Expect Resistance When You Set Boundaries


colorful fence

Resistance to Boundaries

A Rerun Article

Resistance is painful. We know we should, but . . .

  • It will mean war.
  • It will mean anger.
  • It will mean silent treatment.
  • It will mean being rejected.

During the time my ex-husband and I were separated he was starting a new business, Novrosky’s, with his “testimonial” office assistant. I was mothering three young children and managing our home. One day I went to the location where they were working. The children were in the car with me. In the parking lot I was attempting to have a reasonable conversation with him as he stood outside the window next to the car. I said something that suggested a boundary issue. If I raised my voice a decibel, I don’t recall. He reacted as if I were screaming and condescendingly said, “Don’t do this in front of the children,” completely turning the situation onto me. I didn’t fully realize at the time what had happened.

So often the intimidator will make the one setting a boundary appear as if they are the one who is being unreasonable.

As our situation progressed I would get physically ill every time he came to pick up the children for his visitation. Just seeing him made me nauseous. I made a bold move to set a boundary for myself. I asked a friend to be at the house when he arrived. She was more than happy to do this. He came at the pointed time and when he realized I was not coming to greet him he became angry. These are both examples of external boundaries. They are easier to identify than the “inside resistance, the resistance we get from ourselves.”1

Be prepared for the controller to resist when you set a boundary.

Cloud and Townsend make several points about angry reactions.

  1. The angry person is the one with the problem.
  2. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person.
  3. Do not let their anger be a cue for you to do something. There is great power in inactivity.  (Italics are mine.)
  4. Have a support system and a plan in place.
  5. Do not allow the angry person to get you angry.
  6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences.2

All of this involves risk. Sometimes risk is necessary in dealing with angry people.

Other types of external resistance include:

  1. Guilt-people with poor boundaries will receive guilt messages which are directed towards them. Tips for dealing with external messages:
    1. Recognize guilt messages.
    2. Guilt messages are really anger in disguise.
    3. Guilt messages hide sadness and hurt.
    4. If guilt works on you, recognize that this is your problem and not theirs.
    5. Do not explain or justify.
    6. Be assertive and interpret their messages as being about their feelings.
  2. Consequences and countermoves-controlling people, sometimes parents of grown children, may use this way of resisting boundaries.

A. First consider what you will lose versus what you may gain. My thoughts: This may mean a serious breech within your immediate family. Be prepared.

  • Decide if you are willing to risk the loss.
  • Be diligent about making up for what you have (or may) lost.
  • Do it. Go through with your plans.
  • Realize that the hard part is just beginning.

3. Physical resistance, Pain of Others, Blamers, Real needs, Forgiveness and reconciliation. I cannot fully address the material in the book here. Just know that there may be resistance that involves physical abuse, personal pain of those you love, people who will place all the blame on you. And realize that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness involves one person; reconciliation requires two.

Resistance is used to create strength and muscle when we workout. It should not be surprising that it is through resistance that we grow stronger spiritually.

In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the World.  – John 16:33 Msg.


  1. Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries (Zondervan 1992), 246.
  2. Ibid. 247-249.

For more about Boundaries

To order Boundaries  

Some previous posts on Setting Boundaries on this site:

How to Set Boundaries

Boundaries With Nasty People

Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children

Gail in purple speaking with hand gestures


Gail raised three children as a single mother before she remarried. She has experienced the potholes, pests, and perils of being the single head-of-household. As an educator in regular and special education for twenty years she knows a great deal about child development and how to handle kids. She is the founder of SMORE for Women, a nonprofit whose goal is Single Moms, Overjoyed, Rejuvenated, and Empowered. She is a Certified Professional Coach and her stories have been published in several Christian books and magazines. Her book, Living Learning Loving is available on CreateSpace, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble online.


  1. […] posts – “Expect Resistance”, “Living with Boundaries” Chapter 2 video, Radio […]

  2. […] Expect Resistance When You Set Boundaries (smoreforwomenblog.org) […]

  3. I wish I would have read this two days ago. Saturday I was faced with a similar situation. Someone I know is alway, yes always lashing out at people. Even when you are trying to be helpful. Previous I have just told her, if you are going to talk to me like that, I am going to have to leave. But, on this day, when you lashed out at me, I started crying. We were in a restaurant.
    I know how to set boundaries now, and my prayer is for her and me.

    1. Perhaps the book would help you. Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend has been a Godsend for many.

  4. Hi Nicole, Good to hear from you. Being “inactive” when someone is anger with you is very difficult. It is amazing what happens when we do.

  5. What a fantastic post! I have experienced a lot of resistance in the past when I put up boundaries with men. I love the point about not responding to someone’s anger and keeping your own power through inactivity.

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