Abusers don’t like boundaries. They hinder their progress in getting what they want. Consequently, they choose their targets very carefully. Children make excellent targets because they don’t have many options, they’re eager to please and require the love and attention of their caregivers. Children of abusers grow up not understanding their worth, or the concept of boundaries in relationships.
When these children grow up you have adults stumbling around their romantic relationships not understanding what they’re doing wrong, why they’re unhappy and why things don’t work out.
It’s amazing how our brains get hard wired to believe that we have to work hard for love, that it doesn’t come easily and that or worth is dependent upon the approval of others. When we run into an abuser in our adult relationships we will try to make excuses for their poor treatment of us, we’ll take responsibility for their actions and we’ll miss clues that would be obvious to others. When it comes to dealing with our worth in romantic situations it’s like we live in a perpetual fog, never being sure where we stand or what we deserve.
It really is all about self-respect and knowing what is acceptable and what is not. When we figure it out it’s about living by these rules even if they don’t feel quite right at first. When we learn to treat ourselves with love and respect and we practice it consistently, it becomes habitual and we stop tolerating anyone, or thing, that doesn’t match up with our new self-perception.
I’ve listed a few mandatory boundaries you should be incorporating in your relationships. Like anything with practice they become habitual and you’ll stop settling for less.
The Separate Entity Rule: I am not an extension of you. My purpose isn’t to please you, or serve you, or do what you want me to do. I am my own person. I’m allowed to have separate interests separate friends and separate hobbies. I’m allowed to pursue whatever makes me happy.
If you have to give up any of these things to please your partner/parent, you are in a dysfunctional relationship. Healthy people are interested in your happiness and growth and encourage these things. Unhealthy people seek control and sameness, through isolation and condition their victims into making everything all about them.
The Reciprocity Principle: While it’s never a good idea to keep score in relationships, healthy ones, generally consist of equal amounts of give and take, with both partners making a consistent effort. If you find yourself in a relationship where you are doing the lion’s share of giving and the doing, you are not part of a partnership you are part of a servant/master dynamic. This means you are doing most of the traveling, spending, calling, texting, planning, cooking…..If you feel like you’re being used, you are. Know where the line is and if you think you’re being used end it.
The Option Paradigm: If you know your partner is seeing other people and that’s not what you want – get out. Forget about all that nonsense that’s going on in your head like – I can’t do any better, no one else will want me, I really love this person, we have an amazing connection….. if what you want is not on offer – get out. Anything else is madness and will perpetuate the hurt and prolong your suffering.
Staying will not make it better, it won’t change anything – except it will wear down your self-esteem and your objections. This is a dangerous place because if you do continue to tolerate your partner seeing other people it will continue and your own well-being will be at risk. This is where your line must be drawn.
Too Busy Rule: If you think you’re in a relationship and there are large periods of unexplained absences where you can’t get a hold of your partner, you need to head this warning. No one is ever too busy to shoot off a quick text to explain what’s going on and why they aren’t responding to your attempts at contact. Everyone has sparse moments of being off the grid, but there’s usually a pretty good reason. If you are a priority your partner will make sure you know what’s going on with them. If you’re not, they’ll ignore your calls and texts and make excuses. Never leave more than one or two messages or texts – and don’t tolerate being ignored. It’s not okay. Draw the line.
The Mixed Message Dynamic: You should never be guessing where you stand in your relationship. If you keep getting vague replies, or your questions keep getting ignored, or deflected you instantly know where you stand. Wanting to know if you’re on the same page is not a difficult question and one you have every right to have answered. Being in a relationship is a serious thing and if your partner isn’t taking it seriously it’s time to move on.
The Responsibility Principle: You are not responsible for the behavior and moods of other people. It’s a common dynamic of dysfunctional people to blame others for their actions. This is a misnomer. The most common statement you hear after man physically assaults his wife is, “Look what you made me do.” It’s ridiculous, don’t ever allow yourself to feel responsible for another’s actions. You’re responsible for you and your partner is responsible for themselves. If someone is trying to pass responsibility to you, pass it right back and move on.
The Paradox Principle: This is where a person’s words don’t match their actions. A typical example is when someone claims to love you and then behaves like they don’t. if you’re sitting there in a tizzy trying to figure out what someone really means always follow the behavior. People often lie to get themselves out of trouble, to deflect or get what they want, but they almost always do what they want. If words and actions don’t match up don’t be afraid to call someone on it. It’s your right.
These are very common points of confusion for codependents. Because of early programming and repeated patterns of behavior codependents get stuck trying to decipher through the confusion and uncertainty of what’s right and what’s wrong, when it comes to our most intimate relationships. The bottom line is that you should never be guessing. Your job isn’t to please and serve – it’s to live your life for you and to become the best you, you can be. Anything else is servitude and you were not put here for that. Know where the line is and respect yourself enough to know when it’s been crossed and do right by you.
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