Personal Boundaries Are Important For Abuse Victims

Once you set your personal boundaries, you do not have to tell a person who crosses your line why you're doing what you're doing unless you want to do so.My counselors didn’t explain how important personal boundaries were very well, but when my DSS counselor and therapist mentioned personal boundaries in the same week, I went on a research rampage. Setting personal boundaries is the most important thing an abuse victim can do. They enable you to stand up for yourself in a healthy, practical way.

What are Personal Boundaries?

A personal boundary is a rule that YOU SAY cannot be broken without consequence. (What? I can set rules for myself?) Yes indeed. Mentally healthy people have all sorts of personal boundaries (rules) that help insulate them from other people’s negative words and actions.

For example, healthy people make rules for themselves things like:

  • “If a person calls me ugly names, I will not hang out with them anymore.”
  • “If someone harasses me by phone, I will send their calls straight to voicemail.”
  • “If she wastes my time with gossip, I will interrupt her and excuse myself.”

Then, that person follows through with their plan.

Boundaries Help Us Overcome “Victim Mentality”

Yes, I was a victim of verbal, emotional and mental abuse. Setting personal boundaries for myself helped me realize that I did not have to REMAIN victimized by abuse. I still live with Will, he may attempt to abuse and control me, but I do not have to continue as one of his victims.

I found a terrific web page that helped me set boundaries that made sense to me – a person who had NO boundaries whatsoever. It took a minute to overcome the anxiety of doing something new, but once I got started I really enjoyed the process.

What Happens After You Set A Personal Boundary?

The most important result is that you can now recognize abuse when it happens to you. After writing out even one boundary, you will experience the “red flags” popping up all around you when your abuser steps over you line. The red flags alert you to follow through with your plan – what you said you would do to protect yourself. You will feel stronger and your abusers influence over you will diminish.

One of the debilitating side-effects of domestic abuse is the loss of your ability to make decisions. Your abuser works hard to make you feel incapable of making choices – they berate you no matter what you choose to do. When you set and enforce a personal boundary, you are choosing to take an action right for you. Your personal boundaries are “decisions” about what you will and will not tolerate. Enforcing your boundaries encourages decision-making and follow through!

Do I Tell My Abuser They’ve Crossed My Personal Boundary Or Just Act On It?

Once you have set a personal boundary, you do not have to tell the person who crosses your line WHY you’re doing what you’re doing, or even how their behavior makes you feel. You just follow your rule. If your rule doesn’t work for some reason, then you could revise it for the next time.

Of course, maybe it’s in your best interests to tell the person what they’re doing, how it makes you feel, and what you’re going to do for yourself to counteract that feeling. Maybe you feel you need to offer an explanation because the person breaking through your personal boundary is your child or someone else who is very important to you.

In a healthy relationship, it is often critical that you explain what you’re feeling and doing if you want to support your connection. In my case, where I am trying to effect a change on my abuser, I chose to tell him exactly what I was doing and why I was doing it. My personal boundaries helped me feel stronger and more confident.

However, my abuser did not respect nor respond to my boundaries as a healthy man would do. He tried to entice me into breaking my rules to prove he won over me. It was extremely difficult to ignore his bellows, insults and (sometimes) tears. Don’t beat yourself up if you succumb to your abuser’s tricks. Over time you will become stronger and your boundaries will become stronger too.

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Comments

  1. Although this is good advice if you’re single….this does not address the complexities of having children with an abuser who works full time at alienating. And having been a stay at home mother at 59 y/o the employment options are extremely limiting…especially after breast cancer twice. Please don’t make it look like this is so very easy to handle.

    • Deb, I have to disagree. It is as simple as setting boundaries and reinforcing them – “you just follow your rule”.

      The hard work comes in when you’re thinking of how to enforce the boundaries you’ve set. It is vitally important that you are willing to do the follow through.

      For example, if you say, “When you yell at me, I feel sick to my stomach. I want you to stop yelling at me and speak to me respectfully. Because I can’t control what you do, if you yell at me again, I will _______(what are you WILLING to do)_______.” What ARE you willing to do? Are you so broken that all you can do right now is continue to sit there silently? That’s okay – focus on sitting there silently. You will gain strength by following through, and maybe you could practice detachment instead of listening while you’re quietly sitting there.

      If you tire of sitting there silently listening to nonsense, you can change your boundary to end with “I will walk right out of the room and lock myself in the bedroom with my mp3 player.” Stepping up your reaction to your abuser breaking your boundaries shows that you’re moving away from being a victim – you’re now learning how to be a survivor. Setting boundaries allows you to gain belief in yourself that you are able to do what you say you will do.

