Many people overestimate their clarity on their boundaries. The truth is that most people do not think much about them at all. Despite this, the majority of people move through their lives without any problems. For some, however, this lack of clarity can be detrimental. This is never as obvious as when someone is in an abusive relationship. If you are in an abusive relationship, I offer the following tips to help you determine how confident you are about your boundaries, identify when your boundaries have let you down, and prevent your boundaries from breaking down in the future. This will hopefully help you in making difficult decisions about your current or future relationships.
1. Ask yourself tough questions about what you are willing to overlook, what you were willing to work through, and what you are not willing to work through. Then ask yourself why you are making these decisions.
2. Document your partner history and see which of your boundaries you have given up in the past. Why did you give these up?
3. Are your boundaries too rigid or loose? If your boundaries are too rigid, you may not give yourself a chance of intimacy in the future. If they are too loose, you may sacrifice your own health. I recommend that you look to friends and family to help you determine this. Be sure to ask people who are not going to be afraid to tell you what you might not want to hear.
4. Think of all of your past relationships and friendships. Go through each of these individuals and notice whether you are still friends with these people. What do you get out of these relationships? Why did you give them up if you did?
5. Make a list of your “must-haves”, “ideal wants”, and “don’t care much abouts” in regards to your relationships. Are your lists prioritized how they should be? Would you benefit from moving items into different columns?
6. Make a list of your personal rights. Safety, open-communication, freedom are a few of the basic rights that should be on your list. If any of those are being sacrificed, then you have to leave.
Boundaries (or a lack of boundaries) can lead to abusive relationships. Unfortunately, they are often overlooked as the basis of getting people into an abusive situation. The best way to leave an abusive relationship and avoid re-entering on, is to establish clear, solid boundaries. If you go through this list and you find that you’re unsure of whether your boundaries are solid or not, talking with a therapist can help. Together you can identify which will best help you protect your life and health, and which will get you into the most trouble.