Ignoring your “no,” doing the opposite of what you asked, and mocking your requests are signs your boundaries are being violated. Knowing when someone crosses the line is key to maintaining healthy relationships.
Boundaries are essential for human connection and personal safety. They protect you, set the rules of engagement, and allow you to keep your individuality. Boundaries may be physical, emotional, mental, material, or time related.
Not everyone respects other people’s boundaries, though. And, sometimes, you may not be aware someone has crossed the line. But it’s important that you teach others how to treat you.
Here are the telltale signs of broken boundaries and how to deal with someone who crosses the line.
1. Codependent behaviors
Codependency refers to a specific relationship dynamic where one person puts their own needs on the back burner, and the other tends to avoid accountability for their actions.
Conflict avoidance and people pleasing are common in codependent relationships. Among others, these behaviors may signal difficulty in establishing and respecting boundaries.
Feeling resentment for the things you do for the other person, even if you’ve volunteered, is also a sign of codependency.
“If you feel resentful for going along with someone’s expectations of you, they may have violated your personal boundaries,” explains Bryana Kappadakunnel, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. “Often folks will believe that unless they sacrifice their boundaries for the needs of others, they won’t be liked, loved, or valued.”
2. You have to set the boundary over and over again
You’ve expressed your boundaries, yet the person continues to behave the same way. Having to repeatedly set your limits may be an indicator of a boundary violation.
“You find yourself having to constantly defend, explain, and justify the reasons for the boundary,” says Angela Sitka, MA, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Santa Rosa, California. “If you are facing a person who does not respect your boundary, they will likely not accept the boundary at first expression.”
Sitka explains that ignoring your boundaries may be either conscious behavior or unconsciously forgetting if they have low self-awareness.
“They might want to bring it up multiple times, asking questions and scrutinizing the boundary, even if you explained the boundary clearly and explicitly the first time,” she adds. “It might even feel like conversation déjà vu.”
3. You have expressed discomfort
You’ve set and explained your boundaries, but they keep breaking them. Now, you’re also expressing how that makes you feel, and they continue to behave similarly. This is another example of boundary violation.
“A main sign that someone doesn’t respect your boundaries is if they don’t stop their actions after you’ve expressed discomfort,” says Quinelle Hickman, a licensed individual and couples therapist in New York City.
Hickman explains expressions of discomfort may include:
I don’t like that
I don’t want to
I’d rather not
I’m not willing to do that
that makes me feel (insert negative emotion)
“If you’ve essentially asked for something to stop and someone attempts to persuade you otherwise or continues to engage in activities you’re against, those are signs they don’t respect your boundaries,” she adds.
4. You feel off
Perhaps you haven’t thought much about the signs your boundaries are being violated. But you know you feel uncomfortable or that something is off whenever that person is around. This may also signal broken boundaries.
“They get in your space, and you feel uncomfortable. Whether it is physical, emotional, or mental space, if you feel uncomfortable, it is likely a boundary violation,” says Katie Lorz, LMHC, a trauma and relationship counselor for women at HGCM Therapy in Washington.
“You feel physically uncomfortable. You may get sweaty palms, upset stomach, racing heart, elevated body temperature, or claustrophobic,” says Lorz. “This is your body’s natural response and signal that things feel unsafe and that a boundary is being crossed.”
Besides the physical symptoms of discomfort, you may also have a hard time processing your thoughts and emotions when that person is nearby.
“You may find it difficult to think clearly or have racing thoughts. You may feel frustrated or upset or like you can’t make decisions,” adds Lorz. “You may start to avoid social situations, take extra steps to avoid the person, or be worried about interacting with them.”
Being in a relationship with someone who constantly crosses the line may lead you to experience mental health symptoms. Lorz says these may include:
anxiety, including panic attacks and agoraphobia
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
“Checking in with your thoughts, feelings, and body responses is a good way to know if a social boundary is being crossed,” advises Lorz.
5. They don’t listen to or acknowledge you
A sign that someone doesn’t respect your boundaries is interrupting or changing the conversation when you’re sharing something important to you.
“For example, if you attempt to communicate your thoughts and emotions to a loved one [but they] constantly talk over you, cut you off in conversation, or walk out mid-conversation,” says Hickman. “Effective conversations require all parties to give fair time to speak, consider one another’s points, and take breaks when needed. If conversations aren’t approached fairly, it’s a sign that both you or your partner aren’t respecting boundaries.”
6. They minimize or mock your requests
Sometimes, it’s difficult to consider other people’s intentions when they say things “as a joke,” or you’re not clear if they’re “only teasing.”
But, sometimes, humor may be a manipulation tactic they use to cross the line.
Sitka explains that a sign of broken boundaries may be “invalidating or minimizing your needs that led to the boundary. [For example,] ‘oh, come on! You can’t seriously be that bothered by my phone calls at night. You get plenty of sleep!’”
Gaslighting may also be a red flag, says Sitka. This may involve saying things like, “You’re just being too sensitive. Lighten up!”
7. They pressure you
It’s possible that besides ignoring your requests, someone may try to change your mind about your boundaries. This can be done in many ways, from ridiculing your logic for the boundary to making you feel guilty for setting the limit.
Maybe they tell you how much you’ve changed, how sensitive you are, or how someone else would never “do that” to them.
Perhaps they blame you for not loving them enough or being there for them when they need you.
They may also use the silent treatment or ghost you whenever you set the record straight.
All of these may be an attempt to continue violating your boundaries and manipulating you into thinking they’re right to do so.