Set Boundaries Like a Border Collie

by | Jan 29, 2023

Border collies are beautiful dogs that are happiest when doing the jobs they were born to do: herd in the strays and patrol the boundaries. A good border collie will defend his master’s boundary with unrelenting ferocity and tenacity. Women can take a lesson from these wonderful dogs and defend their own boundaries just as assiduously.


Women especially, although some men, too, have been taught to please others. To say no rarely, if ever. To make everyone else comfortable and happy regardless of their own emotional needs. To acquiesce and be polite for fear of being mean or rude.


But there are some people or situations that are toxic. And there are times when standing up for yourself is far preferable than knuckling under to please others. You might even discover that people respect you more for taking a stand for your own self. But it’s not always easy.

Marriage Counseling, Relationship Therapy, Couples

Abusive Relationships


If you are in an abusive relationship, you may resist speaking up for yourself for fear of rocking the boat. The bad situation you are in requires you to walk on eggshells, and not antagonize your partner, family member, work colleague, or whomever makes you feel abused. So, you continue to keep the peace, and all the while, resentment builds. When you are on the receiving end of abusive treatment, you can take it only so long before you explode.


Toxic relationships can make you feel unsafe, and therefore unwilling, to speak up and set boundaries. Other situations can contribute to your emotional fragility, like being sleep deprived, for example. Or being conflict-adverse in a high-conflict circumstance. And feeling unsafe makes it more difficult to set boundaries.


Setting boundaries requires courage. It requires putting aside learned behavior to please. It requires loving yourself enough to put yourself first, even when it could make others angry. You are understandably reluctant to rock the boat and put yourself at risk. Telling your abusive tormentor that you cannot or will not do what he wishes is truly an act of courage.


Making Your Feelings Known


Even in relationships that are not toxic, it’s hard to stand up for yourself. But no matter how good your partner is for you, he isn’t clairvoyant. If you need or want something, speak up and let him know what it is. Your emotional needs matter, and you need to make your partner aware of them. It is far easier to make your needs known than to continue festering, or to pull away or be passive-aggressive.


If your partner is not accustomed to hearing you state your needs, he may feel threatened. Changes are always a challenge, and this may put him off-balance. But if you stick to your guns and remain steadfast, you can ride out the storm, if there is one. Or just wait for your partner to come around and understand that you require changes. Your partner may not respond in the way you wish, but at least you’ll both be clear about where you stand. He might even regard you with a newfound respect. You’ll never know unless you try.



Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:



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