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Confused714

Setting Boundries

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Confused714

How do you set boundries in an abusive relationship?  Most of our relationship I have been extremely passive about most things. How do I set boundries?  I know still that I will eventually need to go but until then I need to work on boundary setting. How do I do that?

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Quaddie

Unfortunately, trying to learn how to establish boundaries in an abusive relationship doesn't really work. It's like beating your head against a brick wall. Abusers don't respect boundaries - that's part of why they are abusers. So 1. it won't really work to control or contain the abuse, and 2. it's a frustrating and sabotaging situation in which to try to learn about boundaries, because it's so unhealthy and toxic and won't be respected that it will be futile, and may feel like you "must be doing it wrong" if it's not working...  it's like trying to learn how to play guitar on an instrument that's broken and has no strings. You can't really learn how in an environment that's completely "against you."

Sometimes people think that setting boundaries is something you can do to control other people's behavior, but it's not. A boundary is a line in the sand what you will accept. You cannot control what someone else does, so setting a boundary is about what you will do if you feel your boundaries are violated. 

Boundaries aren't rules like, "If you do ___, I will do ____." Sometimes verbalizing them is part of it, but again, it won't control other people or make abusers behave better, really. 

I've described abuse like a water balloon. If an abuser tries to stifle their abusive nature, it's like squeezing a water balloon - it may get less in one area, but bulges out in another. They are what they are, so if they pretend like they're not abusing in one way, it will just squeeze out in another, different way.

Your being passive doesn't cause or escalate the abuse - although a lot of abusers (and non-abusive people, too!) will try to put that burden onto your shoulders. It's not your fault., and abusers don't do what they do "because" you didn't tell them not to. But if you'd like to share an example of a situation, maybe we can help brainstorm some ideas.

 

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Fluffyflea

You really can't. They don't care about or respect your boundaries. They aren't normal.

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AZ-home

I would pick one thing that is bugging you, for now, and work on saying no. He picks on your shower habits I believe. So, you can either forbid him from being in the bathroom while you shower, or when he complains about water on the floor you tell him you'll clean it up when you are done. He can fuss and grumble and whatever but you hold your ground. This is just an example. You pick the subject. I suggest you do one or two at a time. 

If he wants to drag you here there and everywhere right at your son's naptime. You say no. We can go after he gets up. Stuff like that. I would practice in your head his possible reactions and how you will respond. Try to respond calmly and maybe even in a friendly tone. If you anticipate his reactions and rehearse your response, you will fare better. 

Also, he will flip out at first and just like a toddler, you ignore that behavior. Walk away. Drive off maybe. Text and say you will return when he decides to calm down. Just don't give in. Cause if wears you down for 10 min and you  finally give in and let him have his way, he is learning that 10 minutes is your threshold.  So don't give in. Be calm but firm. 

 

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AZ-home

I told my H (at the time) to stop calling me at work just to fuss at me. So when he called fussing, I said "I'm hanging up now" and I did. And I didn't answer when he called right back (to scream at me for hanging up on him.) I was at work. That was my boundary. 

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Quaddie

That's the key, there has to be something that you will do (which benefits you) if the boundary is crossed. The thing is that it can't just be a "rule." A boundary isn't a rule. A boundary is about respect. So it's not like "This is the rule, and here is the punishment if you don't comply." Boundaries are for you - not for making other people behave. So, in the above example, if he won't leave while you're in the shower, what can you do? There has to be something that benefits you and gets you what you need - privacy in the shower. So if he won't respect your boundary, then perhaps the answer is installing a lock. Or maybe you can just go ahead and install the lock, anyway. 

The key is there has to be an "or" that you yourself are able to carry out if your boundary is not respected.  One that doesn't benefit him at all. And one that doesn't put you into actually having the consequence. That's one of the biggest trouble points. Because so often, there's not really an action that one can take if the boundary remains crossed - or it just makes it more trouble for you. The abuser still "wins."

With abusers, it's super-iffy territory at best. Hanging up the phone is a good one (I've used it, too) because it's easy to establish and doesn't involve being "firm" or angry or anything. Just said, "If you keep talking to me like that, I'm hanging up." Then, when it continued - I simply hung up. Not even another word. (This was with a controlling sister.) But if you have to leave the premises, then that's putting you out. Unless you can go to a spa for the day, instead. Which you can't, I'm assuming, and you'd still have to take care of your child. 

With things like dragging your child around at his nap time, you can say No and see what he does. I wouldn't be surprised if he threw a loud noisy fit so that your son couldn't sleep, anyway. If he still acts out, what can you do to maintain the boundary? One that wouldn't make you suffer because of it? That's the thing. It's worse than trying to modify the behavior of a child. There's no real way to win. :(

 

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Fluffyflea

Malignant Narcissists take boundary setting as a challenge. They aren't going to accept what you say to them no matter what and will walk all over you.

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AZ-home

I didn't succeed at it. But I understand that you are buying your time. 

I think boundaries work with kids, teens and healthy adults. Narcissists see it as "game on! I'm gonna win." And they do. 

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Fluffyflea

Yes they sure do win.

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whitebutterfly11

If anything, setting boundaries with an abuser will show you that your boundaries will not be respected, and in the end, that can be validating evidence to you that it's a dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship. 

I did this for many year with my abusive H. He stopped certain abusive behaviors that were more overt, or obvious, but he then picked up a slew of covert, or less obvious abusive behaviors (psychological abuse) that allowed him to continue to cross boundaries, but in a way I couldn't see or track. The result of those years of subtle abuse was far worse than the more obvious abuse because I could not put a finger on it. There was some serious gaslighting. 

All this to say, if you do set boundaries, watch to see what he will start to do underhandedly, through denial, gaslighting, truth distortion, and mainly a fake disguise. 

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AZ-home

And journal. 

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