Why Boundaries Cause You to Lose Friends

Do not cross boundaries

I finally gave in and said we could go to the sex club. I don’t know why I was the swing vote, but that’s how things worked in my friend group.

We were being voyeurs in the truest sense possible, the club was an underground S&M dungeon, and none of us were part of that scene. Our little ragtag group of lesbians stood out amongst the leather-clad daddies and dominatrixes.

The club had several open spaces for the true exhibitionists, along with private rooms off of the main corridor. I walked with my friend, Tina, peering into rooms via the barred windows on the metal doors. The night was still young and some of the rooms were vacant. But when we came upon the last room, we saw two people making out. I froze.

Those two people were my best friends, who I introduced, and who I thought only hung out when I was with them. Were they sneaking around behind my back?

I tried to mask my horror, but the next day, I laid into both of my friends and said I wanted nothing to do with them. I was so angry and confused.

How did I end up with shitty friends? Where did I go wrong?

As much as I wanted to blame others for my pain, I knew there was a disconnect between who I thought I was and who surrounded me.

Relationships are complicated, whether they’re romantic or not. We all breathe a sigh of relief when our best friend has finally dumped her loser boyfriend.

But what about the friends who take advantage of you or only call when they need something? You know they’re dysfunctional relationships, but you never put your foot down.

Why don’t we champion those kinds of break-ups as well?

Oftentimes, confronting others means having to enforce personal boundaries. For many of us, this is one of our greatest fears.

BFF is a Fairy Tale

All relationships offer growth opportunities and life lessons, which means some are not meant to last forever. It’s only natural for people to come in and out of our lives. So why do we hold onto unhealthy friendships?

“Best Friends Forever” is a silly grade school phrase. You don’t still believe in that, do you?

I have a cringe-worthy memory from high school, where I gave a BFF necklace to a friend of mine––the kind where you each wear one half. She never wore it and I would actually scold her for not doing so. I don’t even want to think about how long I wore my half, until I finally gave up. What a dum-dum… don’t force someone to be your friend.

If your friendships feel like obligations, and don’t inspire you, that’s a problem. Your friends should not hold you hostage or keep you frozen in time. You’re allowed to move on and not feel guilty about it.

You Can’t Please Everybody All the Time

It’s not that people are inherently bad, it’s that they want their desires met before yours. Which results in a constant tug-of-war between what you and the outside world wants. It’s this daily struggle that requires us to create boundaries, otherwise, you’d never get your needs met.

Conflict is how we establish boundaries or set new ones. It’s scary to stand up for yourself, but nobody knows what you want if you don’t vocalize it. Don’t expect others to look out for your best interests; be proactive and speak up.

When someone makes you uncomfortable, that’s a sign that they’re pushing up against your boundaries. It’s not always a bad thing, think of it as a helpful warning where you may need to take action.

Taking action doesn’t always mean a grand gesture. You could not text someone back right away or

Moral compass
Photo by G. Crescoli

block them on your social media. Start small and work your way up the bravery chain.

Double Standards Are Out, Moral Standards Are In

Boundaries are your moral compass, without them there is no North to keep you headed in the right direction. The problem is that we tend to create double-standards around our actions versus other people’s actions.

When it comes to our own, we are in the driver’s seat, we are in control. One person, one responsibility — easy enough.

But, things get more complicated once you walk out the front door. Suddenly, life feels like a Space Invaders game (I’m dating myself, but work with me here) where there’s a barrage of people and information coming your way.

People typically react in one of three ways: 1.) Go on the offense 2.) Play defense or 3.) Shut down.

We all like to think of ourselves as a badass that maneuvers through life with confidence. Yet, most of us play defense, with the occasional offense move––even within our friend groups.

The only way to get out from under this daily onslaught, is through personal boundaries. Think of them as your force field that keeps out the riff-raff and helps you maneuver this crazy, demanding world.

You Can Only Play Defense for So Long

Going on the offense means telling friends what behaviors you will and won’t tolerate. Sometimes you’ll have to confront people head on (yikes!). Your goal is to eliminate confusion. When you communicate your expectations to others you help create clear boundaries.

Playing defense means you react to people or situations as they come your way. Your actions and communications always come after a boundary has been crossed. Repeat offenders surround themselves with enablers. Are you a sheep too?

Then, there’s the folks who get so overwhelmed by life, that they shut down. They live in fear of confronting others and upsetting them. Avoidance is the reason why we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes, over and over again. It’s only when we deal with them, that they stop plaguing us.

It’s not that people don’t want you to change, it’s that they don’t want to change. You can go and do your hopey, changey thing, but know that you may be doing it alone.

Boundaries Are a Two-Way Street

It’s easy to instigate change, but what happens when someone calls you out on bad behavior? What happens when the tables are turned?

Don’t sweat it. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means they’re trying to change. Acceptance is hard, but you can’t force someone to be your friend (or wear a necklace).

I’ve had many friends drop me, probably more than I realize, but I’ve chalked it up to us being too busy or whatever adult excuses we come up with. I’m certain those people are better off without me and that they’ve found more suitable friends.

If you want to be given the benefit of the doubt, you should bestow that same goodwill upon others. Let people take care of themselves and trust their instincts.

Life is a gamble
Photo by Michal Parzuchowski

You Win Some and You Lose Some

Some people don’t like readjusting their boundaries. The truth is, many people prefer to be on autopilot, because it’s easier.

Ask yourself if that kind of mindset makes you happy or if it leaves you feeling unsatisfied?

There’s no need to go whole hog, and hold a town hall airing out all your grievances with friends. Remember, you chose your friends, and they represent parts of yourself, it’s not all bad.

Take it day-by-day, and notice when someone has irked you or when you feel deflated.

Don’t let the fear of loneliness stop you from speaking up. Be brave and divert your attention to finding more like-minded friends.

We’re all just making our way through life, drawn to one another for various reasons. When you’re confident and rooted in who you are, you stand a better chance of finding the right friends, for the right reasons.

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