Rule #32- Boundaries

via Paula Rey

I was walking to work a few days ago, listening to my audio-book and thoroughly engaged in my own little world, when a guy started chatting to me. I wasn’t in a very good mood, and didn’t want to prolong the conversation (it was really awkward, and he was acting very strangely). I politely apologized for having to rush off to a meeting, bid him a good day, and walked off towards my building.

I was just opening the door, when I noticed him out of the corner of my eye, dashing after me. He bounded up, red in the face, and very angry that I had walked off. Confused and a little upset, I tried to explain that I was late for a meeting and really did have to leave (but this just made him even crosser).

At this point, he was ranting on about something. I just stood, rooted to the spot, too shocked to react. After a few (very long minutes) of verbal abuse on his part, I opened the door, walked through it, and ran up the flight of stairs. When he realized what I did, he followed suit. Resulting in me hiding in the ladies’ room for half an hour (only agreeing to come out after a friend of mine, who had walked into the bathroom, went out and scouted the landing to make sure the coast was clear).

(Yes, I had to be rescued from the girls’ bathroom!)

Anyway, I’m fairly sure this lovely man didn’t even realize he had crossed the line, my line. (Yes, people tend to come in all shades of oblivious). 

We all have boundaries, physical and emotional; lines that we don’t like other people to cross!

For some reason, I was convinced I had posted on the topic a while back, but turns out I haven’t, so that’s what we will be talking about today!

Rules For How Not to Step Out of Bounds:

1. RESPECT each other’s boundaries! If your prince charming (trapped as a beast) asks you not to go into the west wing, then you stay out of the west wing!

We all have our own little things that bug us when it comes to personal space. Some people need more of it, and others less. But at the end of the day, the whole thing is a very subjective matter. Sometimes we just need to accept the oddities of our respective partners.

2. Boundaries slowly come down (both the physical and emotional ones); that is just the natural way of things in a relationship. DO NOT FORCE THEM! You shouldn’t corner someone into doing something they are not ready to do, or share something they are not ready to tell you (that just builds resentment and contempt).

I know the wait can be frustrating, but your relationship will be stronger for it. Just make sure they know you are there for them when they are ready to open up.

3. Make sure you make it clear where YOU draw the line. The other person probably doesn’t even know they crossed it! (Don’t expect people to guess these things, because they probably won’t, which will only upset you).

We don’t all have the same issues, some of us (like me) are more touchy about stuff, and it is really really easy to make me feel uncomfortable. And I do try to make an effort to make it known to other people what bothers me. (For example, I hate inviting people over, it’s my personal space and it takes me forever to agree to share it).

4. No, means NO, always!


  1. I think a lightbulb just came on. I tend to just distance myself from anyone that crosses a ‘line’. I need to start just telling people instead of writing them off or avoiding them.

  2. I find that people take it so personally when I want my own space. It’s probably because out of their own selfish needs that they want to invade your boundary.

    I do agree with you highly on this one.

  3. This is an interesting article. As a man, I can tell you first hand that we are kind of programmed to want to cross boundaries and test the waters so to speak,and this can obviously lead to problems. Thanks for the post!

      1. The reblog was on a whole blog and not the article itself. If I would write that the article about boundries is funny that would be another thing.

  4. OK let me first begin that I have been a domestic violence counselor for 13 years. Your encounter was with an abuser and all your rules are nullified by the fact he was an abuser. Please DO NOT minimize the attributes of an abusive personality to a disfunctional individual. The fact that you hid in a bathroom only solidifies the fact that he was an abuser and needs to be labeled as such.

    1. O I completely agree with you, if I ever see that bastard again it’s off to security with him. I used this story because honest to god I don’t think he thought he was doing anything wrong, or was out of line in any way.

      1. You are on target, the abusive mindset is that they are always right and those around them are always to blame, aka the narcissistic personality. Be careful of them, they really can be harmful.

    2. Absolutely agree with Bonnie Michelle – this guy is an abuser. First of all this “lovely man” could see you were wearing headphones and intruded. I might smile and nod hi, but I’m not going to start a conversation with someone wearing headphones. He was not a lovely man – he was a creep.

