Anyone who has read my blog for very long, knows that I think healthy boundaries are critical to a happy relationship. But, 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 do you do then?
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.
- “Saying” that your needs and boundaries are important, but doing nothing to uphold them.
- Actively working against your boundaries so that your efforts fail.
- Telling you that you are wrong for setting the boundary.
- Insinuating that your boundary is ridiculous, misguided, feministic, unbiblical, unkind or just dumb.
Confronting the Relationship 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 emotionally 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.
- Silent treatment, retaliation,
- 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 you or your 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.
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.
Does Breaking Free Mean Leaving?
Maybe, maybe not. Your situation is unique and you have specific needs that should be addressed. Talking with an experienced counselor or pastor may help you decide what your next course of action should be. No matter how he may respond, you must do all you can to be safe and healthy. When you start working on yourself, making yourself as safe and healthy as possible, you will have the clarity you need to make appropriate decisions for yourself and your relationship. You working on yourself is a healthy and loving decision. He may see it as a threat, but it is not a threat. It is loving. Every act toward emotional, spiritual and physical health is one step closer to breaking free from destructive relationship patterns.
For immediate support, you can go to www.thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233.