Making Healthy Boundaries and losing Buttons



I was chatting with a friend the other day and our conversation was about having our buttons pushed. She told me that it wasn’t as much about why they were pushed, but more about how they were pushed. When you get bogged down in the details of why something happened, you tend to totally miss how it happened in the first place. This was something I was interested in learning more about.

Since I have seriously taken on reshaping how I deal with situations that make me uncomfortable, learning how not to have my buttons pushed to the point of being uncomfortable would be the first step in successfully filtering out those people in my life.  

The first step in dealing with having your buttons pushed is speaking up when it happens. Learning to speak up in the past was pretty much a huge waste of my time. I would have been better off having most of those conversations with myself because they were all meaningless dead ends. Oh I would say what I had to say, but 100% of the time I ended up back in the same place as before. I would agree with whatever the person told me their reasons were, “Oh okay. No, that’s okay. I’ll deal with it. No worries. It’s really not a big deal, Really, it’s not.” and absolutely nothing would change. The person would go right back to doing whatever they pleased and I would remain uncomfortable.

What I never stopped to tell myself back then was that if this person were truly a friend, then my feelings and the fact that I took the time to approach them and be honest about it, should have mattered to them. But it didn’t matter. My feelings didn’t mean a damn thing to them at all, especially if it meant changing their behavior in order to keep my friendship.

Some instances had me smacked down completely and left me feeling apologetic about intruding on their personal space. It felt like I had stepped over their boundary, or was asking for something unreasonable, and I wasn’t. It took a lot for me to speak up in the first place. If they only knew how much thought I put into bringing it up, if they only knew that the only reason I would ever tell someone that what they were doing hurt me was because I valued their friendship, then they would also know that I could never ask for anything unreasonable.

That doesn’t stop some folks from just tearing into anyone that points out something they might be doing that negatively affects someone else. They just bite and expect you to pick yourself up and continue on like it’s just another day. Back then that’s exactly what I would do too. I would file it under a lesson learned and never say another word. Eventually this also meant I was careful around my friend. I watched what I said and I stopped being myself. I was guarded and insecure and put up a wall that shut the person out completely because I wasn’t willing to face the truth about why this was happening.

Do you want to know why this was happening?

When you feel strongly enough about a situation involving someone you consider to be a good friend, you shouldn’t feel an overwhelming apprehension about opening the door for dialogue about something that’s bothering you. That’s the  first clue that something is terribly wrong with your friendship. If the simple act of being a good friend makes you shy away from the pitfalls that sometimes happen in a friendship, then you might want to reevaluate what you consider a good friend to be.

How do you even start a conversation like this?

Even if you are quite comfortable with your friendship, sometimes bringing up the things that hurt can be difficult, but if you want to keep your friend, show them the same respect you want from the experience. If you go to them screaming mad and calling them names, who could blame them for not hearing you out! So open with a softer tone and let them know right away that you don’t think they’re doing this on purpose.

Clue number two that something is wrong with your friendship is when there is no compromise. When a friend responds to you by reminding you that your misgivings and hurt feelings have nothing to do with them and they have no intention of doing anything to change their behavior to suit you, then they have just told you how much they value you as a friend.

Ahem…they don’t value you at all. Not even a teeny, tiny bit.

According to my knowledgeable friend, this is when it becomes a no-brainer. This person is not your friend. In fact, they don’t care about you at all. You are someone they know, and that’s about it. It doesn’t matter how many intimate details of your lives you’ve shared, or how many lunches you’ve had together. You could have known each other for years and this could happen tomorrow. This person is not your friend and doesn’t deserve to have another moment of your time. They really don’t even deserve an explanation, but if you give them one, do it with grace and make your exit.

I can tell you to take this stance, but I would be negligent not to advise you to be ready to be brave. When you start putting your foot down, people don’t like it. You will experience backlash from the folks that are about as deep as a teaspoon and the ones that are a little deeper probably already know how to make their exit once they realize you want a compromise they aren’t willing to make on your behalf.

Prepare yourself for the worst to happen. Be prepared to walk away from the friendship if you aren’t met with the same love and understanding you approached them with. Be prepared to leave when it’s obvious that you are not being heard at all. If working it out is not a part of your friend’s agenda and you feel your concerns were not heard, but discounted instead, then this is not a compromise at all. This has become one-sided and your needs will never be a consideration here. If that’s the kind of friendship you want, then seek professional counseling.

My friend offered some interesting things to consider before you approach someone. Here is the list of what she and I talked about:

1. Think about why your friend would do that. What’s underlying that?

2. Think about why you were so bothered by this.

3. Think about what may have motivated your friend to behave that way.

4. Think about the costs here.

5. Think about what you are getting for it.

6. Think about how to approach your friend to tell them how you feel overall, not just in this context, along with how your friend could actually hear you, if that’s what you want to happen.

