The difference between boundaries and the silent treatment 

Certainly there are those of us who are emotionally unavailable. But often in dysfunctional relationship systems, those walls are there for self-protection!


What’s important as you work towards redefining love is to make sure that you’re setting boundaries with the true source of the dysfunction, and that those boundaries are healthy.

Finding the root of your dysfunction

Healthy relationships are affirming and emotionally safe. We can have hard conversations without being manipulated, guilt-tripped, blamed, and gaslit. If these do not exist, then boundaries are necessary to protect ourselves. 


Boundaries require accountability and grace towards yourself and the other person. In order to set healthy boundaries, you must approach the situation with intention and curiosity. 


How does this relationship make me feel? If you feel intimidated, scared, and hurt, or you feel like you cannot be your true, genuine self without judgement and conflict, then it’s time to set boundaries

Boundaries vs. the silent treatment

So what’s the difference between boundaries – which are a good thing – and the silent treatment- which is a form of abuse? 


In order to set boundaries, we must do the hard work of introspection. We must sit in the quiet and explore ourselves. What do we really need in this relationship in order for it to work? Can this other person meet our needs? Can you meet the other person’s needs? Are your expectations fair and reasonable? Are theirs? What is truly yours to carry? 


By exploring the relationship with curiosity, we are able to respond with boundaries, accountability, and grace for ourselves and others, rather than react without any thought or consideration. 


When we react with silence, without any forethought or intentional exploration behind our actions, we are not setting boundaries. We are giving the silent treatment, which is abusive. 


The silent treatment is simply emotional punishment with no self-reflection; no boundaries, accountability, or graceThis is toxic because the goal is to create a sense of alienation, powerlessness, and helplessness.


There’s nothing loving about the silent treatment. It does not encourage any kind of personal insight or exploration. It’s just a knee jerk reaction to hurt feelings. When someone gives the silent treatment, they are allowing their emotions to be the boss, which is not consistent with redefining love.


In Redefining Love, we know that our emotions are meant to inform our actions, not lead our actions.

An act of love

Boundaries are an act of love towards yourself and others. Boundaries is saying, “I respect you enough to share my whole self with you. I love you enough to explore the big, hard feelings.”


Because we don’t put that kind of time and energy into relationships that don’t matter to us, right? So if we’re willing to sit in the discomfort and explore, we must really care about the other person, right?


And if you share your big, hard feelings, and bravely step into that difficult conversation, and the other person reacts with guilt, shame, manipulation, and gaslighting, then that’s the evidence you need to know that this is someone who isn’t willing to meet you at the same depth you’re willing to meet them.


In these cases, because you have boundaries, accountability, and grace – because you’ve redefined love – you can with confidence choose to love them from a distance.

Having the hard conversation

Once we’ve determined that a relationship is toxic, what do we do next? It’s time to gather your courage and step into the hard conversation. Choose a time when both you and the other person are calm. It’s never good to start hard conversations in the heat of an argument, or when the other person is busy and distracted doing something else.


Then, dive into the deep end. Don’t over complicate the conversation with lots of extra details or apologies. Remember that you have a right to take up space, have needs, and feel emotionally safe in your relationships.


Stay on topic and rehearse beforehand. This will help you from falling down a rabbit hole when the toxic individual tries to derail the conversation.


The conversation should look something like this: “Because this relationship is toxic to me, I must love you from a distance that feels emotionally safe.”


Then, outline your boundaries. Maybe it’s that you are going to stop attending family functions for a while, or you no longer want to be around the person alone, or you only want to communicate via email versus phone calls. The appropriate boundaries will be unique to your circumstance.

They probably aren’t going to like it much

Here’s an important point… The other person doesn’t have to like it. In fact, if they are truly toxic, then they probably won’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It simply means that their journey is taking them in a different direction than you, and that’s okay.


In fact, the people who will dislike your boundaries the most are those who probably need boundaries the most. It is quite possible, probable even, that your boundaries are going to make the other person angry. Especially if you are dealing with an emotionally manipulative person. 


It is totally okay to set healthy parameters around your relationships, without other people’s approval. We can’t force other people to see our point of view. One of the more difficult aspects of Redefining Love is releasing the need to please others.


(This is particularly challenging when you’ve spent your entire life in the fawn response. Most of us have heard of fight, flight, or freeze. Fawn is a slightly more evolved subconscious trauma response in which we sacrifice our own needs for the demands of an abuser as a means of survival.)


We must shift our mindset from a need to please the other person at the expense of our own emotional and physical safety, to one in which we honor their struggle from a safe distance. 


We can love people better when we are safe. Once you understand this – once you’ve redefined love – you will be able to trust your own insights and intuition. 


When someone reacts to our boundaries with manipulation, gaslighting, triangulation, and blame, they are simply confirming what you already knew – this is a relationship that requires distance. 

Want to learn more about Redefining Love?

Buy the book! Available on Amazon NOW! 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top