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How Can You Tell When Someone Has Poor Personal Boundaries?

The term ‘personal boundaries’ is often used by therapists to describe someone who acts inappropriately. They may be exceptionally needy. Or, they may have a bad habit of exploiting others.

Someone who doesn’t respect the boundaries of others may not be the type of person you wish to begin a relationship with, whether it’s on a romantic or a purely platonic level.

That’s because this is a cue that you might be dealing with someone who’s a little unstable, or has a specific personality disorder, such as narcissism.

Narcissists, especially those prone to undermining others, often covertly, are no fun to be around. The last thing you want to do is to invite someone with strong narcissistic traits into your life. That’s because they will create pandemonium and destruction, which can take a long time to fix. (Trust me, I’ve had a painful encounter with a malignant narcissist.)

Signs of Poor Personal Boundaries

One dead giveaway is if you meet someone for the first time, and they suddenly want to spend all of their waking moments with you. This is a bad idea, even if this isn’t going to be a romantic encounter. This means they have poor personal boundaries and not enough else going on. You need to think about why they, apparently, have no other life besides you, someone they just met. Good, healthy relationships don’t start this way.

Asking for Big Favors, Right off the Bat

One woman whom I had just met, and hardly knew, wanted me to watch her three young children for several days. I agreed. The children behaved outrageously. Something was clearly wrong. No one who is emotionally balanced would ask a perfect stranger to watch her children, even for a short period of time.

Later, this woman met someone else. She then asked them to watch her children several days a week, so she could have some time for herself in the afternoons. She neglected to consider that her free ‘babysitter,’ who also had a young family, needed a break.

Not Taking ‘No’ for an Answer

I also met someone else through a casual introduction. Somehow, she also had my email address. She insisted I accompany her to this expensive benefit dinner, even though I clearly wasn’t able to go. ‘Oh, please come with me,’ she insisted, over and over again. She still didn’t want to hear the word, ‘no.’

This was clearly a case of someone having a very difficult time with boundaries.

Personality Quirks, Versus Personality Disorders

Of course, spending time with someone who is a little quirky is not a problem. Some of the most delightful people in the world are wired a little differently. These people are perfectly harmless and very loyal.

So when I refer to poor personal boundaries, I mean in the sense of someone with narcissism or a similar personality disorder. These people are very apt to turn on you or cause you pain and suffering, if you open the door to your world just a little crack.

When you meet someone, and they have no respect for your time, feelings or psychological comfort, they are showing they have little regard for boundaries.

If you are interested in learning more about personality disorders, Amazon and barnesandnoble.com have some excellent books on this topic.

Flickr photos by Christiaan Tonnis

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