Boundaries. We make them. We sometimes break them or perhaps someone we know breaks ours. What is a boundary? According to Google it is “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.”That could be a fence or wall if we were talking about property lines or it could be a border line for a country. In a relationship a boundary tells the other person what you will and will not accept in the relationship. When I think of boundaries in relationships I think of the saying, “I am drawing a line in the sand.” We say that when we reach our limit on something and will not accept it anymore. Having boundaries is healthy in a relationship and they should be respected.
In abusive relationships boundaries are not respected. A basic human right to live a life free of abuse is a boundary and it is broken continually in abusive relationships. An abuser can break a boundary by calling you a terrible name, scream at you or physically or sexually hurt you. Abusers do not respect boundaries because they want to have all of the control in the relationship and if they respect their victims boundaries then they cannot continue to abuse them. Also the continual trampling of your boundaries weakens you as a person and that in turn makes it easier for the abuser to control you.
I have run into a lack of respect for my boundaries many times in my life. I continually had my boundaries trampled in my abusive marriage. I have also had them trampled in other relationships. As a young adult I had to set boundaries with a family member who had abusive tendencies. Their behaviour was causing me anxiety. We did not live together, but because the relationship was difficult for me I asked that this person call me before they came over to my house, just so I was not caught off guard. I felt safer that way. Unfortunately this person did not respect my request. In the end I had to cut contact with them. We did not renew our relationship until they realised what they were doing to me and made a conscious effort to change their behaviour.
Sometimes a lack of respect for your boundaries is huge as in physical abuse or sometimes it may be small as in a Birthday card. I have another relative that is very toxic for me. I have recognised the dysfunction, named it to this person and told them what I need in order to have a relationship with them. I told them my boundaries. I also told them that until I can see that they actively respect what I need for a healthy relationship that we are to have no contact. I blocked them on all social media and they do not know my phone number. I drew a firm line in the sand. Since that line was made this person has started to mail me and my family Christmas and Birthday cards. You may say, “Well is that really so bad?” Yes it is. You see this person in the 40 odd years I have known them has never sent me or my family Birthday or Christmas cards. Yet when I said no contact until you work on yourself and look at why you are abusive to me, the cards started. It is one small way that they are still not respecting my boundaries and are trying to trample them. This is what abusive people do though. The trampling of boundaries is often not a big event like a slap across the face. It is often done in small acts and you barely even notice that your boundaries are being trampled until they are “slapping you in the face”. It is a way to slowly break you down so that they can abuse you some more. It’s important to recognise even the little trampling’s on your boundaries and respect yourself by speaking up. I have started doing a “Return to Sender” on the cards.
As I end this blog I encourage you to set your boundaries and stick to them. They tell the world what you will and will not accept in your life and that is important. I know it can be hard to set boundaries after an abusive relationship. It may even feel foreign to set a boundary since you have lived in a world where boundaries are non existent, but in a healthy relationship they are so important. Not only for you, but for the people in your life. If someone does something that you cannot accept, I encourage you to tell them. It can be as straight forward as saying, “I don’t like it when you speak that way to me, please stop.” Go for it. You can do it. I believe in you!