Setting boundaries is difficult for people who are victimized by abusive people. One, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we are insignificant, small, unworthy…we have no right to proclaim who we are because we, in essence, do not exist.
Two, because we believe we are too small to be important, we may attempt to set our abuser’s boundaries FOR him; turn the tables because ‘he does it to me, so he’ll understand and respond when I do it to him.’ We try to control him because it appears to work so well!
Here’s a boundary that cannot work:
“You are not allowed to be mean to me.”
Really? Who says he isn’t allowed? If the most powerful person in the world told him to stop being mean to me, it MAY stop his behavior in front of that person (a phenomenon I know too well), but would it stop the abuse? No. What if his daddy demanded he stop being mean to me? His grandmother?
It doesn’t matter who commands the abuse to stop because as Donnalee commented, “he can and will do whatever he wants because he is an adult.” A personal boundary cannot control someone else. I cannot tell someone else what to do, how to behave and what to think and expect them to obey.
However, I can tell myself what to do, how to behave, what to think and expect myself to obey myself.
A boundary that will work:
When you say things that are mean to me and will not allow conversation but insist on me listening to you, I will pull out a piece of paper and begin writing all the hurtful things you are saying. This action will allow me to step outside of the situation and observe from a position where I can see that you are speaking nonsense, thereby protecting myself from your words.
A boundary is a blueprint of a plan for you to follow. It is not an order given to someone else. No one, not soldiers, not cops, not abusers, not even victims of abuse, must follow orders that go against their morality and the core of who we are.
Dear Donnalee, if you set boundaries with your abuser last night and still believed that you have no control over your self, then I suspect the boundaries you set were directed at him. I could very well be wrong, but as a sister who’s felt your exact pain, I suspect that I’m more than partially right.
The part I am sure I am right about is that whatever boundary you set did nothing to protect you.
And if you’re sick and tired of hearing my voice, try Robert Burney’s website to discover where I received guidance on how to set boundaries. His suggestions are phenomenal.