Boundaries for Abusive Relationships Examples

Fortunately, I divorced the man mentioned in this page, but these boundaries and others help me to identify the wrong sorts of people even today. Boundaries, especially boundaries for abusive relationships, do more than protect you from emotional drama. They help you to see how many times your abuser treats you badly!

After leaving the room or leaving the house quite a few times to enforce my boundaries, I came to realize that our marriage was not a relationship at all. It was a one-sided, his way or the highway, type of slavery. Emotional, mental and physical slavery bound by his rules – his boundaries, if we can call them that, that were not healthy for me or him. They were self-serving and and cruel. I couldn’t live in my home, my most safe of sacred of places, without a monster leaping on my back.

Please write out two or three boundaries right now (or after you read my examples). Noticing how often your abuser crosses your line (deliberately!) helps prove that an abusive relationship is no relationship at all. You may as well be alone if you cannot trust the person you love.

Personal Boundaries I wrote in May 2012:

I wrote some boundaries for abusive relationships today – specifically boundaries for my abusive relationship. The last sentences or each boundary end with what I will do if my husband crosses my boundary. What I really wanted to write at the end of each sentence is “I’ll leave forever,” instead of “I’ll leave the room,” but I’m not ready to leave the relationship today – I want to save my marriage if possible.

Boundaries for abusive relationships (or any other relationship) must result in actions you are willing to take. If you aren’t willing to do what you say you will do, then that opens the door for your abuser to admonish and diminish you or call you a liar.

Anyway, I’m not ready to leave the marriage, and I want to give this verbal abuse idea (as he derisively calls it) a chance. Maybe Will can see the problem and change how he treats me and our boys. After I separate from him (meaning, after I separate my self-worth from him), I’ll see what other boundaries I may need.

Some Boundaries for Abusive Relationships I Can Enforce:

When you narrow your eyes and interrupt me, I feel unheard and disconnected from the conversation. I want you to acknowledge my point of view. Since I cannot control you, I will leave the room and the conversation temporarily until a later time when we can talk again.

—–

When you make derisive comments about characters on television or people we know who share my views partially or completely, especially in front of our children, I feel put down and attacked for holding those opinions. I want you to accept that I hold beliefs and opinions different from yours, and to stop subtly insulting my beliefs. Since I cannot control you, I will ask if you made that comment because you don’t like my similar opinion. If you continue to make derisive comments, I will leave the room and find better company.

—–

When you tell me that I am wrong, lying, living in a fantasy world or unable to comprehend the real worldI feel belittled, defensive, hurt, and manipulated. I want you to hear my opinion and seriously consider the idea that even if I am not “right” I may not be entirely “wrong.” Since I cannot control you, I will stop talking with you until I feel it’s safe for me to rejoin the conversation.

—–

When you expect me to go somewhere with you but do not listen to my reasons for not going or listen and then use my reasons as an excuse to tell me that I am unappreciative, unsupportive  or worseI feel pummeled, disregarded, and unimportant to you. I want you to listen to why I do not want to go because my reasons are valid, but not always unchangeable, and I am willing to discuss them. Since I cannot control you, I will respect my own reasons and feelings about this situation and not go with you.

—–

For that matter, when you are mean and nasty to me and/or our boys in the car ride to a party, I will drop you off (if you prefer to stay) and the boys and I will go somewhere else. I will not come pick you up late at night from the bar you and your friends gravitated to; you can find your own way home if you choose to stay.

—–

When you walk through the house ordering us to do things so you can relax, I feel put upon and disrespected. I want you to respect the time and effort I put into cleaning house and picking up after us even when you don’t see it happening. Because I cannot control you, I will remove myself from your presence and write down what is happening and being said to distract myself from my discomfort.

—–

When you tell me that I’m a drama queen I feel like my opinions and observations are unimportant to you and I feel disconnected from you. I want you to stop telling me what I am acting like or who I am. Because I cannot control you, I will remove myself from your presence and make a note of the exchange.

—–

When you tell me I am untrustworthy and disloyal and “trying to hide something” or that “something’s fishy,” and then will not discuss your reasons for feeling that way, I feel betrayed, upset, and hopeless. I want you give me reasons for why you feel this way and an opportunity to refute or admit to your suspicions. Because I cannot control you, I will walk away if you continue to say these things without allowing discussion.

More Examples of How to Set Boundaries for Abusive Relationships

This site: How to Set Boundaries for Abusive Relationships | What Are Boundaries for Abusive Relationships?

Off this site: The Guide For Strong Boundaries at MarkManson.net | Examples and Tips for Setting Boundaries at GlobalPost.com | 12 Core Boundaries at BaggageReclaim.com

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Comments

  1. Why do you keep saying “because I am powerless over you”?

    • “Because I am powerless over you” reminds me that I cannot control what the abuser does. I cannot control what anyone does. In an abusive relationship, the victim often attempts to control the abuser’s actions (consciously or subconsciously). The victim’s attempts at control are to prevent the abuse. We might try to wear the “right” clothes or deliver (or withhold) the “right” news in an attempt to prevent violence or abuse. How many times have you chosen your words very very carefully in an attempt to prevent your spouse from yelling or raging? That over-attempt to “not make them mad” is pointless. YOU cannot control whether the other person reacts with anger or not. THE ABUSER is fully responsible for his/her behavior.

      Although our MOTIVES for control are “pure” and NOT an attempt to abuse the other person, the idea that we can control another person’s actions is incorrect. Therefore, restating “because I am powerless over you” is a reminder that I cannot in any way control whether my abuser “gets mad” or not. I also cannot control whether my abuser reacts with joy, sadness, or any other emotion.

