If you are you struggling to implement boundaries AND consequences or if you are finding your implemented boundaries do not work, you may need to make changes to how you are communicating and implementing your boundaries.
I have conversations with women every day that tell me that their boundaries are not working with their mate, friend or family member. When I press these women about their consequences, they always tell me that either they do not know what consequences would fit the boundary or they believe that consequences are just down right mean.
Unfortunately, I often have to “convince” these women that they are valuable enough to put consequences in place. Bottom line is that boundaries are implemented due to undesirable behavior that is continuously occurring. If a person with the undesirable actions has been living a boundary less life, then having to live with limits and accountability will not feel good to them. They may even feel controlled and manipulated with this boundary in place. This is completely normal, and should not deter anyone from consistently implementing their boundary.
However, to ensure REAL change occurs consequences must be linked to each and every boundary.
The 4 Musts to Consequences:
Must have a bite to them – consequences are not meant to feel good, but rather just the opposite. It must hurt enough to encourage the person violating the boundary to avoid the consequences at all costs.
Must be appropriate to the boundary – severity of a consequence must be commensurate to the seriousness of the boundary. If the boundary is that you cannot tolerate physical abuse anymore, then it would not be appropriate to merely leave the room if there is a physical altercation. The appropriate consequence would be to call the police and get yourself to safety. Whereas if a discussion escalates into an argument, then disengaging from the conversation and leaving the room would be appropriate.
Must be progressive – consequences are similar to a dimmer switch. Consequences start off relatively dim, which may look like…” since you chose to speak disrespectfully to me, I will be disengaging from our conversation.” The next time disrespect is used in conversation, the dimmer switch moves up to the next level indicating the seriousness of a repeat offense “I will be leaving for a few hours since you broke my boundary about disrespect.” Finally, on the third offense the dimmer switch is on full brightness and a significant consequence is enforced due to the continuous disrespect of the boundary. This final consequence would sound like “Unfortunately you cannot respect my boundary, so I cannot have you be part of my life until you are ready to do so. I will be happy to discuss this with you when you are ready to apologize, take responsibility for your actions and adhere to my boundary.”
Must be consistently enforced – This is the biggest challenge I see most people having with setting boundaries and consequences… consistency. Whatever the boundary, it must be enforced EACH and every time it is violated. If a consequence does not follow a broken boundary, then the violator WILL NOT take your boundary seriously. Consistency requires real change.
If you are struggling to enforce your boundaries with consequences, or you do not even know where to begin, we are here to help. We offer phone, Skype or intensive personal counseling at our retreat center in Hansville, WA. Visit our website at www.thecenterforhealing.org. You can reach Teri at email@example.com.
*This article was originally written/published by the author under the title “Boundaries & Consequences: Essential for Healthy Relationships.”