      If you run into someone like this again who follows you and starts yelling at you, start screaming for help, call attention to yourself, scream “rape” if you have to. He could have totally gone off on you and hurt or killed you. If he thought he was justified about doing this in public he is potentially dangerous. He was attempting to control your feelings and your behaviors.

      What he did was assault – he made you fear for your safety. Report what happened to the building guards and file a police report with the man’s description. In the event this happens again you’ve got a record. Do you carry a cell phone? Call 911.

      As a mother and grandmother my black little heart went pitty-pat over this one. I’m glad you are okay – keep yourself safe.

      1. Don’t scream ‘rape’… too many people don’t to get involved when they hear ‘rape… they would rather pretend nothing is there and keep walking.

        Instead, yell ‘fire’… or ‘thief’.

  5. This is a great article about boundaries in general, whether you’re dating or not. A lot of boundary-breakers are not as obvious as the man who chased you down (what a scary experience– his extreme behavior also might suggest mental illness). If friends start crossing the line, I let them know, but if they continue, I end the friendship. Thank you for stopping by and liking my post “on Giving In And Not Giving Up”.

  6. I noticed that you apologized for having to cut the conversation short, even though you were uncomfortable. One of the things that really bothers me is the way women are constantly taught to be polite. I think in the long run, constantly teaching women to be polite and not to offend places them into the conditioned predicament of having to be accomodating to others, when really there was no need to ever listen to this man and definitely no need to apologize to him. We can’t be ‘rude’ by telling him to back the hell off or just walking away and saying nothing. It’s also interesting that the man assumed that his desire to speak to you was of more relevance than your desire to be left alone. His urges and needs were of tantamount importance to him while your agency and autonomy were of no concern whatsoever. What a dangerous person, and all to common.

  7. Yikes! What a frightening encounter! I have come across people like this as well…especially when I used to ride the bus into the city for work and school. But this is an awesome post and its so true…everyone has different boundaries so its important we let people know what ours are.


  8. I see two problems here. 1- the guy was completely unreasonable and did something he should not have. 2- The other is a little more on your part. Its like every word he said never reached you. He may have just put himself on a limb to talk to you and you ignored him. that would be a little frustrating if it were me. (I would not turn into a creeper). I think one of the important lessons here is listening. We all hear words but often we do not listen to them. He did not “listen” to your body language, and you did not listen to a word the man said. don’t think I am giving the guy an ok for his actions. That should have been brought up with security real quick.

    1. I disagree entirely, sorry. She is not required to listen to strange man who comes up and starts babbling at her when she’s listening to her music on a headset. The man was intrusive and inappropriate. She didn’t want to talk to him. He ignored the fact she was wearing headphones. It was his issue, not hers. You are attempting to make her responsible for his actions and his thinking.

      None of us have control over other persons, places, or things. She has no control over him. He is the only one responsible for his thoughts and actions and he is the only one with control over himself. I’m an old 12 stepper from way back and you can’t tell me that she has any responsibility at all for his behavior.

      As Prime Minister, Golda Meir was asked to place a curfew on women to end a series of rapes. However, she refused, saying… “But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.” -Prime Minister Golda Meir

    2. That’s pretty nervy, Nathan… putting blame on the victim. And she did not ignore him… she said she needed to be somewhere. He is the one who accosted her. She was not ‘required’ to engage him… how dare you say she was at fault as well!

      I won’t say your words are ‘typical male thinking’ – I will leave that to the ultra-feminists – because most men aren’t as Neanderthalithic in their thinking.

      1. I hope never put the blame on the victim (hopefully it did not come across that way.) I was making a point of listening. What the guy did was irrational and stupid. In fact I would have been happier to have seen him get arrested.

        I am making a point that many confrontations in the world, especially when it comes to relationships, can be avoided simply if someone took the time to listen.

      2. I would make the point that she was under no obligation to listen to him. Is that rude? Not necessarily. In fact given his body language, engaging him in further conversation would have been a big mistake. Some people you just need to ignore, or face the consequences.

        She did more than she should have, given the circumstances. He would have only escalated it even further.

        You don’t pour gas on a fire… you back away from it if you can’t safely put it out.

        I am tired of men going around thinking that women ‘owe’ men and that we have an obligation to ‘bow’ to them… as if they really were the superior sex. And that is kind of what you are saying. The woman should have just ‘cowed’ to him.