      No one said setting boundaries is EASY. But once you start setting them, it gets easier so long as you’re willing to do what you say you will. With children, without children, with work experience, without it,… none of that matters. Besides, no one said that you must LEAVE when you set boundaries! That kind of black or white thinking is common to abuse victims. Remember there are shades of gray between accepting the abuse and leaving the relationship. The beauty of setting a boundary is that YOU get to decide what reactions you will have and what actions you will take.

      Look at the next page for “How to Set Personal Boundaries”.

      • The abuser wants you to believe you are incapable of setting boundaries. This is why they say “you are too old” or “you have no work experience” or “you are too sick”. None of these things are true.

    • It’s not….but d writer is right about 1 thing, it does get easier with time but only becuz u’ve grown stronger. God bless u for being as strong as u’ve been and good luck 🙂

  2. Learning to set your boundaries is critical not matter how hard or easy it may sound to do. I think there is a direct relationship with the level of perceived difficulty and how much you need to do it. Use your support system and if you don’t have one, begin to create one.

  3. ibikenyc says:

    I am middle-aged and only just recently understanding that I had essentially NO boundaries with ANYONE about ANYTHING.

    I have found no easy fix for this, or at least no quick one.

    I do Yoga, many mornings, with Aire Yoga on PBS. I love how centered, supple, and relaxed I feel physically, but what really keeps me motivated is the MINDFULNESS it creates.

    It’s not always easy or even possible to remember this, but it gets more reflexive the more I do it:

    When he (or anyone) is getting or already IS ramped up, I look at him or picture his face and, in my mind, assume the Yoga prayer pose and say to him, “Namaste.”

    The way it was explained to me, that means, “The Divine light within me salutes the Divine light within you.”

    It helps me keep the top of my head on; I get to “respond” with dignity.

    It’s also really another way of saying an affirmation.

  4. im late 20’s and have recently discovered that i lack all personal boundaries. I understand the concept you are providing and im possibly going to receive some nasty backlash…but when setting the boundaries is it possible to over react? For example if my partner notices and proceeds to comment on how attractive another woman is am i over reacting to ignore him from that moment on? Im really lost on where to start the boundary and im scared i’ll end up alone because i’ve set my boundaries to kill instead of stun.

    • Hi Lara,
      I would encourage you to learn more about what it means to set healthy boundaries. Brene Brown does a course in Courage Works that helps you to define your core values. Once you are clear on your core values you can work to protect them.
      Your partner commenting on the attractiveness of another woman has triggered something in you. I would first explore why this bothers you. Is he doing it to purposely hurt you or is he simply making an observation? Ignoring someone for an action they have done, while continuing on in that relationship is passive aggressive, not boundary setting.

      You will see once you are able to set healthy boundaries that you will then be on a path of defining healthy relationship instead of reacting from a place of scarcity. Setting these boundaries are never with an intention to kill or stun, but always with the intention to protect and respect our own integrity and dignity.

      All the best to you in your journey,
      Steph

  5. Please provide the sources of your searches that helped you (books, sites, etc…) I am struggling to understand and conceive boundaries. (as someone above wrote ”so broken that all I can do is be silent”) Thank you

    • I found

      baggagereclaim.co.uk

      and it is saving my life. You can search by topic, and she says a LOT about establishing and maintaining boundaries in all kinds of relationships.

  6. candeekissez says:

    In the beginning, my husband, my abuser, would follow me around the house for hours yelling, calling me names, and bullying me. After many years, I decided I would no longer stay in the house when he started his abuse. I told my abuser I would leave if he kept up his abuse. He got worse, telling me he would change the locks. And he did. When I went back, he threatened me by saying, you’re (meaning me) trying to get me to touch you, aren’t you? At that point, I called the police and they stayed until I gathered my things. But I went back, he started in one me again and when I said I’d leave he then threatened to change the locks again, when that didn’t work, he told me he wouldn’t take care of my cat while I was gone. When that didn’t work, he threatened to take my cat to the pound. The verbal, emotional, and mental abuse had gone on for years. I was no longer the happy woman I used to be. The abuse had taken it’s toll and once he threatened my well being and that of my cat I filed for a restraining order. I stayed away the night of the day that it was served on him. Now, if you know anything about R.O.’s the abuser is not suppose to have possession of guns or be allowed to purchase any while the R.O. is in force. My abuser sent his son into our house the morning after the R.O. was served to get the guns. When I called the police to report it, they did nothing, telling me they didn’t know where he was, even tho I did and could tell them, they also said they didn’t have the time to go after him. So not only did my abuser violate the R.O. so did the police. My abuser filed to get the R.O. overturned and lied under oath. The judge dropped the R.O! I do not recommend anyone stay with an abuser and trying to make it work. A real abuser will only get worse. And after the lack of help I received after going thru the abuse, (the law and judge also abused me) I would not trust anyone to help me if an abuser got worse. So to me, staying in a home whereby you’re being abused is not an option.

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