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#56632 - 12/12/03 05:58 PM Communicating boundaries
PAS Offline
Member

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Hi all.

One of the topics we talk about on this group is all about "establishing and maintaining boundaries".

One of the things that is evident is that when we are in ANY relationship, the defintion of boundaries (where you begin and i end, definition of acceptable behaviour, etc) can always be difficult.

However, when you are in a relationship with a survivor of ANY kind of abuse, someone whose own boundaries were not respected, over and over, it is even more difficult because survivors of abuse did not have their boundaries respected as kids, so in turn, never had a chance to learn "healthy boundary" definition. This makes decisions on how to act "appropriately" as adults quite difficult.

At this point in my relationship, one of the biggest problems I have is the need to re-define boundaries and behaviours/patterns in my relationship that for too long have been detrimental to my mental health (i.e. putting up with my partner's verbal attacks, just "sucking it up" when he attacks me for crying, not totally being myself in all situations for fear of "inciting" his anger and wrath..).

So - for all you SA surivivors out there, I have a question - how can we partners best define our boundaries and raise "thorny" issues? How do we explain the things that are difficult to say to our partner, things that he probably does NOT want to hear, but if we let them go on we know they will do US and the relationship harm? What are some strategies for communicating difficult inforamtion knowing that it will definitely cause an emotinoal reaction for the survivor, BUT at the same time acknowledging that it is necessary for OUR mental health and the sake of the relationship?

Help!

P


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#56633 - 12/12/03 07:28 PM Re: Communicating boundaries
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
PAS
why do you ask such hard questions ?

You're right that our boundaries are.........vague to say the least, but that's no surprise.
The other thing is that I think they are also very fluid. Mine were for sure, still are a bit.

I have to feel very safe before I disclose some things to Linda, even after 29 of marriage and 5 or 6 years of recovery and therapy.
And some days I feel safer than others, it's all to do with ME, not her.

How well she judges my ups and downs is another matter ! But at least I just clam up when it's the wrong time for me.

It's like drinking Coke on a roller coaster - sometimes it get up your nose :rolleyes:

Dave

_________________________
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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#56634 - 12/12/03 08:12 PM Re: Communicating boundaries
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA
I hate roller coasters. :p

I have this problem myself. There are times when I need a lot of comforting from VERY FAR AWAY. I don't like to be hugged or touched or even sat next to. My boyfriend doesn't always understand how to comfort someone without hugging them or trying to do dumb horsing-around stuff and a lot of times it's either not get the emotional comfort I need, or get it with a lot of physical discomfort. Many times, to avoid making HIM feel bad, I've sat there with his arm around me, feeling worse because the whole time I'm gritting my teeth and there he is trying to help.

I don't know very much about your situation, but I don't think being attacked for crying is okay, at all. If you need to cry and he can't handle it, tell him to leave you alone and let you cry. Sometimes people NEED to hear things they don't want to hear just as much as you NEED to say them.

good luck

Sar


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#56635 - 12/15/03 02:53 PM Re: Communicating boundaries
PAS Offline
Member

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Quote:
Originally posted by Lloydy:
PAS
why do you ask such hard questions ?


I have a legal job (no I'm not a lawyer but very close!!). I think its my goal in life to pose the most probing of all questions ;\)

Quote:

You're right that our boundaries are.........vague to say the least, but that's no surprise.
The other thing is that I think they are also very fluid. Mine were for sure, still are a bit.


And mine are too.. being a survivor.. I think its something that plagues us all. Sometimes we just dont know what is appropriate - after all, who the hell would have taught us such things??

Personally it took me a LONG time being around peole who were not as traumatized as me to learn what was appropriate. Hell I didnt learn "how to act right" from my parents thats for damn sure.

Quote:


I have to feel very safe before I disclose some things to Linda, even after 29 of marriage and 5 or 6 years of recovery and therapy.
And some days I feel safer than others, it's all to do with ME, not her.


I can understand that. I guess for me I could understand that he may be very reluctant to share, wanting to protect and all, but it is just so hard when in the "pursuit" of his own protection he becomes very much of a persecutor himself. I can understand and even justify withdrawal, but when he goes over my boundaries to verbally attack me.. then I have a SERIOUS problem with him!!!

Quote:

How well she judges my ups and downs is another matter ! But at least I just clam up when it's the wrong time for me.


*sigh* clamming up is so much easier to take than yelling at me.. and cursing me out.. I might as well just go home and be a teenager being verbally abused by my dad when all that shit pours out of his mouth... I really DONT want to do anything to even try and be understanding when that happens. Its like biting the hand that feeds you, like burning your own bridges.. and I dont understand it.. and it IS taking a toll on the relationship and on my feelings for him, and on my own feelings of personal security (I have not been able to sleep in my own bed since the last time it happened, I feel so unsafe I only sleep on the couch with the TV on.. this has been going on for 3 weeks now...)

BUT...

...there has been a breakthrough at his end.. he went on a weekend "healing" retreat that focussed on active therapy (psychodrama, art therapy, etc.) and it really has helped him a LOT. For the first time he actually cried over his abuse! Took him 17 years but saturday night.. he cried.. and cried.. and turns out he's more mad about the parent that didnt protect him than the abuser!!! WHich I can totally understand!! In fact my own T who leads my real life group for partners indicated that her thesis was on the fact that the lack of a safe place to tell and be protected was more of an issue than the abuse itself.

Anyhow.. not saying that there has been a magic cure or anything (hence my rant earlier which I have rescinded) but for now.. who knows...

