Wanting to know the difference between having good boundaries and being too hard on people

My parents were incredibly unforgiving people. Passive aggressive. Angry. You’d know they were mad at you when they stopped speaking to you, but wouldn’t tell you why. They could hold grudges FOREVER.

I do NOT want to be like them, and have worked hard at this, but sometimes it’s confusing.

Lately I’ve been finding myself less and less tolerant of people when they’ve crossed boundaries.

A couple of examples:

On Tuesday my (does-not-pick-up-on-social-cues) neighbor asked me for a ride (two rides) so she could have her car worked on on Friday. Thursday evening I messaged her and asked her exactly what time she needed me on Friday. She responded that she’d decided to take the bus so I was off the hook. (I have no idea when/if she was going to tell me this updated information if I hadn’t messaged her.) In that moment I wrote her off and I’ve been (immaturely) attempting to avoid her ever since.

Today I had a date with a guy who was nice enough, but at one point as I was telling him my experience with this freaking amazing massage therapist who has given me my life back, he started telling me I probably should have gone to a sports medicine chiropractor instead and they would have had MT’s they could have sent me to. He has absolutely ZERO idea of what my issues are/were. This kind of unsolicited you-should’ve-done-this-instead advice/criticism makes me snort fire.

When we said goodbye he obviously wanted a hug so I tried to give him a quick “half hug” but he didn’t get it (or didn’t want to) and he gave me a full on hug for probably 10 seconds like we were BFF’s or sleeping together until I finally pulled away from him. I have no intention of seeing him again, and I’d been considering it before the unsolicited advice and clueless hug.

So, how do I know if I’m being too hard on people like my parents were or if I’m having good boundaries? I didn’t tell either of these people I thought they were out of line. Do I owe either one of them an explanation? Am I being evasive if I ghost them with no explanation? I don’t have the energy for this shit. :joy:


It seems to me that if you were to explain to either of these clueless people why you don’t want to be around them, neither one would understand what in the world you were saying! You are so far from being like your parents in my experience of you!! I understand your confusion but your boundaries are your boundaries. You have worked hard to become aware of and set the boundaries you need and the intolerance you are feeling for people who cross your boundaries…well, I think that tells you they’re not gonna “get it” no matter what. “I don’t have the energy for this shit” says it all!!


It’s interesting that I can read your question two ways. Are the people like your parents or are you like your parents in that question…? :slight_smile: I have no idea if this is relevant or not but it just leapt out at me.

I can say that I totally get your frustration and disappointment with both of those scenarios. You had invested some emotion into both those folks and what they gave back was just flat and devoid of any real heart connection in my assessment. And that can suck for sure. When that sort of thing happens with me I guess I just remind myself that nobody is under any obligation to behave in a way that I find ideal. I can’t control that sort of thing. And then I just kinda drop into a ‘right distance/right depth’ sort of frame of mind. I can say that I’m not always as easily successful at navigating that sort of thing as my response might indicate but I’m pretty good at it most of the time I think.

And I’m inclined to agree with Norene that there would be no real benefit for anyone in this situation for you to explain your behaviour. I think that sort of explanation is reserved for people that actually connect with you in a respectful way…not that I’m suggesting you don’t explain as a way of punishing them…(I’m shunning you because you are not worthy of my attention!! lol) …but you’ve already invested emotionally into them and you got a very clear communication of how they respond to that. Don’t throw good money after bad so to speak, in keeping with the ‘investing’ metaphor… :slight_smile:


So… I’m with you on the no time and energy for such shit.

It’s true I am at a point where I’d probably say to the dude, “Hey, don’t should on me. It’s not hygienic.” That is me setting the boundary. I’ve said that aloud to people I care about who care about me, and they get it pretty quickly with an “Ooops, you’re right. Thanks for reminding me.”

On a date a prospect who while on “best behavior” (cough cough) should’s on me would be an indicator that as we got more intimate, they would likely want to run my life, that decisions made by me with my own clarity would be second-guessed and dissed, with the idea that they know best.

PERHAPS not, but that would be guessing and hoping.

I believe healthy boundaries have certain qualities to them:

  • Multi-layer
  • Vary depending on the emotional bank account SHARED by the we-space.


  1. Okay, they just should on me. Not okay. I don’t want this in my life, so I’ll make the most quick and graceful exit possible because I do not have a meaningful relationship with them and I don’t want to.
  2. “Hey, can we pause? (wait) I’m noticing that you saying I SHOULD have done something different isn’t okay with me.”
  3. “Stop there. You SHOULD on me again. It’s not ever okay with me – from anyone – to be told what I should and should not do that is about my life and my body. You’ve done that twice now, and it’s important enough to me that if it is done again, I’ll need to end the relationship. What did you hear me say?”
  4. I’m leaving. We’re done.

Now, there are others we could all come up with. I put 4 that feel true to me about this because it happens to be a big deal for my nervous system and my sense of safety and respect in a we-space.

I know I’ve should on people. I don’t expect people to perfect. If, say, a circle member I’ve known for a long time should on me, I’d be willing and able to invest some time in exploring it with them. Some new person who jumps in and tells me I should do this and should do that? Uhh, bye bye. Refund. Cancel.

