Respecting Boundaries


            We have all come across several people in our lives who do not respond to boundaries very well.  I often ask myself, “did I not communicate my boundary clear enough?”  “Is it me?”  It is not me; it is them. 

            I can understand that some boundaries do not make sense to some people, but it is never about them.  You should never have to explain your boundary to anyone.  People should be receptive and respectful of your boundaries.  If there is push back, it is even more reason why the boundary should exist.

            We all have different life experiences or comfort levels.  I do not believe in bending over backwards to try to satisfy someone, especially if my boundary has been communicated and I am being asked to compromise a boundary that makes me uncomfortable.  For example, I do not like to be touched or hugged.  It has never been my vibe and I will communicate it to people when they try to go in for a hug. 

            Some people are taken aback when I tell them I am not a big hugger but are quick to reach out a hand for a handshake or high five.  It is not unusual for people to dislike being touched.  I find it unusual that people are offended when they are asked not to touch someone.  This might be extreme, but it reminds me of that jerk in the bar that refuses to take no for an answer, so you panic to find an exit and pray he doesn’t follow you or you have him kicked out.  No means no in any circumstance.

            I recently had the not so lovely experience of having to repeat myself to an adult about not putting their hands on me and then trying to be gaslighted about the situation.  It was not pleasant, and I will not be made to feel guilty because they do not like the word no or have a lack of respect for me.

            This visit is not the first time I have been around this individual.  The first time we met was when they were visiting family and stayed with my boyfriend and me.  At that time, I communicated that I am not a hugger.  They may have associated my not wanting to hug for paranoia due to COVID, which I do not blame them for.  We were in the middle of the pandemic and a vaccine had yet to be released. 

            When they visited this time, I was quick to say, “I am not a hugger.”  I was relieved when their partner fist bumped me, and I thought that would be the end of it.  It was not.  On the night we met up for dinner, I decided to have a glass or two of wine.  I wanted to let loose since we have been cautious to be around people.  They leaned in for a hug, which was a little annoying, but I prefaced the hug with “this will be the only hug you will most likely ever receive from me.”  Was it an alcohol induced hug?  Yes and no.  Yes, in that I felt one hug would not hurt.  No, in the fact that I made it well known there would only be one hug and one hug only!  I was not intoxicated that I forgot what I said.  I said what I meant.

            The next day we all met up for brunch and ended up at my boyfriend’s mother’s hotel room.  When we were getting ready to leave, I waited for my boyfriend to make his round of hugs when I see this individual approach me and try to hug me.  I immediately made it known that hugging was not allowed.  This was not enough.  They not only cornered me, which was uncomfortable, but they had the audacity to say that since I had given them a hug the night before I opened pandora’s box.

            This is not okay.  NO ONE gets to decide that they can touch me.  EVER.  That is not okay.  I understand that I gave this person a hug, but I made it a point to state that it would be a onetime thing.  This does not give anyone permission to put their hands on me.  I do not like to be touched. Period.  Cornering someone to get your way is predatory like behavior.  I am sorry if that is an extreme way to describe my experience, but if someone asks you not to touch them and you corner them to force yourself upon them – how do you think it makes that individual feel?  I will tell you.  I felt violated and disrespected.

            I had to say forcefully and loudly, “DO NOT TOUCH ME!”  This was offensive.  Really?  Not the fact that you were not listening and did not care that I asked you not to touch me?  What made things worse was that my boyfriend’s mother asked me if I had asked my therapist why I do not like to be touched.  Excuse me?  There is nothing wrong with me not wanting to be touched.  There is nothing wrong with me expressing my boundary and asking for people to respect it.  Boundaries are not negotiable. 

             The entire experience left a bitter taste in my mouth.  We learn at the age of five to keep our hands to ourselves.  I do not understand where the disconnect begins.  It is insulting that people immediately ask whether I have discussed this problem with my therapist.  Not to mention, it is my choice with whom I share that I go to therapy.  Making a statement like that is insulting and goes to show that as a human being you are ignorant.   

            Questioning someone’s boundaries is insensitive when you come from a place of defense rather than understanding.  Approaching someone privately to ask them about their boundaries, I think, is appropriate.  You are showing them respect and coming from a place of trying to form a bond with them.  Accusing them of being wrong for having a boundary comes across as defensive and immature.  Making someone’s boundary about yourself is a wee bit narcissistic. 

            I was further told that the way I communicated that I did not want to be touched made them feel as though I did not like them.  The fact that you were told to back off because you made someone feel uncomfortable and then are trying to make yourself a victim is gaslighting my dear.  Perhaps reflecting on your own actions may be a better approach instead of placing the blame on one person.  You made the choice to ignore a boundary that had been communicated loud and clear, and decided to force yourself upon that person.  Does that sound like a respectable thing to do?   

            The most frustrating part of this all is that I have been consistent in communicating that I do not like to be hugged.  It has been something I have said and reminded his family about since the day I met them.  Yes, I made the mistake of hugging this one person.  I thought stating that I was only going to allow one hug was clear enough and that this individual was mature enough to be respectful.  I was proven wrong.  Writing about this ordeal makes my blood boil all over again.

            I know that some people have boundaries that may not make sense to you.  I understand that some boundaries seem a little excessive or strange (to you), but instead of coming from a place of judgment and expressing your opinion about how odd or wrong a person is for having a boundary, take a breath.  Rather than being defensive, be respectful.  I do not tell people that they should not hug one another in my presence or convince people of why hugging is uncomfortable.  I communicate that I am not a hugger, which is not strange or weird, and ask that people be respectful of it. 

I think the takeaway is that I must be more cautious when I am around my boyfriend’s family.  I cannot trust that I will be heard or respected and it is a very disheartening feeling that as an adult, I feel violated by a person I should feel safe around.