      Does that answer your question, Ali?

  2. I understand I can’t control him, but I’m not going to say “I am powerless over you” to my abuser because with his pea-brain all he will hear is that part and the rest of what I’m trying to do will fall on deaf ears.

    • How about “because I cannot control you”? You could just say it to yourself and not to him – I get it about how they latch on to specific words and twist them out of recognition. Boundaries are as much for you as they are to check the abuser. It is important to remember that you can’t predict or control anyone’s reactions or actions.

      In many cases, the entire boundary falls on deaf ears. That’s okay. You only have to say it once. Don’t stand there explaining it or repeating it…that is another way for them to get into your mind and find ways to hurt you.

  3. I had the same thought as Ali when reading this post. Why would you choose such demeaning and self-deflating phrasing as “because I am powerless over you”? It completely defeats the purpose of acquiring some sense of control and self-respect. If one HAS to stay in an abusive relationship, I would think your suggestion to Ali to say “because I cannot control you” is a much, much, more empowering mantra. And for what it’s worth, I believe trying to save an abusive relationship is like trying to save rotting meat. No matter what you do, it’s not going to get better and may even do you harm.

    • Saving rotting meet is as impossible as saving a controlling person who does not wish to be saved. Setting boundaries like the examples given on this page allow the victim to regain some of her (or his) power over him or her self. They remind THE VICTIM that things don’t have to go down the way the abuser wants them to happen. Boundaries allow abuse victims to take control of their thinking and actions instead of relinquishing their power to the abuser.

    • I am going to edit this page and change the phrase “because I am powerless over you” to “because I cannot control your words or behavior.” After thinking about it, that is much more empowering to say or to think to oneself.

      Thank you, Ali and Kathy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Kellie Jo, I just wanted to tell you that I’ve found a lot of useful information in reading through your site. I am recently out of a long relationship that had cycles of abuse, which I am still experiencing as we share young children and there are no defined legal boundaries as yet. In addition to my abusive partner, his parents, who have been too much a part of our’s and our children’s lives are also psychologically abusive towards me. Is this common?

    • Unfortunately, it is common. The best thing you can do is set boundaries for yourself until you can get a judge to mandate them – if the judge will mandate them. You do not need a judge to tell your ex how to contact you; you can take control of all contact with him for yourself.

      There is no reason for you to speak to his parents about anything. They can email or text you. If you drop off the children at their house, you could take a friend with you to get the kids to the door. Or you can take them to the door, hand the grandparents any instructions you wrote on paper, kiss the kids and say, “Gotta run! Text me if you have any questions!”

      You can do the same thing with their father. When he calls, do not accept the call and text him “What is it?”

      No one is going to “like” this decision. They will call and leave (sometimes ugly) voicemails. Delete their voicemail WITHOUT listening to it and tell them you need them to text/email because your voicemails are being automatically deleted for some reason. (Lie? Yes. Lie.) Abusers rarely abuse in text or email because it shows proof of the abuse.

      The biggest thing is for you to set boundaries for YOU. So long as your children’s father has a way to contact you with questions or in an emergency or whatever, you are within your legal rights to request no phone CALLS.

      And when he slips up and abuses you in text/email, you can take that to the judge as an example of why the contact between parents should be amended.

  5. I think I already do have boundaries, lots of them. I think the problem is that things got worse, and I tried to calm things down by giving in all the time, and then that just encouraged my abuser. But yes, most of the time, I would like to enforce things by removing myself from situations, when I’m just being insulted, or when she’s started hurting me. But removing myself is really like a red rag to a bull, she always follows me, if I try and sit and read or write, or watch tv, she’ll rip the paper etc away, turn the tv off etc and close in and in and in until I can;t move at all anymore. This is part of the problem, I cannot enforce any of my boundaries. i cannot have the liberty to even walk out of a room. All I can do is pretend it doesn;t bother me. Sometimes I just say bland statements like ‘it’s not all right for you to talk to me like that’ as some tiny token of resistance.

  6. Adelle Landman says:

    I am busy writing a letter to my abuser. I really never thought she’d turn into this but the signs were there the first few weeks in our relationship. We have been together now for seven months and already I’m feeling a change in myself; I have decided that I cant beg someone for affection and their love and let them think that they possess the power for my happiness like that. No way! I’m putting my foot down today. Luckily i still have the support of my family. Get out of the abuse; out there is someone worth your time. Something I heard Oprah say.

  7. I just read this article, as my adult daughter and I were having a discussion about boundaries in relationships. I grew up in a home where my personal boundaries were severely violated. Thus it stands to reason I would marry a man who severely violated my boundaries (he was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive; mean and cruel); he felt very familiar which I mistakenly thought meant it was love. Over the course of 17 years I learned a lot and made a lot of personal growth to the point I was able to permanently leave that marriage. I have since married a man who is far more respectful; someone I can feel safe with. However, learning to establish healthy boundaries is something I still work on particularly with members of my family of origin.
    I enjoyed reading this article and can relate to what you have shared. I appreciated, and understood the use of the term “because I cannot control you”. I think it wise and helpful to reiterate this truth to one’s self.
    As I began reading comments I was surprised to see what appeared to me to be criticism of the use of the phrase “because I am powerless over you”. I do not see that as being, in any way, dis-empowering or dis-respectful to one’s self. I read it as having the same meaning as “I cannot control you”. In the end it’s all the same; recognizing we cannot and are not responsible to control another’s behavior is very empowering, and freeing.
    Good write up–thanks for posting it.

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