4 Practical Steps to Setting Boundaries with Men
Why women set the standard, regulate male behavior and how you can set the bar high
Men are like dogs. You dangle an eye candy in front of them and they respond. You do it enough times and they learn. You set appropriate boundaries and standards (plus throw in some feelings) and you have a life-long companion.
Picture a bunch of dudes doing their thing: drinking beer, laughing at silly jokes that don’t even make sense, listening to loud obnoxious music, eating pizza and watching sports. Inside the locker room, at a business meeting, on a hike.
They swear more than necessary. They occasionally drop inappropriate comments about women, babies and the world. They talk shit. They do stupid things.
Now, imagine a woman walking in…
Most of the time the silly talk stops. The inappropriate comments drop. They change body positions. The brainless game has come to an end.
The man cave has an intruder.
And that intruder is a lady.
Men can’t afford to be assholes in a woman’s company. And that’s a good thing. For centuries women have regulated male behavior and for good reasons. If men were left to themselves, we would probably live in a world of empty shelves, too much structure, too little chaos and a bunch of expensive toys that no one really needs. Oh yeah, and babies would be left without fathers to raise them.
In the past, women easily regulated male behavior with a disgraceful look, an elegant rejection or a shameful slap in the face. Not a hashtag, fictitious #facepalm but a real slap in the face.
Where are the face slaps now?
In fact, where are the women who can put a man into his place without accusing him of being a rapist? Where are the women who have the power to stand up for themselves and tell a man to fuck off if he’s catcalling her?
It seems like today we live in a society where women need to be protected more than ever from the predators, rape culture and the patriarchy, even though we are freer than ever. This is a false premise because it puts us, women, into a victim mindset and not being able to defend ourselves with a look, a word, or a slap in the face.
The truth is we, women, hold much more power than we have been told.
As soon as a woman appears in a man’s company, things shift. The dynamic changes. He has to be on guard. He can’t fully relax, put his feet up and show off his crotch. (I mean some can but why would you choose to be around a man who behaves like a pig?) He can’t let himself lose because of competition with other men and a feminine presence in the room.
He doesn’t want to appear weak. He doesn’t want to “drop the ball.” In her eyes, he wants to preserve a respectful persona. That of the protector and the provider. He takes pride in it.
Now it’s up to her what’s allowed in her presence.
A beast can’t stay a beast for long around a queen. He will eventually own his shit or leave if she doesn’t take anything less.
She rules here. She decides what is tolerable around her and what’s not acceptable. She does that verbally, visually and using her body language. A woman who knows her worth will never let any man behave like an asshole in her company. And he knows it. Otherwise, he loses her company and her respect. And that, my friends, could be devastating.
A woman is like a barometer to male behavior.
Spend a few hours in any organization, gathering or household and you’ll soon be able to tell who are the men in there. Most importantly, you’ll be able to tell who are the women in there.
Do men respect their women and treat them with care? Are women treated as equals in intellectual conversations? Are swear words allowed here? Is chauvinistic talk and derogatory comments appropriate?
Yes, of course, men should own how they treat women but women are the ones who own how they want to be treated. Because we are their mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives. Whatever behavior he will see growing up is what he will model. However you allow the father of your children to behave around you day in and day out — your son will learn and repeat. Your daughter will model the same thing. It’s all one big loop that starts and ends with women.
Women have always set the standard for male behavior. They instinctively knew the tools to use to enforce behavior that is to be rewarded and to punish behavior that isn’t wanted. Somehow we seemed to have forgotten this essential piece when it comes to dealing with men. Oftentimes, we are just not disciplined enough. We feel not worthy enough to stand our ground. We betray ourselves and our children and let it slide. We don’t know how to set boundaries because we don’t have them.
So the problem is not men. Men will be men. They will always follow their sexual instinct and test the waters. It’s in their nature to hunt, conquer and achieve. It’s in our nature to accept or reject their gifts, to appreciate or degrade their kill, to look at them as heroes or as losers. This is not to say that male predatory behavior is okay in all cases. It is not. There are extremes on both ends. But we are not their mothers. In fact, their mothers are the ones who had set the first standards.
Instead of hand-cuffing natural male behavior (that surfaces now more and more in secluded, secret places, and thus, becomes even more sinister) we need to bring more awareness and shed more light into how mothers raise their boys. As well as how fathers take their boys through rites of passages into manhood.
But yet again, the loop of decent behavior and morality closes at women. Wives, mothers, daughters, sisters. In the same way that men have predatory behavior in them, they also have the “protective and provider” instincts. He will do everything in his power to protect and provide for “his girls.” And if he doesn’t — well, then something has gone terribly wrong either in his family or his first relationships.
