It is probably one of the most emotionally challenging things to do as a human being who loves another human being. Setting boundaries with those we love can be difficult and anxiety provoking. So how do we know when we should set a boundary with someone we love?
It is certainly a complicated question and it has helped me to develop a certain protocol around boundary setting with people I love. It is not always fail proof, but having some type of concrete plan has helped me feel less anxious when put in a difficult spot by someone I care about.
My formula is fairly simple. If someone is talking poorly about me and not to me, that is something I generally brush off unless this person is someone who claims to love, honor, and respect me. If I am spoken about poorly about someone who claims to care about me and our relationship, my general rule of thumb is to confront them personally, directly, and to let them know precisely how what I heard made me feel. If this person then reacts by minimizing my experience, I take that into serious consideration. If that person apologizes and I 'feel' they have understood my position enough to be able to put themselves in my shoes, I may be willing to forgive them and see how the relationship unfolds from that point. However, the relationship has been marred, but that does not mean it is not salvageable. Sometimes these situations can actually help relationships clear the air.
If someone takes a physical action and writes an email, posts a social media post that is disparaging, maligning, threatening, and or is simply a flat out falsehood, I then react in a physical way as well. I may have to write an email directly, letting all the parties know I am aware of what has been done or said. I will ask for an explanation and give people an opportunity to explain why they decided to do what they have. Depending on their response, I may block those I cannot trust on social media sites. I may then tell others I no longer wish to associate with those who have proven they have the ability to act in a way that is inconsiderate, disrespectful, and callous. The point is, when someone takes a physical action and that action manifests in the physical world in a material way, for instance in the form of an email, an affair, a theft of some kind, and alike, then in that case I also take equal physical action. This, in my opinion, sends a clear signal to the universe that I no longer wish to attract that lack energy into my experiences. It is not about judgment or revenge. It is about acknowledging someone's possible hidden personality and or agenda for what it is, and doing what I can to honor what I have discovered rather than deny it is a factor.
Sometimes people do things that hurt us but it was not their intention to do so. But, when someone takes an action, and their choices damage the faith and trust you had in that person, and you believe that although it was not their goal to hurt you but hurting you was a consequence of their choices, you may still need to enforce a boundary. Think about the spouse who has had an affair and says, "I just fell in love with her but it wasn't my intention to hurt you." Seriously???? I mean, WTF????
Perhaps an untrustworthy spouse does not consciously 'choose' to deliberately hurt their partner. Perhaps an unfaithful friend did not intent to cause you harm or destroy the faith you had in them, but that is not the point in question. The point in question is, what do we do when people we care about do a 'thing' that causes us harm or causes us to lose faith in them? What do we do, when those we considered friends, spouses, partners, business associates, and alike take part in actions that cause us to doubt we are a priority in their lives, as much as they are a priority in our life? What do we do when someone we care about treats us in a way that we would never have treated them?
Healthy relationships must be built on mutual respect. We should not do unto others what we would prefer others not do to us. What most of us forget is, we deserve to be treated by others the way others would have us treat them as well.
If you have been wounded by something someone you love or care about said or did, ask yourself, 'Would I have done that to them?' If the answer is, 'No, I would never have done that to them', you must take into consideration that perhaps you place more value on this person and this relationship than the person who has done or said a thing that signals your relationship is not balanced in terms of mutual respect.
It is impossible for everyone to know exactly what might trigger someone else and I get that. If I ask someone why they changed their hair color, and that person is triggered by the question because they have grown up feeling like they have to ask for permission to walk across the street, there was no way I could have known that asking them an innocent and curious question about their hair color would trigger a wound in them. And yet, if that sensitive creature told me I triggered her, I still would have apologized for any harm my question caused. Knowing her trigger, I would make sure to never poke that wound again, honoring her pain and making sure she felt respected. But when someone we love, crosses such an unmistakable line, and engages in activities, conversations, and behaviors that cause us to distrust their respect for us, it is then I believe boundaries are necessary.
What boundaries you choose to enforce are unique to each circumstance. I think what we all must remember is, that people who say they love us, should act like they do, and when they don't, that is when we may need to enforce a boundary to help us maintain a more balanced energetic vibe between us and the person we cared about. It's always better to know who you cannot trust, even if the revelation stings like a needle to the eye.
Boundaries help us enforce self-love.