In today’s Q & A video, I’m going to talk about how to deal with conflicting boundaries in a relationship.

Read or watch below to know the uncensored truth about dealing with conflicting boundaries in a relationship.

Zachary Stockill: I often talk about how important it is to have boundaries and standards in your dating life, and certainly in your relationship life. In other words, having certain lines that someone you’re dating should not or cannot cross. But what do you do if your partner has a different boundary? How do you deal with conflicting relationship boundaries?

I got a comment recently on a YouTube video from someone who we’ll call M. M writes:

Any recommendations on how to overcome conflicting relationship boundaries?

“Any suggestions for resolving conflicting relationship boundaries?”

Okay, M.

The first thing I would suggest, is whatever this particular boundary battle is, whatever this particular conflict is, try to think how important is this to you on a scale from one to 10. With 1 being really not a big deal, and 10 being an absolute, ironclad dealbreaker.

If it’s between a 1 and maybe 5, try to see if you can live with it. You don’t necessarily love it, but you can live with it. And by the way, this is very important. When you’re asking yourself, be very, very honest. Because there’s a difference in being able to shrug something off, and saying…

“Okay, it’s not my favorite thing, but I can live with it…”

There’s a difference between that and feeling genuine resentment; towards agreeing to something that deep down in your soul and your core you don’t actually agree to.

The world’s most famous relationship researcher is a man named Dr. John Gottman, and one of his crucial insights is that nothing predicts the downfall of a relationship better than the level of resentment that is present the relationship.

And if you’re agreeing to something that you don’t really agree to deep down, that’s going to build tremendous resentment.

Now, if this issue is between a 6 and a 10, on your scale of the importance of this boundary or the importance of this conflict, then you’ve got a decision to make. I get emails from people all the time-sharing stories about their relationship and sharing details of their relationship with some clear boundary violations and shady behavior, and things that that they resent. But still, it seems like they’re trying to negotiate, they’re trying to compromise, they’re trying to work with this…

And at the end of the day, I think compromise is sometimes oversold when it comes to the issue of relationships.

In other words, we hear this mantra all the time in our culture, you know, “compromise is the key to a healthy relationship, you have to compromise, you have to compromise.” There’s some truth to that.

And in certain moments, you do have to compromise on certain issues. But on the big, important stuff, I don’t think you should compromise. I don’t compromise in my relationships on the things that are most important to me. And I don’t think anyone should. The trick is getting absolutely clear on what is truly most important to you, and then living true to that.

So if it’s between a 6 and a 10, again, you’ve got a serious decision to make. If you’ve communicated this boundary clearly to your partner, and they continue to violate it over and over again…

Conflicting relationship boundaries.

Don’t trust what a person says, watch what they do.

That should tell you everything you need to know. It’s possible their behavior is not going to change. And if they continue violating this boundary, after you’ve made it absolutely clear that this is not okay with you and that this is a serious boundary… If they keep violating after that, it’s probably time to move on.

On a related note: sometimes we feel like we’ve made our boundaries clear to our partner, and we really haven’t. So it can be very useful sometimes to treat your partner as if they’re kind of dumb. And I don’t mean that your partner is dumb. I don’t mean that my partner is dumb…

But we often take for granted our communication styles and our ideas about things; we feel like we’re being clear when sometimes we really aren’t. So it can be worthwhile to sit down, look a person in the eye and be very, very clear. About what’s okay with you and what’s genuinely not. But I need to emphasize this point once again…

Unfortunately, compromise is not always possible.

And you can’t change other human beings. You will drive yourself and others absolutely crazy if you go trying to change something fundamental about someone else; if you go trying to change their behavior or change the words they use and try to mold them and shape them into the exact thing that you want.

So many people’s relationship problems would be solved if they simply made better choices in the first place. And of course, I’ve made some poor choices in my past. And obviously, we’re all learning, we’re figuring this out as we go along. But I get these emails from people sometimes, and it’s like they’re trying to get me to change their partner, or they’re trying to change their partner. They’re trying to change something fundamental about someone else, which is absolutely impossible. I can’t change your partner’s behavior, and neither can you.

So if you’re clear with them about your conflicting relationship boundaries and your values, and they continually violate them…

You’ve got a serious decision to make. I can’t make that decision for you, of course. But on a closing note, I would say once again, sometimes compromise is not possible, and you absolutely cannot change people who don’t want to change themselves.

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Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.