Men will do whatever the hell they want when there are no limits. Most of the times, it ends up in drunk fights over stupid shit that no one cares about.
The egos. The peacocking. The competition.
Being around a woman of value is time spent wisely. The man talk is worth the fun but being around a woman of worth is even more valuable. He feeds off of her regal energy. He grows wings. He gains confidence and clarity to move forward. Even five minutes next to her is enough for him to want to move mountains and perhaps win her heart.
Men start questioning their worthiness around such an ethereal being.
“Am I worthy of her? Will she reject me? What shall I say or do to win her over?”
That’s what he’s constantly thinking. And she doesn’t even have to sleep with him. In fact, it’s better if she doesn’t sleep with him until he proves his worth.
He starts questioning his worthiness around girls as soon as a few hairs grow on his chest, his voice becomes coarse and his penis erects unexpectedly at night. It’s called puberty. From that moment on biology takes over. He is on a quest to understand what women want and this crusade is never-ending.
Later he grows into an adult man who hopefully has had his share of mindless sex (didn’t we all?!) and he’s ready to have deep conversations and a serious relationship with a woman of value who’s not going to tolerate his bullshit.
Understand that however you allow them to behave — they will do exactly that.
How to regulate male behavior
Is swear language okay in your presence? Is talking shit about women, babies and climate change acceptable? Is calling you names (even as a joke) tolerable? Is talking shit about your ex-husband, your mother or your girlfriend reasonable? Is sitting on the couch all day every day eating Cheetos and drinking Coke permissible? Is not wearing deodorant or perfume good enough? Is earning less than is necessary to support you and your baby sufficient?
All of that is in our hands. How you allow others to treat you, is exactly how they will treat you. It all starts with YOU. How others are treating you right now is a reflection of how you are treating yourself.
So I suggest we stop complaining about men being irresponsible dickheads (yes, I do allow that word in my presence sometimes) and take charge.
One of the biggest secrets is that men adjust their behavior according to the women they're with. Those who have given up on their own self-respect and worthiness will settle for a woman who doesn’t ask much and settles for anything. He will slide down the degradation of his own escalator. He will always choose the easy path.
The other ones, know better than to waste their time on a woman who won’t challenge them and ask for much. Yes, they don’t particularly like it but hey, #nopainnogain. They know it to be true in sports, work, and women. It all depends on how much and what kind of pain he can tolerate. They have to work hard to get a woman of value and put a ring on it and they love the game. They know that as soon as she says yes — it feels like the greatest accomplishment of their life. But they also know it doesn’t stop there.
In fact, it’s just the beginning because she will not let things slide.
Four Steps to Setting Your Boundaries With Men
Note: this process is inspired by the teachings of my Feminine Embodiment Coaching Certification
Step 1: Explore and set your own boundaries.
Not the boundaries that feminism has told you to follow but the boundaries that you, yourself think and feel are good for you. This applies not only to men but to your relationships with people in general. Here are some questions to consider:
What are you available for?
What are you not available for?
How have women in your family allowed themselves to be treated? What did you grow up seeing? What beliefs and behaviors have you taken on from your family dynamics?
What beliefs and behaviors have you taken on from current culture?
You can respond to this article with your own observations and let’s start a discussion.
Step 2: Feel into these boundaries.
Notice how you feel about these boundaries. Boundaries can’t really be rationalized or intellectualized. It’s a feeling thing. It’s in your body. It’s instinctual. It’s almost like a protective mechanism.
How does your body respond when a man does or says something you’re not available for?
How does your body respond when a man does something you are available for?
You might feel it in your chest when he has mistreated you. You might feel it in your gut when you said YES but actually meant NO. You might feel it in your stomach when you can’t stand up for yourself.
Really set the time to cultivate your feeling around it so that you can recognize it next time it comes around and you can act fast.
Step 3: Act on these boundaries.
What do you need to do to enforce these boundaries?
Who do you need to talk to and express this boundary to?
Hint: talk about how overstepping these boundaries makes you feel. Men understand and hear us when we talk about feelings. Don’t blame him. Explain that it’s really unpleasant/upsetting/frustrating/disappointing. If he loves and respects you, he will listen. If not, well, why are you with this man in the first place?!
Hot tip: boundaries don’t hold long enough without consequences and reinforcements. (Men are like dogs, remember?) So if you are repeating yourself in a polite way talking about your feelings and he’s still not respecting your boundary— introduce consequences.
But start with the shit sandwich.
Say something like “George, you know I love you and appreciate everything you do for us. But you leaving this unfinished pizza on the table before going to bed every night really frustrates me. It’s disappointing and makes me feel like you don’t care. If you keep doing this, I’ll be putting the pizza box on your side of the bed so you can snuggle with it instead of me. I trust that you will respect my feelings. I love you.”
