What if your partner won’t respect your boundaries? What if you asked for what you need, and your boundary is ignored, dismissed or worse, judged sinful or wrong? What should you do when you know you’re in a destructive relationship?
What are Boundaries?
Quick Version: Boundaries are your needs, limits and wants. Having good boundaries means not taking responsibility for your partner’s needs and feelings, taking responsibility for your own needs and feelings, saying “no” to the things that you don’t want and need, and “yes” to the things you do.
Signs of Destructive Relationships
Relationships where one or both partner do not respect the other’s boundaries or needs are emotionally destructive. If you are in an emotionally destructive relationship, here are some things that you may be experiencing when you try to set a boundary or express a need:
- Turning the conversation back to him and his needs.
- Telling you that you are wrong for setting the boundary.
- Insinuating that your boundary is ridiculous, misguided, feministic, unbiblical, unkind or just dumb.
- Turning the blame back onto you.
- Evading personal responsibility using different tactics
Confronting the Problem
If ignoring your boundaries or needs becomes a pattern, then confronting the pattern of behavior is the next step. When an apology and plan of action are the appropriate response, women in destructive relationships will experience these common responses to confrontation instead.
- Rage-filled tirade listing your faults, your personal flaws.
- Personal Attacks claiming you are the one with the problem.
- Sob story how he is really the victim.
- Threats to leave you, harm you, or turn the kids against you.
Some women intuitively know that if they advocate too hard for their boundaries and needs to be respected, then their partner will do something drastic, like threaten suicide, or even harm them or their children. Many women are paralyzed with fear over the consequences of “upsetting” him.
One thing you can be sure of, is nothing will change, unless you remove yourself from the abuse.
I know. This part really sucks. Many women want tools and techniques to help deal with these dismissive, disrespectful and abusive behaviors. They want techniques to survive their destructive marriage, instead of breaking free from their destructive marriage. But destructive relationships… destruct, destroy, and deplete until there is nothing left. Ultimately, there IS NO surviving destructive relationships.
Surviving can only be a TEMPORARY plan, and Breaking Free must be the ultimate goal.
When Communication Doesn’t Work
Abusive behaviors WILL NOT STOP unless you refuse to put up with them anymore. What does REFUSAL TO BE ABUSED look like? Although every relationship is different, here are some options to consider as you make your personal Breaking-Free goals.
- Addressing the abusive behaviors (blame shifting, personal attacks, sabotage, lying, manipulation, critical judgments, name calling, etc.) in a counseling session with a counselor or pastor. Having a third party witness and affirm your needs can be a powerful change agent.
- Refusing to stay in a counseling session where the counselor or pastor does not recognize these behaviors as abusive. Combative, manipulative, rage-filled tactics should be identified in session and proclaimed as unacceptable. If your pastor or counselor is unable to do this, give yourself permission to find another who has experience with abuse tactics.
- Communicating repetitively and clearly that “Hostile and abusive behavior is no longer acceptable to me.” Just saying these words out loud can be empowering to you.
- Consider increased separation (i.e. sleeping in separate bedrooms, separate homes, etc.)
- Talking with an attorney to educate yourself about temporary orders. It is important to gather information about all your options. You do not have to act on any option until you’re, but getting the information is empowering to help you make important decisions.
- Calling the police when you feel threatened, or are being harmed. This is an important step to keeping yourself safe and setting a boundary against abusive behavior.
- Attaining a No Contact Order. Visiting your local police department to find out what this entails and when a No Contact Order should be used. This is another step in educating yourself about all your options. This may be the extra help you need to resist his attempts at controlling you.
- Filing for Separation or Divorce. Many women stuck in these destructive relationships resist considering separation or divorce. They are desperate to keep the family together. To see him change. To try a new miracle retreat or counselor or relationship book. However, when you get to the “end of all trying,” consider separation or divorce as a gift from God on the pathway to recovery, wholeness and new life. Consider divorce as the legal way of protecting you from more harm.
Most women are afraid that if they start setting these boundaries and taking action, things will get worse, he will get angrier, and an ugly divorce will be inevitable. This is sometimes the case, but steps to protect yourself are necessary. Instead of thinking of all the worst case scenarios, take one small step at a time. If you need help with these next steps and you are in the Seattle area, I have a great resource for you. You can call Havens Community Connection for coaching support and resource referrals at, 425-610-8612. www.havenscc.org. If you are not in the Seattle area, call the Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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