When a Boundary Conversation Fails

Boundary Rejected

Last week, I talked about a boundary conversation that was, for the most part, accepted by both parties. But what if you’ve confronted someone and he/she has dismissed or resisted your boundary conversation? What should you do then?

First of all, there’s a difference between dismissing and resisting a boundary conversation.

Normal Resistance

  • Most people resist aspects to some degree of an initial boundary conversation. It’s a part of the broken human condition to resist change or fight taking responsibility—all along the way, I might add! This is to be expected—anticipated—and not a cause for alarm in the reconciliation process.
  • Sometimes all of parts of the boundary conversation are initially accepted, but as time goes on and the reality of what’s being required emerges, then resistance crops up. This too is normal, but the person should not consistently remain resistant or it may be reflective of a rejection rather than resistance.


Signs of Rejection

  • Sometimes, what started out as acceptance moves into resistance, and then eventually degenerates into outright dismissal or rejection of the boundary conversation. Here the degree of resistance is important to note, as well as the clarity of the message. In other words, is the other party making it clear that s/he is no longer willing? Then you know the other party has shifted from resistance to rejection.
  • Typically, if a person is going to dismiss or reject a boundary conversation, you’ll see this almost immediately. You’ll know from the very first conversation how open the other party is to accept his/her responsibility. There will be no gray areas. This person may be still in denial and/or may constantly point the finger of blame back at you! Either way, your boundary has been rejected.


Here are some things you must keep in mind …

  1. You cannot force reconciliation or taking responsibility. That’s why it’s called “taking” responsibility and not “giving” responsibility! Funny how often we miss that, right?
  2. Remember that the more you yield this conflict and your offender to God, the more He can do His redemptive work. Rest in that truth! {Free Bible verse printable!}
  3. Relationships don’t change after one boundary conversation. You’ll need to be prepared for many boundary conversations all along the way. Often there are many layers of self-protection and self-delusion that must be peeled back over time before you’ll see true growth and movement towards acceptance. That’s why having a neutral third party like a pastor, counselor or life coach is so important to provide support, perspective and accountability.
  4. Let the natural consequences speak for you! Whatever it is that you’ve done to unnecessarily shield the other party from pain or from their responsibility, avoid that! You’ve most likely “played God” in this relationship! Repent of that and let God take over! His refinement of your offender is far superior to your strategies of nagging, arguing, manipulating, or punishing that are left in your teeny, tiny, human toolbox!


What would you add to this list that should be kept in mind or done?


What part of keeping your resolve when your offender resists is hardest for you?


I’ll be taking a break from my forgiveness series during the first and second Wednesday’s in May as I attend a conference with my hubby and take a short vacation afterwards. Wedded Wednesday will still be held both weeks, and when I return, I’ll be continuing the series with the issue of amends—what should be required and offered.

Click the link to read the previous post in our series on forgiveness and reconciliation – How and When to Apologize.

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18 responses to “When a Boundary Conversation Fails”

  1. Hey Beth … there’s alot of meat on these bones tonight! So much to savor and share. Boundaries is a huge issue in the counseling office. I so appreciate your wise, wise words. I’ll be putting them to good use …


    1. That sounds like the dinner I’ve got cooking away in the crock-pot tonight, Linda! Lol! I’m so glad you found it helpful. You always know how to encourage me!


  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Beth, you are in my prayers.

    I had the experience of a ‘failed boundary’ with a relative who actually had no intention of honoring any sort of agreement. This individual had an agenda, and was willing to do anything to make it happen – including pretending to go along with boundaries while working to subvert them.

    Drawing a final line was hard, and it’s something with which I’ve struggled as a Christian, but it was necessary.

    I did turn the other cheek, but when I became a punching bag…I was done.

    It doesn’t absolve me from the need for ‘forgiveness at a distance’, but even this is tough. I guess the best I can do, most of the time, is to tell the Big Fella that I wish it had all been different.

    Freedom from this relative’s influence and mind games was bought with a lot of heartache, but it was worth it.



