Recently, many of the emails and comments I’ve received have an element of the author being bewildered by the outrageousness of their romantic partners. Like a lot of things in life, we measure other people’s behaviour on our own. Often, it can make little sense to us how someone could even think to ask or attempt to do certain things with us.

‘I don’t get it! Why did he think he could even ask me to do that?! What type of woman does he think I am?!’

The more stories I hear, the more I’m convinced of what I call The Outrageous Principle:

When someone chances it and asks/does the most ridiculous thing to test what they can get away with. In a dating world that encourages little or no boundaries, they take a risk that often pays off.

People who embody The Outrageous Principle use your reaction to their behaviour to deduce whether you’re the type of person that they can get away with flouting boundaries.

Even if they’ve lured you into believing there are no repercussions for going along with their action, some will judge you. They’ll have the brass neck to use your acceptance or lack of boundaried response to their outrageous behaviour to not only write you off as a serious prospect for a relationship but also to give themselves carte blanche to mistreat you. I know, I know. Make it make sense!

They weigh up the risk versus reward. They figure that if they get what they want out of things, they’re in a win-win situation, even though it’s at the expense of your feelings or even your self-esteem.

How do they know they can do this with you?

They don’t necessarily pick up a signal from you prior to their doing it. That said, if they’re practised at drawing in people and pulling their malarkey, they’ll have a fair idea of who’s likely to be receptive. If they’ve given off early-warning signs (red flags/code amber and red behaviour) and you’ve missed them, this also signals your potential receptiveness.

One of the most widespread examples of The Outrageous Principle is when certain men push for sexual activity within the first few dates. Then, after ‘hitting it’, they deduce that you’re too ‘easy’ and ‘not wifey material’.

We can often be indignant that they’ve even pushed the issue in the first place. What it is about us that let them think they could ask about having sex or even feel us up? We don’t recognise that it’s not about us per se. No, they’re just getting the measure of us. They’re working out how much we respect ourselves.

Some women have found themselves going against their instincts (that recognition that it’s outrageous) and going along for the proverbial ride. They get drawn in by the perceived attraction and connection.

The worst offenders of this are the ones that pursue you. They drop all the lines on you, badger you for sex and Future Fake. They pretend you’re both on the same page and how you’re going to move forward into a mutually pleasurable relationship, only to go cold on you or gradually withdraw.

Another super commen example is people who bust your boundaries by blowing hot and cold and managing down your expectations.

For some folks, it’s the simple fact that you give them the time of day in spite of their having some rather dubious qualities. For others, it’s that once they reveal the true nature of their behaviour, our perception of them doesn’t shift. We ‘re not turned off. Instead, the worse they behave, there more we increase our pursuit and people pleasing .

The shocking thing about The Outrageous Principle is that, yes, the behaviour is outrageous, but once it becomes a regular thing, we normalise it. The offender then expects to be allowed to continue as is, even if we suddenly realise it doesn’t work for us.

Other examples (and these are all real ones I’ve been mailed about) include…
  • The guy that keeps calling after you’ve broken it off even though he hasn’t changed.
  • The guy that keeps calling even though he has a wife and kids and another woman on the side.
  • The guy who disappears for months at a time and then reappears for a grope and a chat. And then disappears again.
  • The woman that tells a whole heap of lies to get her ex’s attention. Then, she admits they were lies and that she’s not leaving her husband.
  • The guy who borrowed money, left her for someone else, and then tried to slink back in. And, of course, he wants money again.
  • The guy that started off with dates, to asking to meet up late at night. Then it was no more dates and just meeting up late at night for a booty call.
  • The guy with several women on the go. The harem know about it and fight and vy for his attention.
  • The woman who cheated, lied about it, and then when eventually caught out, blamed the cheating on him rather than apologise.
  • The guy who’s drip-feeding lies about his nocturnal activities for the past year. Every month brings new revelations.

People who tend to do things on their terms and have little respect for your boundaries like to make things easy for themselves.

While some people will start small and break you in with smaller misdemeanours, others with little pride and scant regard for your feelings will go for bust.

If you react badly but are still there, they may fuss around you and appear apologetic. However, they’ll still deduce that because you’re still there, they know they can get away with a lot. This type of person may just opt to be more covert about it in the future. In effect, they let you think they’re respecting boundaries while passive-aggressively rebelling behind your back.

The bigger risk takers who get high off uncertainty, ambiguity and the chase will actually keep pushing the boundaries. They’re never quite happy with just how much they’re getting away with and want ‘more’.

You’ll find that people who don’t respect your boundaries will rarely just stop at one thing. They’ll cross and tap-dance all over them.

If someone discovers that there are very few ‘barriers to entry’ because there are no real consequences to their boundary-busting behaviour, they see it as your problm, not theirs. In spite of their being wrong, they know your acceptance and compliance are signs of boundary and self-esteem issues. You want and need the validation of someone like them even though they add little or no value to the relationship. You hold on despite their depleting of your self-esteem resources.

So how do you deal with people like this?

It’s the fundamentals, as usual, which are having and knowing your boundaries. Register the outrageous behaviour, process it, and take decisive action as a result.

There are times when you can see shades of grey. Still, when someone blatantly crosses your boundaries with inappropriate, disrespectful and abusive actions, the answer isn’t to accept it. Nor is it to analyse the crap out of their behaviour, wondering what you did to cause it or how you can fix them. The answer is consequences, the only real language they understand.

Don’t accept outrageous behaviour in any way, shape, or form. When you normalise bad behaviour, you not only become distanced from yourself and your values, needs, and desires, but you end up in an outrageous relationship… and not for good reasons!

Your thoughts?

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.

Ready to reclaim yourself from the cycle of people pleasing and any patterns that reinforce feelings of low self-worth? My new book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (HarperCollins/Harper Horizon), is out now.

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