This was probably one of the most enlightening and productive conversations I have ever had with another human being about boundaries and buttons. The thoughts she asked me to consider above answered every question I have ever had about why it’s so hard for me to continue being friends with certain people.

She said “The bottom line is that your friend is doing something you’re now not okay with her doing, AND she’s refusing to have what you consider a decent conversation about it. If someone does something and I say “Hey, you did this, and I’m not okay with it.”, the critical part for me isn’t actually what they did, it’s how they react when they find out I’m not happy with something and want to talk about it. I fully believe that the number one indicator of someone’s emotional intelligence and self-awareness and self-esteem is how they manage conflict.” 

She wanted to know how my conversation went and if the outcome made me happy. I told her it didn’t go well and that the outcome did not make me happy at all because instead of being understanding my friend almost sounded defensive and was very clear about not changing her behavior. She told me, “Then she’s also unlikely someone you’re going to be able to be friends with. If she can’t resolve a conflict with you, coming to the table with genuine courtesy, respect, interest in working it out, now what?”

Exactly…now what?

If the deep, underlying issue here in this friendship has not been made completely clear to you by now, then I will spell it out for you again. This person you feel is your friend, is not your friend. This person you have opened yourself up to and shared your vulnerability with, has no respect for you as a friend and probably not as a person either. They merely know you in passing. They don’t give a flying hoot about you as a person, an individual or as a human being. They won’t shed a single tear when you walk away and they won’t come running after you either. They simply do not care. In fact, your exit might even lessen the burden they felt being your “friend” was.

I know that sounds harsh and it’s not meant to make you feel less than who you are, but in cases like this it is the truth and sometimes the truth is ugly.

My new rule with all friendships has many dimensions. I want to get back as much as I put in to every friendship. I realized that I am a good friend and the people in my life that deserve my attention, my thoughts and my time are good friends too. Being a friend isn’t that difficult, but when it becomes uncomfortable think about your contribution to the discomfort you’re feeling. It might just be a bump in the road and sometimes it might be the end of the journey. That decision is yours to make.

I have been reminded many times over the last year that there are millions of people on this planet and that losing one person in your life that was never your friend to begin with, is not the end of the world. What this does is teach you about what a true friend is and allows you to make more time in your life for the people that already think your feelings matter.

That’s why we have friends…remember?


About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice, Personal Boundaries Primer and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Making Healthy Boundaries and losing Buttons

  1. OneHotMess says:

    I love this and it is 100% true. The people who care will work with you. The people who won’t work with you never cared–ever. I wrote a post about love, attachment, and detachment in which I pondered this myself. Let me know if you’re interested. As an aside, the person I detached from after chasing her has not called me once in 5 months. I stopped calling to see how long it would take…seems the answer is forever. It’s my sister, so…but there was a lack of health there to begin with that I had to see first.


    • Thank you so much and yes I would be very interested in reading your post. Could you post a link here in comments? That way everyone who happens to find this post can read yours too.

      Recently I had someone tell me they weren’t interested in how I felt about something. They trivialized everything I told them that was bothering me and made me feel small and petty for bringing it up. I was sorry she felt that way, but I could see that my friendship was something she did not value and something she would never miss, so I walked away. I understand that now. Not everyone is going to like me.

      It took me a long to admit to myself that the reason this happens is simply because the person did not respect me. That was hard to admit. I think I also just didn’t want to know that I had made an investment and my “friend” had contributed nothing. I used to just keep hanging on, but now I don’t. I just let that stuff go and have felt lighter with each disconnect. I finally feel like I deserve to get back what I put out there and I deserve to have friends that respect me. That is HUGE! I’m happy to have you along as someone that realized this too. I wish this for everyone out there that works at being a good friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Space says:

        its even harder to start the conversation with a family member. Having a”TOXIC” talk with daughter who is battling drug addition. Do you ask them to leave the house (again), or “enable” them a little longer hoping they will recover. Once the conversation starts, it escalates to argument, with the backlash you mentioned above. In her mind, its not about the family or their feelings, its the family teaming up on her feelings. All the reactions you describe are completely authentic. Complicated by the fact that (we) grandparents are raising her child, and she will lose what little connection there is. Selfish people dislike being held accountable, it reminds them they can be wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is so true about selfish people. They have no idea the damage they leave in their wake for the rest of us to deal with. It’s all about them, or it’s not important.

        The best thing you can do is let her go. Stop enabling her. You can not help someone that refuses to help themselves.

        Raise your grandchild with love, but do not feel compelled to sugarcoat or gloss over her mother’s piss-poor behavior. That child needs to understand and love her mother for who and what she is, so they can grow up with empathy and the benefit of knowing they can make better choices and this way the cycle gets broken.

        Liked by 1 person

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