    1. Thank you so much, Andrew and you are in mine. I’ve got you down on my “daily list” and honestly, I pray for many things for you. I do hope that you’re feeling God’s nearness, comfort and strength as you deal with this dark trial. I’m sorry that you had a failed attempt, but many people who are notorious boundary-busters cannot be bridled or tamed by any amount of boundary conversations. I’m glad that you’ve found ways to draw a line and keep this person at a distance. Sometimes that’s the only option. Yes, forgiveness at a distance is still so hard, but I hope you’ll remember God’s words to us in Isaiah 63:8-9. Praying that you sense Him carrying you in this dark night!


  3. Good morning! Once again, your knowledge and God’s words make for great points in this whole process of forgiveness and reconciliation. As non-confrontational as I am, I have a strong stubborn streak so I know resistance well. I also know that due to my stubbornness I am going to persist – right or wrong – till a solution is reached. The reminder that you sprinkle throughout of making sure God is part of this process is so important. It is one that I need to be reminded of often in all I face in life! Please know I’ll be praying for you and for your time together with your husband for some sweet rest and a great conference. Hugs!!!


    1. You sound like me, Mary. I don’t like confrontation. I saw too much of it being modeled in front of me by my warring parents when I was a child, so I want to duck and cover when I sense tension in any relationship! But I’m also incredibly stubborn and like to control. So sometimes that side of me pushes past the fearful side and I end up in a huge blow-out, due to my own sinful inclinations. Thankfully, there’s always plenty of grace and God gives me many opportunities to try again through His power and love. Thanks, sweet friend, for encouraging me here! 🙂


  4. […] Shared With: Wedded Wednesday […]


  5. Great truths Beth. I would add that we keep loving… might be hard but love is always a barrier breaker, it never fails. We must allow love springing from our hearts to the person.
    Enjoy the conference and your vacation. I trust your husband and family are doing well.


    1. Yes, keep on loving, Ugochi! I also love the way you say that – “love is always a barrier breaker.” So true and so profound. Thanks for adding to the discussion, my friend!


  6. […] with Messy Marriage, To Love, Honor and Vacuum and  Motivation […]


  7. Thank you for this reminder! There is a conversation that I need to have, but I also need to remember these key points you talked about. I can not make anyone do anything. Hopefully they hear my words. Thank you for your great wisdom!


    1. Yes, Cassie, sometimes we get all worked up trying to have the conversation and include all the right words and when the other person doesn’t immediately see things from our perspective, we get mad. That can short-circuit the entire process, if we do that! I never said this stuff was easy, but with God’s wisdom and grace flowing through us we have a chance to live in unity! Thanks for stopping by, my friend!


  8. GREAT post, my friend. And timely as we are dealing with a significant boundary issue with a beloved family member who has a hard time accepting His or our love and repeatedly strikes out mean from a heart deeply hurting. Oh, if only we could make all things better immediately!! Yet through the challenges He changes US regardless of the other. And our heart’s cry for love is the same as theirs…May we all become great lovers, humbly participating in His reconciliation process whatever the ultimate outcome. Thanks.


    1. Wouldn’t that be great, Sheila–to be able to wave a magic want over our boundary-buster and they would instantly wake up to the truth and their contribution! But like you’ve said, we would miss out on God’s redemption of our hearts. Everyone is being impacted for the good when we yield these frustrating situations/relationships to God. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, friend! I will see you so very SOON! Yay!


  9. Kim Adams Morgan Avatar
    Kim Adams Morgan

    Loved your point about shielding someone from boundaries is like playing God. I had never looked at it that way before I went through this exercise years ago. It was so true. Boundaries are so necessary and so healthy for all relationships. Have a great conference and vacation with your hubby, Beth.


    1. Yes, it’s also a form of idolatry. We feel that God can’t get the job done or protect us/others like we think he should, so we trust in our own self-effort, Kim. It’s all very ugly indeed! But praise God, He is able to overcome our sins and mistakes and redeem the situation with or without our help! 🙂


  10. […] Click on the link to read the last post in my forgiveness series – When a Boundary Conversation Fails. […]


  11. […] Click on this link if you’d like to read the previous post in this forgiveness series – When a Boundary Conversation Fails. […]


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