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What Happens When You Say No?

This post is the third of a series of posts covering boundaries.  Who am I kidding, all of my posts are about boundaries in some form.  It’s what I love to talk about.  I think mainly, because so many of us struggle with either setting them or having someone cross them. So, yep, another post about boundaries.  Enjoy!

In ‘Boundaries: What Does It Mean?’, we covered the meaning of boundaries and in ‘Recognising When Your Boundaries Are Being Crossed’, we discussed ignored or crossed boundaries.  In this post, we will address setting boundaries, and what happens when you do.  Setting good boundaries is essential to strong, enjoyable relationships, as well as your emotional health.  When you set good boundaries in relationships, an environment for growth and safety is created—allowing each person the freedom to be themselves. Hopefully, that’s what we’re all after.  The ability to be ourselves in relationships, right?

First Things First

So how do you set boundaries?  First, consider your relationships.  Can you identify symptoms of your boundaries being ignored or violated?  Have you had experiences in your relationships where you feel angry, anxious, taken advantage of, ignored, overwhelmed, or devalued? Maybe that friend who always seems to conveniently, forget their wallet or they didn’t bring enough to cover their part of the bill.


Identify irrational or unhealthy thinking and beliefs, by which you allow your boundaries to be ignored or violated (livestrong.com, 2011).


Irrational or unhealthy thinking: “It shouldn’t bother me so much that my husband shares everything about our marriage with his mother.  They’ve always been really close.”

Boundary-appropriate thought: “I have a right to privacy in my relationship with my spouse.  I have a right to build a marriage that is free from outside influences.”

As you work to identify symptoms and irrational thinking patterns, it may also help to ask yourself, “Are there areas in my relationships where I have not said ‘no’, and I should have?”  If possible, go back and set boundaries in these areas.  I understand that this is not easy for everyone, depending on what your life experiences have been.  So, if saying no makes you uncomfortable, start out small, practice in the mirror or try it with someone who you know will respect what you’re trying to accomplish.

When You Say No

It is important to note that setting healthy boundaries is not easy.  It takes practice and consistency.  To be taken seriously when you say no, you must be consistent with the boundary you are trying to set. The work is primarily yours to do.  When you begin to set boundaries, your relationships will change!  Once you start setting limits, those you are in relationship with, may respond in the following ways:

  • They will recognize something has changed and adjust (good)
  • They will be pleased that you are standing up for yourself and adjust (better)
  • ​They will challenge the new boundaries you have set, and through their behavior, encourage or insist you change back.  In other words, they will tantrum. Adults included.  It’s just uglier.
  • They will leave.  Breathe…you can make it through this part.  However, if you have abandonment issues, talking with a professional can help you work through this.

Time To Re-Evaluate?

These responses are very important, so look for them.  They will provide insight into your relationships.  Remember, boundaries protect your physical and emotional property and rights.  When you set boundaries, you are asking others to respect your right to be an individual and a free thinker.  When they insist you change back (or do things their way), but if you don’t, they will leave; they are communicating to you how they feel, about your right to be an individual with your own thoughts and feelings.  Your lack of boundaries benefits them, but not you. If they insist you change back, it’s time to start re-evaluating the relationship.


I hope this series on boundaries has been enlightening, but most of all, empowering.  This is one of my favorite topics, because of its impact on relationships.  Please revisit these articles as often as you like.  As you scroll through, perform a “boundaries” checkup on yourself.  Have you been a boundary builder, or a boundary violator?  Leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

​​1.  Boundaries. (2011, August 8). Retrieved May 10, 2015, from livestrong.com

Updated: Original Post 1/23/17

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