Is that “unprofessional”? Is that too hard on people? I’m really open to improvement. I’m not interested in someone trying to take my clarity and replace it with theirs.

Again, I’ve defined for me that as long as I don’t jump to the nuclear option with people I do have mutual emotional generosity with, then I call that healthy. That fits with what I’ve studied about boundaries, too.

I’ll also add that some people will feel we’re being “too hard on them.” I believe that is true if we keep going after them, send them demeaning emails and texts, seek to shame them into (whatever).

I believe healthy boundaries might include calling the police on someone! But personal attacks are different from re-establishing safety or justice.

Can someone hear our boundaries? And do I want to do that emotional labor?

I clarify my boundaries with people I want to be in relationship with going forward. Emotional labor is a part of all amazing relationships, so… of course we talk about boundaries and make mutual explicit Agreements.

With anyone else, I try to use as brief an excuse (that need not be anything other than superficially true) to bring it to a close. (“Yeah, I’m feeling a bit sick to my stomach and if I hug I’m afraid I’ll throw up on you. It’s happened!”)

If I feel my safety is a consideration I give myself total permission to lie or leave – including sneaking out or pretending to be talking to a friend with an emergency on the phone.

I do notice how I relate to people who really do seem to have boundaries I also like. In general, I find that the people I really enjoy and who enjoy me share similar values and boundaries that naturally arise from those values.

Safety, respect, freedom for example as values means I wouldn’t should on someone.

How does that feel to you?


Yes, WHEN was she going to tell you she was taking the bus??? WTF? I would not have liked that at all. I got angry just reading the way you were treated… by both the neighbor and your date. UGH UGH UGH. I don’t have any tolerance for people like that.

I’m glad you posted this so you could get clarity. I would have asked “when were you going to tell me you decided to take the bus?”


“…your boundaries are your boundaries”. Thank you, Norene, sometimes I question if I’m being “unreasonable” when really, if the boundary is something I need, it’s reasonable.


Glenn, thank you for your always-thoughtful reply, and for reminding me of right distance/right depth. Yeah, someone giving back something flat when I’ve put some effort into connecting is frustrating and disappointing.

I ended up telling the guy when he asked me for another date “Thanks, I just don’t see us as a match.”


Angels, thanks for being angry on my behalf! :hugs:

I thought about asking “When were you going to tell me?” but I was just so done that it didn’t matter in the moment. Now, I’m finding I wished I had just for some sort of closure and for something to reference back to her because I can tell I’m going to have to let her know I don’t want to be friends with her. Or provide taxi service, ever.


It’s interesting you mention his behavior will keep getting more controlling, and this is only a first date. I had a bf who was well behaved for two months and then turned into a controlling asshat.

I think I’m finally making the transition from not saying anything while thinking “I’m done here” to saying something so I don’t end up with a lot of unresolved feelings later. I know I’d feel a lot better now if I’d refused the hug at the end (there was one that was “too much” upon meeting, as well) and also if I’d told him he was shoulding on me and that doesn’t work for me. I also like what you said about the decisions made with your own clarity being second-guessed and dissed. My father did this day in and day out until I silently learned to just think “fuck you”, (at least when I wasn’t dissociating) but as an adult, it’d be much better for my overall well being to say something in the moment.

I’m also liking the multi-layer which adjusts depending on the relationship. Number 3 is especially relevant for me. I’ve dumped friends who did this and they had no idea why, it just built up until I was no longer able to stomach being around them because I was filtering everything I said to the extreme and walking on eggshells.

The people I feel safe around are the ones who respect my boundaries, and will listen when I say what my needs are. Hopefully, they feel the same way about/around me.

Thank you, Rick. This was really helpful.


There’s a wisdom, I believe, in the awareness that we really do not know how someone will be with us until we say NO to them about something that is important to them but not a yes for us.

I believe that is also true for considerations and needs. As we get closer and deeper with someone, there WILL be considerations that can help us to regulate and will be a trade-off for them.

I’ll give you an example: my son Jimmy gave me a subwoofer for our Alexa stereo speakers in the family room. I love it. I “need” a certain amount of the lower vibrations to feel balanced in music.

Alas, even at low volume, even with the subwoofer turned down in terms of intensity, even the playlist Peaceful Piano ends up vibrating the master bedroom bed above the family room. My partner can’t sleep as well with that low frequency rumble, and asked me to not play music while she’s trying to get some extra sleep.

I believe that it’s a sign of health of our relationship and our emotional strength and resilience that (a) she told me instead of just trying to cope, (b) I could feel the intense disappointment because I was really enjoying the music in the mornings with the kids and could calm my initial reaction, confidence myself around what MATTERS to me, and tune into my Bigger Yes.

This kind of interaction is really common in relationships. This wasn’t a first for us. We’ve had hundreds of adjustments on both sides, and a deep regard for what helps each other thrive.

It was okay – and welcome – for us to be awkward early on as we explored this. Would the other person even care what my needs are? Will they seek ways to accommodate without resentment? Will they speak up about their needs, too? What will it feel like to be in that we-space dance together?

This kind of dance embodies the yes-to-Yes-to-YES that is part of thriving relationships in my experience. It requires, at times, for us to know our No and see what comes back when we assert that with unapologetic (and kind) clarity.