1. Say how much you appreciate him and what he does2. Then say what bothers you putting an accent on feelings 3. Then introduce the consequence
4. End with a positive note and say that you trust he will do the right thingMOST IMPORTANT THING: Keep your word and actually follow the consequence. There is nothing worse than setting a consequence and not following through. He will know you're bluffing. Once he understands you mean business, he will stop with the unwanted behavior. But be nice about it. Be a human being. Don't do this like an evil witch. Do it like a queen. If the first consequence doesn’t seem to produce the results that you want - introduce a stronger consequence. If he still doesn’t do it — time to visit a marriage counselor or rethink the reasons you're with this man.
Step 4: Be ready to deal with repercussions
Know that he will resist, complain and reject all kinds of pressure to change his behavior simply because it’s too much effort. He would much rather have things go the old way. Especially, if he’s been allowed to do whatever the hell he wanted in the past.
Oh well, too bad. In time, he’ll get used to it.
Have patience. Let him learn and understand what’s important to you and how you want to be treated.
Watch your relationship transform. Watch other relationships and notice how women treat their men and learn.
Also, ask yourself these questions:
Who might you upset with having these boundaries?
What might you lose while holding these boundaries?
When you start to change, there is a possibility that other people won’t like it. They will resist not being able to “ride you” any longer. Your setting of boundaries will make them rethink theirs.
Get ready to lose some relationships and gain some others. People with healthy boundaries don’t hang around people who don’t respect themselves. Women who have high standards don’t have girlfriends who let their men be less than what they’re capable of.
This formula works with any type of relationship. You can use this at work, in your family and in any other situation where your boundary has been crossed. Don’t be afraid of voicing out your boundary and setting consequences because this is how you stand up for yourself. This is how you don’t sit and wait for someone to overthrow the patriarchy and instead take charge and develop and cultivate self-respect.
A word on toxic femininity
When you’re wearing heels and high thigh stockings, he is most vulnerable. When you’re in tears sharing your troubles, he’s most vulnerable. When you’re in need of protection and provision, he’s most vulnerable. Because his instincts kick in and you can either use this opportunity to advance your cause forward and manipulate him into what you want or take responsibility for your own wholeness and hold ground.
This is the difference between toxic and healthy femininity. Women know their power but yet somehow have forgotten it. We try to compete with men over the same power but it’s useless because we are different. Feeling his power, yet knowing his vulnerabilities and holding his heart with great care is one of the noblest things a woman of value can do.
Men are quite simple in their needs. We are all sex creatures. Animal creatures. There is no point denying our instinctual desires and behaviors. No matter how much we regulate and restrict “predatory” male behavior, it will always exist because it’s simple biology. Because it’s evolutionary. Because that’s how we survive as a species. Because this deep programming is more powerful than any feminist doctrines on “rape culture.”
How we, women, deal with it is another story. Men would only go as far as women let them. In the bedroom, in the kitchen, in a relationship, and in marriage. During penetration, during dating and during work hours.
It’s up to us to set the standard. In fact, it’s always been up to us. We’ve just been told so many times that we are the victims of the oppression. Of the patriarchy. I dare you to wear some red lipstick, heels and a tight short dress and watch the patriarchy crumble at your feet in a second.
What has the power to oppress us, also has the power to liberate us.
It works both ways. Men try to control women because they’re fearful of the feminine force and what it can do to their minds, bodies, and hearts.
You don’t need to control anything that you want to set free.
And this is the paradox. This is what we need to work on. The answer to “overthrowing the patriarchy” is not overthrowing it. It’s knowing how to work with it. It’s understanding masculine energy and his needs and desires. It’s knowing how to press the right buttons, hold a safe container that allows room for play, seduction, creativity and fruitful partnership.
There are no oppressed and oppressors. We are all playing an equal power game. We are just told that we’re all unequal. Go for an evening walk and drop by a few bars for a drink. What will you see? Women and men on casual dates, talking, laughing, drinking.
Only that men are there to impress, get a number or a second date and get her in bed. It is what it is. Knowing this and working with it is power. Notice that I’m not encouraging men to take women home and have mindless sex. Understanding the mechanisms of a sexual game is not the same as encouraging predatory behavior. Denying and shaming men of their natural instincts is creating even more taboos, unresolved and unexpressed hidden and dark desires that lead to their manifestation in dangerous ways.
Understand that men thrive of feminine energy. It makes them stronger. It fills their lungs. It gives them drive and ambition to go forward. It gives them the motivation to climb mountains. It gives them food for thought. And it gives them a standard to adhere to.
So use this power wisely and watch your relationships and your life transform.
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