Stop Emotional Abuse, start setting Boundaries

Maintaining Boundaries Mind|Space|Help

This is the second part of a two-part series tackling the growing issues of domestic and emotional abuse. In the first part, I talked about what abuse is, how to identify it and the impact abuse can have on children within toxic relationships. You can read Part One Here. In this second part, I will discuss boundaries.


Abuse which has taken place over a number of years (and especially where the abuses started from an early age) serve only to break all the boundaries.

While the word ‘Boundaries’ can have a negative connotation with being hard, negative, cold, bad etc., nevertheless, boundaries are good – especially in healthy relationships.

Boundaries define who we are and how we maintain separation of our wishes, feelings and thoughts, from those of others.

Our principles, morals, ethics and values are implicit on the boundaries we establish within ourselves and set our own standards of right and wrong.

More importantly, boundaries protect us from being taken for granted or manipulated and used.

Maintaining Boundaries Mind|Space|Help
Healthy relationships are maintained by good values and boundaries

“If you spend your life sparing people’s feelings and feeding their vanity, you get so you can’t distinguish what should be respected in them.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Broken boundaries (or a lack of healthy boundaries) lead to the loss of your sense of self and thereby how you self-identify. This, in turn, leads to vulnerabilities and deeper insecurities.

For many people experiencing emotional abuse, they cannot identify the causes of it. This feeds into self-doubt. It almost defines the new normality of life within a relationship. There is, however, nothing healthy and the situations become ever more toxic.

Unless you can create, defend and maintain your boundaries, even in difficult and challenging circumstances, you will find yourself becoming the victim and trapped.

Let me turn now to solutions and how you can begin to turn things around in your relationships.

5 Ways to re-introduce Boundaries

  • Identify your Values

Your values define what matters to you. What is important. What is fundamental. Within your values are your qualities such as respect, fidelity, love, compassion, listening, compromising, open mindedness etc.

In your ideal world, your values are the corner posts of your boundaries and fences.

It can be hard to defend your beliefs if you are unclear about what matters to you and why.

And it is entirely okay to adjust your values over time as you evolve. Just because you may have been accepting at the start of a relationship, does not mean that you have to forever remain that way. We are allowed to change!

The point is, if you are clear about where you would like to stand – then you can begin a process of standing up for yourself, even in difficult situations.

Standing by your beliefs and being prepared to ‘walk away’ if necessary, allows you a sense of freedom that you previously may have felt was not an option for you.

Sometimes it can be necessary to reality check your values by asking yourself – what would my {friend/parent/sibling} think and do in my situation. This forms the ability for you to self-validate instead of seeking only the validation from your partner, with whom you are facing the emotional abuse from.

Empower yourself by making a list of your values and beliefs. It provides positive reinforcement when you start to self-doubt and question your own thoughts and feelings.

  • The word ‘No’ and the power of no-reply

Two important strategies when reasserting your boundaries and defending your values.

You absolutely have the right to say NO. So becoming okay with using it (even if the other person does not like to hear it) has to become part of your primary vocabulary.

Saying NO does not have to be an aggressive or provocative action. In fact, the calmer you are when you need to use it, the greater the impact on the other person.

It is important not to feel the need to qualify the NO with additional explanation. No means No, not No….because!

Be polite even. No – thank you 🙂

Honour your own belief system and sense of values by never permitting anyone to cross the boundaries you set by saying the word, NO.

The power of no-reply is equally important. If you are messaged and asked to do, be or say something that makes you feel uncomfortable, do not feel you have to reply, except, perhaps, to say, No.

But remember, no-reply means NO. Not thinking about it and will change your mind. NO. Simple.

Learning this puts the power back into your hands for your life.

“If something is not a “hell, YEAH!”, then it’s a “no!”

James Altucher
Learning to Say NO is important for establishing boundaries
  • Learning to take care of number one – YOU

When was the last time you prioritised – YOU?

Do you even recognise what your own ‘Needs’ are, any longer?

