Where do you draw the line?
When does a friend, partner or family member do or say something so hurtful and unacceptable that you have to tell them to back off?
It’s not an easy question to answer, but if you give too much space to aggressive and ignorant people you’ll end up backed into a corner with nowhere left to go.
There are certain behaviors that just can’t be accepted. From anybody. Ever.
Here they are.
The red lines you shouldn’t let anybody cross.
1) Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
If you’re being pushed around, sexually harassed or emotionally abused, it’s completely beyond the pale.
There is no amount of physical, sexual or emotional abuse that’s not a big deal.
Even a small amount is too much.
Anybody who thinks they can be rough with you, pressure or disrespect your intimate boundaries or play with your emotions, is committing a grave injustice.
Don’t allow it. Tell them to back off immediately or cut all ties.
2) Disloyalty, infidelity and betrayal
We all do things we regret.
But disloyalty, betrayal and cheating are never kosher.
If you’re with someone in a relationship and you know they cheated or are cheating, you need to confront them or end the relationship as soon as possible.
If you have friends, colleagues or others in your life who are two-faced and are actually against you while pretending to be your friend, they also have got to go.
This brings me to the next point…
3) Insincerity, false support and fairweather friendship
It’s easy to be friends when all is well and when times are good.
But what about when the chips are down?
Insincere friends, fairweather patriots and false comrades aren’t worth the boots they’re standing in.
If you have people in your life that only stand by you and come around when you’re up and hightail it when you’re down?
It’s high time to say adios, amigo.
4) Jealousy, controlling behavior and toxic possessiveness
Occasional jealousy can be a healthy and inevitable part of a relationship.
But if it reaches the level of outright controlling behavior and possessiveness or jealousy so intense it makes your partner shut down and become bitter and upset?
It’s gone too far.
A serious talk needs to take place and big changes are in order. You can’t allow this type of behavior to go on unimpeded, otherwise it will worsen and become harder and harder to deal with.
5) Slander and harmful gossip behind your back
Those who talk trash behind your back fall into the disloyal category I wrote about earlier.
It’s not only if they’re gossipping about you, incidentally.
The kind of person who spreads harmful rumors and unnecessary gossip about anyone is not somebody you should spend too much time around if you can help it.
We’re all very influenced by those we spend time around, and furthermore the kind of individual who gossips about others generally has a habit of turning their loose tongue loose on you soon enough as well.
6) Ongoing disrespect against your values and beliefs
Life is a full contact sport, and we’re all going to come across folks who disagree strongly with us or think our identity or beliefs are dead wrong.
But if you have people in your life who are disrespectful to your core values on an ongoing basis, you need to call them out.
It’s just not OK.
They can think you’re wrong, disagree or even be offended. But if they can’t have a basic level of respect and agree to disagree, these are people who you should limit being around.
7) Bullying, harassment or campaigns of intimidation
Bullying is a disgusting behavior that’s often engaged in by insecure and ignorant people. The same goes for those who try to intimidate you, harass you or otherwise “get your goat.”
These folks aren’t worth your time, and if it is people close to you then they need to be called out for their behavior.
It’s not OK, it is a big deal, and you have the right to put your foot down.
You should never feel like you have to be treated poorly in order to have a seat at the table. It’s not true, and you should also be very careful:
Once you give bullies an inch they always take a mile.
8) Grifting and fraudulent schemes to cheat you of money or resources
Anybody who’s dishonest and tries to cheat you is somebody who needs to be stopped in their tracks (and possibly prosecuted).
Fraudsters, scam artists, sleazy gurus and anybody else selling you a bill of goods needs to be held to account.
You worked hard to earn your money and get where you are, and you should not allow anybody to rob you of that.
If you have folks you are helping in your life, you need to also ensure that it’s not a codependent or grifting relationship and that they aren’t taking your help for granted.
Helping is wonderful, but it should always be your choice. The same goes for any deals or programs you sign up for. It’s up to you.
9) Having your dreams insulted and undermined by those you trust
Your dreams may be unrealistic and objectively unlikely. But they’re still your dreams.
Anybody who makes you feel stupid or insults your dreams should be called out for that kind of behavior.
If they undermine your dreams and actively make them harder to accomplish that’s even worse.
You have the right to at the very least have your dreams respected.
If you’re advised about what to do instead that’s one thing, but if people laugh at you or try to break your dreams they are crossing a big line.
10) Exploitation and having you do large amounts of unpaid or unacknowledged labor
Helping out is great, but it should be voluntary or at least well paid.
If you have a lot of folks in your life who ask you to help all the time but never return the favor, it’s not really acceptable.
No matter how much you love them or how dire their situation is, there has to come a point at which you say “I have my own needs that have to be taken care of right now.”
There has to be a cutoff point where you look after yourself and respond to requests for help second.
You can’t always be available or always be around, especially for those who seem to be exploiting your good nature or helpfulness.
11) Gaslighting and being lied to about your experiences and traumas
No matter how much you tell me, I can never be inside your head or feel your emotions.
But I can have empathy. I can have respect.
That means that when you tell me of an experience or trauma you had and how it affected you, I don’t challenge or dispute that. It’s your experience.
The kind of individual who tries to gaslight you and devalidate your traumas is almost always harmful.
They may be trying to engage in a kind of tough love, but more often than not it’s more about “challenging” you to somehow prove how much you’ve been hurt or why you’re upset.
You don’t need to justify painful emotions or catalog your lived experiences to prove them to somebody for their inspection.
A note on red lines
There’s no point in drawing a red line if you don’t stick to it.
Those who engage in the above behaviors need to be confronted. There isn’t always an easy or comfortable way to confront someone for unacceptable behavior.
Sometimes you just need to come right out with it:
“What you did was wrong.”
“I won’t be treated that way, and I’m letting you know that very clearly because I’d rather you continue being part of my life.”
It may sound harsh, but the kind of treatment I’ve described above isn’t OK. You owe it to yourself and anybody engaging in these behaviors to put your foot down.