  9. Bonnie Michelle is ‘spot on’… that man is an abuser… plain and simple. You are lucky nothing more happened. I completely empathize with what happened to you… no one should have to go through what you did. You made it quite plain that you had something to do… he needed to have backed away right then and left you alone.

    My heart was in my throat, reading this.

    Please sign me – a survivor.

  10. Ugh. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this.
    Whenever I encounter people like this (and unfortunately in my case there have been quite a few men who have approached me in this manner) I state calmly and clearly the consequences of their actions/inactions. I once had a man at a bar who put his hand on my knee and when I told him to remove it he responded with a “No.” When I told him that if he didn’t remove it, I was either going to have the bouncer throw him out or I was going to do it myself, it became clear to him that I wasn’t playing. I had him immediately removed from the bar. Turns out he was doing this to a few women there that night.
    Again, safety comes first- don’t respond to someone’s rage with rage. Keeping a calm but firm tone and pointing out the facts to someone who is about to become abusive often forces them to see how crazy they are acting. Maybe a “Are you following me because I don’t have a moment to talk to you? Do you realize this is stalking? Do I need to call the police or security to stop you from harassing me?” might help the next encounter. Make your personal safety the priority, and screw the urge to be polite.

  11. Thanks for checking into my blog (Pairodox Farm). I just took a bit of a spin around yours. I wish that I was as insightful as you and could blog about how it is that my mind work. Nice job. Keep it up. You should widen your insightful horizon to include comments about relationships in a more general sense. That is … what guys want versus what women want. But … perhaps that’s been done before? D

  12. That guy not only crossed the line, but dragged his butt along it like a dog trying to relieve an itch from its nether regions. Do you wear heels or pointed shoes? Clearly, protocol dictated that you should have hooked him in the sac and shown him the limits of discretion. Just sayin’.

  13. I’m so interested in where we get our boundaries from, since we are all different. For me personal space is a big one, and often I find myself very uncomfortable when people get too close, like an invasion’. I think this is often the feeling when boundaries are overstepped, which is why we need to explore those we hold, and stick to what is comfortable for us. Not always easy though, as this post proves….

  14. For someone who didn’t even know you, to get angry like that, it probably is a great idea that you took off… quickly! Incredibly how arrogant and self absorbed people can be!

  15. One word: Mace

    If I pulled something like that here in Chicago, I would find myself pouring milk over my eyes or whatever your supposed to do when maced. Of course I don’t have to worry about it because I don’t pester women.

  16. That guy sounds to me like he took it too far. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable either. I can be quite a touchy private person as well and as such I expect everyone to understand and respect my boundaries (and I do take the effort to explain them to avoid misunderstandings.) So many people don’t try to understand or at least accept these things about me though and will often push me harder. Pushing me doesn’t get them what they want though as it often only ever results in me withdrawing from them if not removing them from my life altogether. They then try to make me feel guilty for not caring about them, but the truth is I don’t cope well with being made to feel uncomfortable.

  17. I think that you cannot repeat this particular rule too many times, especially in the beginning of a relationship… After a certain point we all have baggage and need to respect that in each other (and give the other person time to trust and open up). It is also important be clear/forthright about where one’s boundaries are – rather than expecting someone to just know and then (possibly) freaking out when someone crosses them. Like for most other rules, communication is the key. Not that it worked with your crazy stalker – glad you had back-up! I have really enjoyed reading your blog for a while and was so pleased to see your ‘like’ of a post of mine. Thanks!!!

  18. Ah the joy of personal space (both physical & emotional) what we’d do without it? Indeed certain people have no concept of it or simply they just don’t care as long as their needs are met. On the other hand you have those who put up so many boundaries that’s impossible to get close to. So in a world of black & white and very little grey are around we must navigate will high heels on broken glass.

  19. LOVE THIS! Soooo true. Boundaries are SO important in every aspect of life whether it’s work, friendship or relationships. I never used to be able to hold or set boundaries and wondered why things would happen. Now I LOVE setting boundaries. I also realized if a person is a good person they will generally respect them. And if they aren’t, they won’t. And that’s how I govern who I choose to spend my time with. Love your blog!!!

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