Nobody else can look after your NEEDS. Only you can do that!

When someone has been caught up in cycles of emotional abuse for a long period of time, the needs you once had have probably been forgotten.

So take some time out and make a list of what needs you have. It could be anything from wind-down time, to some space, or to read a book or just have a nice bath surrounded by good scents and warm candles.

Learning to take care of yourself and ensure that you needs do not become lost in the noise of the needs of those who surround you is just as important as having good values and beliefs.

And by making yourself have some priority, you will begin to reintroduce your sense of self and your self-esteem.

Even those with busy lives being parents and co-workers can lose self identity when everything else comes first.

Emotional abuse goes hand in hand with neglecting your needs. Change that and stop being victim to it.

Make sure you eat well, keep healthy, take care of your day to day living and needs.

And never feel selfish about it. You are entitled to give yourself some tender loving care.

MindSpaceHelp, supporting individuals through stress and anxiety to ease constant worry
At MindSpaceHelp we can support you to care for you and restore your sense of self

“Sometimes you just need to be selfish and take care of you. If they love you, they’ll understand”

Robert Tew

  • Other people’s emotions are NOT your problem

You are not responsible for your partner’s emotions, feelings, problems or for the issues they may have in their own life.

So stop trying to take it all on to yourself!

Lack of boundaries is a recipe for emotional hurt and being treated like you are the other person’s trash can.

So learn to push back – in a kind, but firm, way.

Use phrases such as –

  • That is your responsibility, not mine.
  • Only you can resolve that.
  • So what are you going to do to fix that?
  • I hope you feel better about that soon.

Living with emotional abuse predisposes you to automatically feel that you have to provide the answers and take all the blame. Be aware of your behaviour in this way and learn to pause it instead of stepping up to it.

Your emotional experiences are not the same as your partner’s or anyone elses.

Learn to take care of your emotions. Recognise that a feeling can be a warning signal of something wrong.

Never ignore a feeling. Anxiety will creep in and you will feel incapable of making rational choices that should benefit your life, not degrade it.

By all means listen to and understand what your partner is trying to tell you. And vice versa. But establish a boundary within you that stops you from crossing the line of taking ownership of it. Take ownership of your feelings only.

  • Be prepared to back it up!

Perhaps the most important step in the process of cutting out emotional abuse in your life.

You have to be prepared to honour your feelings, acknowledge when the situation you are in is no longer working for you – or benefiting you – and to take some avoiding action.

It can be described as the make-or-break point in the relationship.

When you can see that you are worth more than being treated as a dish mop or a door mat, right there is the power to take evasive action and remove yourself.

Establishing and rebuilding boundaries can be a very unnatural experience. You have ambled along in challenging circumstances, taking on the issues of your significant other – it became your way of life.

But do not give up. Everyone has bad days. YOU are entitled to have bad days.

Today’s bad day is an opportunity to make tomorrow a different and better day. The power is within you!

Sometimes you have to feel the fear, and do it anyway – for your own good.

So as you discover your power of being assertive and take control of how you respond to difficulties will, in itself, be a healthy pathway to establishing boundaries and in so doing, growing and restoring some of that self-worth that you lost along the way.

Use this concept –

  • Wish
  • Want
  • Walk

You wish (hope) for situations to improve. For those good times and great feelings to find their way back into life.

You want respect, to be valued, to be listened to and heard, to be understood and not mistreated and harmed.

You will walk away from problems that cannot be resolved – and in doing that, make a self-asserting statement that you deserve better and to have good within your life.

Only you can have your own best interests at heart.

“Beneath every behaviour is A FEELING. And beneath every feeling is A NEED. And when we meet that need rather than focus on the behaviour, we begin to deal with THE CAUSE, not the symptom.

Ashleigh Warner, Psychologist

Signposting useful links for domestic abuse

Women’s Aid

Mens Advice Line

Published by Paralegal-Attorney

Qualified Paralegal Attorney specialising in Children and Family Law in the UK

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