Who Pushes Your Buttons?

Seven Steps to Set and Maintain Good Boundaries With the Button-Pushers in Your Life!

In my twenties and early thirties, I would have answered that question with “Who doesn’t?” I felt like an elevator because all day long people pushed my buttons and I went where they wanted me to go and did what they wanted me to do. Do you ever feel like that? It isn’t how God designed us to relate with one another. There is a much better way!


God demonstrates healthy boundaries and created us to relate to one another with healthy boundaries. But I’ve found most people struggle in this area.

The concept is pretty simple. A boundary is a clear delineation that differentiates me and what I’m responsible for from another person and what they are responsible for.

But as straight forward as that description is, the subject of boundaries remains challenging for many people. When first introduced to the concept, I (like many) was stunned to realize that not only could I set limits and say no, but I was supposed to!

However, even after I learned the concept, applying it in my real world relationships was scary and perplexing. It took me years to learn and practice the boundary setting skills that freed me from living like an elevator.

I’d love to help you find much quicker relief from your button-pushers! The toughest part of developing boundaries is figuring out how to apply the principles in your day-to-day life. Having a clear, step-by-step process speeds up your ability to put the principles into practice.

Seven Steps to Set and Maintain Good Boundaries

I’m not a therapist, psychologist, or pastor. So, I can’t offer you that kind of expert counsel. What I can offer you is the fruit of twenty plus years of study, practice, trial and error that empowered me to replace my buttons with healthy boundaries.

This Seven Step Process assumes you have a working knowledge of the basic concepts involved. If you’re new to the concept of boundaries, or you want a brief refresher, you’ll first want to read my previous post, Warning: Boundary Problems May Be Wrecking Your Life.

In that post, you’ll learn what boundaries are and how God designed them to work. I also describe the four most common types of boundary problems. (See if you can identify which one describes you and/or your button pusher.)

Once you understand the principles, use the free cheat sheet I’ve created for you and apply the Seven Step Process to your particular button pushing situations.

So read on to discover these Seven Steps that will help you have happier, less stressful relationships (and to download that free cheat sheet!)

1. Recognize You Have A Problem

Your emotions and physiological reactions are God-designed boundary violation detectors! Pay attention to them. When you experience the following emotions they may be symptoms of a boundary problem.

Watch out for emotions such as:

  • resentment
  • shame
  • anger
  • fear

Consciously acknowledge the problem and how it makes you feel. What specific behavior and choices of your button pusher negatively impact your life? What are the negative impacts of those actions and choices?

2. Clarify what you are responsible FOR and who you are responsible TO.

This allows you to decide what must change so the loads involved are being carried by the appropriate person. It will also help you evaluate if the parties involved are being responsible to each other.

Reflect on what God designed you to exercise responsibility for (your thoughts, feelings, talents, attitudes, beliefs, actions, desires, values, limits, choices and how you give and receive love). Clarity about what is yours to manage and what belongs to someone else will help you know where to draw the boundary lines.

3. Identify the type of boundary problem you have and the underlying need associated with it.

Boundary problems arise when someone tries to meet legitimate needs using illegitimate means. Figuring out what type of boundary problem you’re dealing with provides clarity as to the underlying need involved. By identifying the problems associated with the current attempt to meet that need, you can discover what must change for the need to be met in a healthy way.

4. Define problem-solving, need-meeting limits and consequences.

You can’t make someone else feel, think, or do something. But you can determine what you will accept and what you won’t. Clearly defined consequences give our limits integrity and protect us from the impact of our button pusher’s choices and behavior.

Consequences help the boundary transgressor learn to carry his or her load and respect the right of others to carry and manage their own loads.  Reaping the results of their choices also helps the boundary-challenged individual learn to exercise appropriate responsibility to the other people in their lives.

5. Enlist a support network.

I bet you have people in your life who seem immune to would be button pushers. They can easily say no when they want or need to and thus aren’t frazzled and overcommitted. They have rewarding and genuine relationships with others. Enlist some people like that to coach you as you develop your boundary setting skills.

If you are not able to enlist friends or family members to assist you, or if you want to supplement their input, check to see if there are classes or support groups available in your area. A life coach could also be a good resource.

Of course, talk to your pastor who can not only provide you with wise counsel but also spiritual encouragement as well. And if your boundary problems are seriously disrupting your life and relationships, seek out a qualified Christian counselor.

Your support network will encourage, affirm, caution, and coach you as you practice your new skills.

6. Communicate the boundary and consequences to the person with whom you have a problem.

This is not the time to go into attack mode. Rather, you simply provide awareness and information to the other person which equips them to make an informed choice as to how they will respond.

Don’t expect people to read your mind or pick up on subtle hints! Be direct, honest, and clear. Use statements that begin with “I” plus a verb. For example, “I think” or “I feel.” This helps you own what you’re responsible for and define what needs to change in the situation.

7. Respond and follow through.

Without this final step, you won’t have a lasting solution to your problem.

Remember, your button pusher is free to choose whether or not to respect your limits. If they choose to violate the limit, they also choose to experience the consequence you clearly communicated would result.

Promises to change without accompanying changes in behavior don’t count. (That goes for you as well as your button pusher!) Don’t define a consequence you are not willing to follow through on. If you don’t consistently provide the consequence, you train the person to keep pushing your buttons!

The Results of Implementing the Process

In most cases, these steps will lead to healthier and more mutually satisfying relationships. However, in some cases, your button pusher may choose to let the relationship suffer by refusing to respect your limits.

If they persist in doing so, it reveals a lack of a genuine relationship. Acknowledge that, grieve your loss (of the relationship you thought you had), and move on to develop healthy relationships with people who respect and live out good boundaries.

Don’t forget to request your free cheat sheet which summarizes the seven steps outlined in this post. Then, start solving your boundary problems!

Yes, I want that Cheat Sheet!

How about you? What challenges do you face when it comes to setting and maintaining good boundaries? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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