A guy I was talking to today was really upset with his partner, because despite his best efforts and courageous intentions she just keeps breaching the boundary he sets with her.
This issue often comes up when we’re setting boundaries with people we actually want to keep in our lives, like friends and partners.
One of his boundaries is to not be interrupted, and she just keeps interrupting him.
He’s identified that she has ADHD and so this is not necessarily “disrespect” on her part, but more of a kind of forgetfulness or an impulsiveness that she can’t control. So he understands that she’ll keep doing this, yet he’s building up resentment about her being unable or unwilling to change.
But the thing he’s really missed is that you don’t keep setting a boundary and hope it leads to some positive change.
You set a boundary only once, and from then on you enforce the boundary, which is a different style of behavior.
The setting of the boundary is a single conversation; saying it again is not enforcing the boundary, you’re just resetting it, and it loses all its power through impotent repetition.
Enforcing a boundary means you take an action that makes it impossible for them to continue behaving that way, like walking away from the conversation, or saying loudly “Stop stop stop! You’re doing it again”.
We don’t try to “get” respect from other people; we enforce boundaries to make it impossible to disrespect us.
For more on dealing with people who interrupt you and other relationship imbalances, check out my podcast episode “Balancing Investment and Effort in a Relationship”: