. He is a well-meaning, decent guy but he doesn’t quite understand why he always attracts high-drama women and backstabbing friends into his life.
Steve probably has boundary issues. Parasitic predators hunt for weak targets whom they can manipulate for their own gain. If Steve was able to set and enforce strong boundaries, parasitic predators would move on to weaker targets. Predators don’t mess with strong prey. A lion, for example, goes after the weakest zebra for the hunt. If Steve had strong boundaries, not only predators would leave him alone and move on to finding easier prey but he would also attract higher quality people into his life.
How To Set Healthy And Strong Boundaries
Before you can communicate and enforce your boundaries, you first need to set them.
It pays to always keep in mind that boundaries aren’t about controlling the behaviors of other people. They’re about yourself. You can’t change other people (except your kids the personality of whom you can shape) but you have full control over your own behaviors.
1. Put Yourself First
People with weak boundaries usually prioritize the needs and wants of others over their own needs and wants.
They have a unilateral agreement in their heads (the terms of which no one else knows or agrees to) that if they take care of the needs and wants of others, their needs and wants will be taken care of in return.
This is the wrong mentality to have. If you don’t prioritize your own needs and wants over everyone else’s, other people will assume that your needs and wants don’t matter. If you seem to not care about your needs and wants, why in the world would others care about them?
Those who prioritize the needs and wants of others with the expectation that their own needs and wants will be met in return usually end up blaming others for their station in life. Pointing fingers and blaming others is what weak people do. You are an adult. You’re fully capable of fending for yourself and fully responsible for your station in life.
The only way to ensure your needs and wants are met is to prioritize them.
Put yourself first and do it unapologetically. Your needs and wants are a priority. This is not subject to negotiation. It might sound selfish and it is selfish but you have no other option. If someone tries to guilt-trip you by telling you that you’re selfish, say “thank you for noticing” and move on with your life.
Putting yourself first and taking full responsibility for your needs and wants will automatically lead you to set strong boundaries.
2. Hold Yourself Up To High Standards
As we’ve already talked about, boundaries are about what behaviors you will tolerate from others, which inevitably involves holding other people to high standards.
You can’t hold others up to high standards without holding yourself up to those standards in the first place. Remember, setting and enforcing boundaries is about you, not about other people.
Hold yourself up to high standards, carry yourself with self-respect, and not only will other people be a lot likelier to respect you and your boundaries but you’ll also attract the kind of people you want into your life (who are willing to respect your boundaries) while weeding out predators who are looking to take advantage of people with weak boundaries.
3. Never Take Responsibility For The Feelings Of Other Adults
Adults are fully capable of fending for themselves and they’re fully responsible for their own well-being.
Refusing to take responsibility for the feelings of other adults makes it harder for them to manipulate or guilt-trip you into “saving” them or relieving their anxieties.
How To Actually Enforce Your Boundaries
Setting boundaries is one thing and enforcing them is another. Boundaries are useless if you fail to actually enforce them.
Most people with boundary issues do have some boundaries but they’re bad at enforcing them. After all, no one likes to be treated like dirt, walked over, disrespected, made to deal with drama, manipulated, guilt-tripped, etc.
Here’s how to actually enforce the boundaries you set:
1. Decide The Consequences For Those Who Violate Your Boundaries And Communicate Them
There’s no point in setting boundaries if there are no consequences for people who violate them.
Think of it like this: If the government sets speed limits but fails to issue speed tickets for drivers who violate those limits, would those limits be respected? Of course not.
In an ideal world, verbally communicating your boundaries should suffice but the real world doesn’t work like that. Words are meaningless if they aren’t backed by action. There must be some kind of punishment for people who violate your boundaries.
It’s important to note that by punishment I don’t mean physical punishment or verbal abuse which should at all times be off-limits. In fact, resorting to physical or verbal violence is for the weak.
Also, emotional responses to the violation of your boundaries are signs of weakness as well. It’s never a good idea to lose your cool. You want to be rational.
As we’ve already talked about, it’s normal for women to test a man’s boundaries and kids to test their parents’ boundaries. In most cases, just telling them “no” or simply taking away your attention is enough consequence for them to know not to cross your boundaries.
The reason why losing your attention is a powerful consequence for women and children is their biological wiring. Women and kids crave attention because when we lived in tribes, unattended women and children could be easy prey to predators. If crossing your boundaries costs them to lose your attention, they’ll think twice next time before they attempt to cross your boundaries.
In most cases, a firm “no” or a withdrawal of attention is often enough consequence for not only your spouse and kids but also for your parents, friends, relatives, and co-workers to discourage them from crossing your boundaries. Fending off manipulative parasites is as easy as cutting off contact with them.
