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Ask Janine - How Do I Know The Difference Between A Healthy Boundary & A Toxic Ultimatum?

ask janine janine wirth lifestyle the retreat Jun 03, 2021

By Janine Wirth 

Dear Janine,

I have been in some very negative relationships and would like to ask you what is the difference between setting a healthy boundary and an ultimatum that's toxic? I think knowing the difference will help me notice red flags sooner.

Kind regards



Dear Shannon,

I LOVE this question so much. I think there are many people who don't really know the difference, so I trust this is going to help a lot of people. 

I teach my clients that healthy boundaries are our own choices about protecting ourselves, our personal space and anything that belongs to us. They allow us to take care of ourselves and explain what we need, regardless of what is going on around us. We are ultimately taking the responsibility for ourselves.

Ultimatums on the other hand are all about demanding that the other person changes. Ultimatums can mean trying to control or manipulate someone else, their space and anything that belongs to them, and are usually based on threats.

An example of a healthy boundary could be: ‘I understand that you're upset, however, that doesn't allow you to verbally abuse me. If you do it once more, I'm going to ask you to leave.’

You are stating your expectations of how you are willing to be treated and enforcing a consequence if your request gets ignored.

A toxic ultimatum would be: ‘I don't care how what I did makes you feel, who do you think you are? You don't have the right to get upset with me.’ Here the other person's feelings are being completely disregarded and the impression is created that they aren't equal and are unable to express their feelings. The person saying this shows zero remorse for their actions and expects their partner to just accept the behaviour without daring to voice an opinion, thereby controlling the other person’s emotional responses, and robbing them of their voice.

Another example is: ‘I'm not going to get in the car with you when you've been drinking, I'd rather take a taxi home.’ You are not trying to control or manipulate; you’re just simply stating what you're comfortable with and willing to do in order to keep yourself safe.

The ultimatum would be: ‘If you don't get in the car now, I'm breaking up with you.’ Completely disregarding the other person's needs and trying to control them by threatening them.

I hope this explanation has provided you with some clarity and will help you not only stick to your own boundaries but also help you to identify those red flags of toxic ultimatums.

Much love,

Janine xx

Do you have a question you would like an answer to? If so then drop Janine a line at [email protected] All questions can be anonymous if preferred, just let her know! 


Janine Wirth, is the proud founder of Path to Healing Therapy and Coaching. Her mission is to help female entrepreneurs heal their emotional baggage, heal unresolved emotional trauma and PTSD without spending years in therapy and create spectacular business success for themselves. You may have read her story in The Spotlight and if so you’ll know why she’s so passionate about her work so when she got the opportunity to work alongside The Female CEO and provide a monthly question and answer she was thrilled! 

You can read all about Janine and her work here or catch up socially on Facebook or LinkedIn



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