When I was seeing patients, it was not uncommon for a female patient to ask me what they could do about their lack of sex drive. When I first graduated from medical school, I would start talking about the female sex cycle and all the different changes that can go on in the female body and how those changes can be addressed.

Over time, though, I learned to ask this question first: “Is your partner good to you?”

I was amazed how many times the answer to that question was “No.” (Sometimes it was “Hell, no!”)

When the answer was “no,” I asked this question next: “Why would you want to have sex with someone who’s not good to you?”

For most of the women I asked, this question had never occurred to them before. But really, why would you choose to spend time with people who aren’t good to you? Whether they were intimate partners or casual acquaintances.

How someone behaves is up to them; how I respond is up to me.

I want to be with people who want to be with me and who treat me well–as well as I treat them.

The first time a patient starting yelling and swearing at me (because I wouldn’t give him the prescription he wanted) these words popped out of my mouth as I sat trembling on my stool in the exam room: “The people I love don’t speak to me that way, I’m not going to listen to you speak to me that way!”  I went on to tell him he needed to be civil or I was leaving the room.

I didn’t tell him not to swear or yell. I had no control over whether or not he continued to behave this way. I could only control my own behavior and I let him know what I was going to do if he continued to yell and swear.

I set a boundary.

If someone in your life is disrespectful or rude to you, I don’t recommend complaining and telling them how they need to change.

I recommend telling them what you will do if the behavior continues. And then stick to it.

Setting a boundary benefits the other person, too. Clear communication is a gift in any relationship. You may find that your partner (or anyone you set a boundary with) steps up, once he or she knows what the boundary is.

“If you start yelling again, I’m going to leave the room.”

“If you smoke in my car again, I will no longer allow you to borrow it.”

“If you bring a gun into the house, I’m leaving.”

Boundaries allow you to feel good in any situation, no matter how anyone else is behaving (or what they are saying).

People say good fences make good neighbors. I say good boundaries make great relationships.