Never hesitate to dole out appropriate and proportionate punishments for anyone who violates your boundaries even for small offenses because major offenses arise from the accumulation of unpunished minor offenses that add up.
Weak people REWARD others for crossing their boundaries let alone punish them. Look at the real-life examples above to see how some of our protagonists reward the people who violate their boundaries.
If enforcing your boundaries seems to be a lot of work then don’t fret. The stronger you get, the easier it will be to enforce your boundaries. Strong people enforce their boundaries effortlessly without even noticing.
It takes time and effort to build strength but once you do it, it will be smooth and effortless to enforce your boundaries.
2. Learn How To Say “No”
The word “no” is your most powerful weapon to defend your boundaries.
Other people will often openly or tacitly ask for your permission to cross your boundaries. Simply say “no” and move on with your life.
Keep in mind that in most cases, your loved ones secretly want you to say “no” anyway. They benefit from being around a strong person with strong boundaries.
I’m aware that saying “no” to some people (your boss, for example) can be hard or even impossible but in many cases this can also be done. We’ll see below how.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Lose People
The biggest reason why most people refrain from enforcing their boundaries is that they fear losing people for it.
As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Just like you risk temporary poverty for attaining financial independence, you must be willing to risk social poverty if you want to set and enforce strong boundaries.
The first victims of your strong boundaries will typically be low-value, manipulative parasites who have been taking advantage of your loose boundaries.
In fact, if you want to set and enforce strong boundaries, you probably need to evict these people who are already inside the boundaries you want to defend anyway. Good riddance! There’s nothing to gain and everything to lose from having manipulative parasites in your life so this group of people should be the least of your worries.
Other people in your life who aren’t manipulative parasites will likely be already willing to respect your boundaries. What if they aren’t willing to respect your boundaries? Well, how much sense does it make to keep someone in your life who isn’t willing to respect you?
If someone stops interacting with you just because of your boundaries then good riddance. Count your blessings that you dodged a bullet and move on with your life.
As we’ve already talked about, strong boundaries are the foundation of healthy relationships. Your loved ones will feel safer around you and respect you more for your strong boundaries.
Men should especially not refrain from setting and enforcing strong boundaries for their women. A woman will test a man’s boundaries until she finds out where he exactly draws the line. It’s a subconscious process to test a man’s strength. If she’s convinced of his strength, her attraction for him increases and she feels safer around him.
Most men allow women to step over their boundaries lest they scare her away but this achieves the exact opposite of what they’re trying to achieve.
Women aren’t attracted to weak men. A man who refrains from enforcing his boundaries for the fear of losing a woman, inadvertently causes her to feel less attraction for him. In other words, the more a man fears losing a woman for enforcing his boundaries, the likelier it is that he’ll lose her.
4. Make Your Attention Expensive
One of the most perilous consequences of weak boundaries is the time you waste paying attention to people who don’t deserve it.
Your time is your dearest treasure. You must fight tooth and nail to guard your time for time is not a renewable resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
No one is readily entitled to your attention except your kids (since kids can’t take care of themselves), your significant other (in some cases), and your parents (especially when they require care). Everyone else needs to earn your attention and in most cases, your kids, spouse, and parents are included in this equation.
Moreover, creating conflict, manufacturing drama, and throwing tantrums are strategies of manipulative parasites to exploit other people. Never reward anyone for manufacturing drama or throwing tantrums. The behaviors you reward are bound to repeat and those people will keep getting what they want out of you until you put it to a stop.
When you make your attention expensive and mandate others to earn it, you stop rewarding manipulative behavior with your attention. Once you stop rewarding unwanted behavior, it soon ceases to bother you because humans don’t repeat behaviors they aren’t rewarded for.
You must especially be vigilant with guarding your work time. Work is how you put food on the table. Bar emergencies, you must never tolerate those who attempt to interrupt you when you’re working. Humans are a weird bunch. They’ll test your boundaries even to see if they can get away with wasting your time. If you can’t stand up to them then it’s your fault that your time is stolen.
5. Expand Your Options
All in all, neediness is the real culprit underlying most, if not all, boundary issues. The surest way to stop being needy is to expand your options.
It’s easier to say “no” to your boss if you have a variety of job or business options.
It’s easier to say “no” to low-value romantic prospects if you are an attractive person with options.
You’ll fear less of losing people for enforcing your boundaries if you are a person in demand whom people are vying to establish relationships with.
Never stop improving your own personal value so that you never run out of options.
High-value people not only have strong boundaries but they also respect other people with strong boundaries.
The higher is your value, the higher will be the value of the people you attract into your life.
Be sure to read:
- How to Be a Superior Man, Chapter 2: What Makes A Man A Superior Man
- How to Stop Being Needy
- Do You Really Take Responsibility For Your Life?
- How To Stop Caring What Others Think Of You
- How Not To Take Things Personally