P


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#56636 - 12/15/03 05:05 PM Re: Communicating boundaries
theo Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 09/28/03
Posts: 1117
pas,
the only insight i can offer to this thread is the lesson i learned from my previous marriage. we were intelligent and thought we were honest enough with each other. there was the old stereotype of telling your partner that you love them but that you are just too angry right now, or whatever emotion is going on at the moment. she and i thought we were being respectful of each other's boundaries and integrity, but we weren't. she believed that honesty menat saying the first thing that pops into your mind because that is what one is "honestly" feeling at the time. what she failed to understand is that the feelings of the moment did not necessarily reflect the true feelings of depth, so things were said by her to me that cut me like a knife, but by "respecting her boundaries" i failed to establish mine. it was not all her fault, this is just an example of boundaries gone wrong. what i learned from this is that the first words out of anyone's mouth (or keyboard for that matter \:\) ) when they are upset is not the truth per se, though it hurts like hell. the one thing i swore to myself was that i would never speak in anger or extreme emotional stress because those are the times when anything can be said and it would hurt ten times as bad. you have every right to expect decency and integrity when there are boundary issues. i tell lady theo when i am not able to speak to her, and she does the same for me. we both do our best to say this when there is no immediate threat to either one of our boundaries. doesn't always work, but we keep trying to be considerate of each other. as a male survivor, i withdraw from confrontation or its potential. when i am ready to blow i make sure i am somewhere safe and let lady theo know if i can. not every man can do that, but every partner is entitled to decency and respect. the only thing i can offer at this point as insight or technique is to wait until it is neutral then gently bring up the subject in such a way that is not threatening to the partner, nor denigrating to the self. honesty and compassion in other words. if the partner cannot handle such a sitation even in neutral moments than that points to something other than the effects of the abuse. hope this helps. take care, pas.

_________________________
journey well,
theo dewolfe

- It is gift, and gift will find its way
- I inherit through my choice. I build through my affirmation. It is through my freedom that I nurture, or fade into autonomy
- I was not given to serve life, but to embrace it

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#56637 - 12/16/03 04:08 PM Re: Communicating boundaries
learning2remember Offline
Member

Registered: 10/21/03
Posts: 224
Loc: Europe
PAS,

Keep asking the hard questions.

Boundaries are pretty hard, aren't they? Sorting them out and setting them...then enforcing them!

Have you thought through the consequences of his boundary crossing? Have you told him the consequences of his behavior? Have you followed through?

I know I'm being preachy and that it is all easier said than done. I'm not very good at it myself. (Read: aweful)

I can't help wondering what action you could take that would speak more clearly than words.


I'm just not convinced that the problem is with how you are communicating boundaries. Maybe the gap in communication is occurring on the other end of the line.

_________________________
"This is not my shame, this is their shame." Mona Eltahawy

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#56638 - 12/16/03 05:19 PM Re: Communicating boundaries
PAS Offline
Member

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Quote:
I'm just not convinced that the problem is with how you are communicating boundaries. Maybe the gap in communication is occurring on the other end of the line.
I am thinking this is the case. Or perhaps he is engaging in "change back" behaviour - the activities that people engage in in order to try and STOP the boundary shift from happening (i.e. if you have a kid who is prone to temper tantrums, and you have habitually given in to those tantrums and given the child what he/she wants in order to stop the tantrum, when you stop giving in to their tantrums, their tantrums will initially get WORSE in order to re-engage the person who is undertaking the shift in behaviour).

*sigh*

And yes - I may just have to think about actions speaking louder than words.

*gulp*

P


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#56639 - 12/17/03 04:51 AM Re: Communicating boundaries
Leosha Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 06/18/03
Posts: 3614
Loc: Right here
PAS,

in my mind, I am thinking that the survivor does not have all the care and concern. Anytime people, two or more even, are in a relationship, each person's needs should be met equally, not just the survivor. Otherwise, you are not in a healthy relationship. (Even in relaionship of therapist and patient, equal needs are met: the patient recieves therapy, the therapist recieves money, yes?)

So, as we must have boundaries as survivors, you also must have them, and if you respect ours, it is only right we respect yours also. You have the same rights of respect and care as we do.

Perhaps bring up subject, to preface it by saying you feel it is affecting you or the relationship negatively. If he says he can not discuss it now or such, ask when you can discuss it, or how else you can deal with it, because it is affecting you in adverse way. He needs to be willing to work with you on it as well, not just make you do the work. I have much difficulties still, right now, but still, I do my best to give to my friends and people I care much of, because that is what relationship is, to share equally.

I wish you luck, I wish I can help more.

leosha

_________________________
Avatar photo in memory of my younger brother Makar.

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted."~~~Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

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#56640 - 12/17/03 11:26 AM Re: Communicating boundaries
outis Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 2258
Loc: Maryland USA
PAS,

A legal job? So, it was you who went looking up "cognitive dissonance" just for kicks this summer, wasn't it? \:\)

Last night I had some terrible "visions" of disaster. I'm real good at imagining disasters that can happen at any time, because after all, disasters happen at any time. Or that was how I learned to think growing up.

I was complaining to my wife about something she did that I had projected to the worst of all possible outcomes, and I went on about how the worst always seems so inevitable to me.

She told me flat out, "I didn't do that to you."

My suggestion is be honest and direct. It worked for her last night. I apologized. It even helped me, because I realized that someone did do this to me, but now I can to learn to think differently.

Thanks,

Joe

_________________________
"Telemachos, your guest is no discredit to you. I wasted no time in stringing the bow, and I did not miss the mark. My strength is yet unbroken…"—The Odyssey, translated by W.H.D. Rouse

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#56641 - 12/17/03 12:33 PM Re: Communicating boundaries
PAS Offline
Member

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Quote:
Originally posted by outis:
PAS,

So, it was you who went looking up "cognitive dissonance" just for kicks this summer, wasn't it? \:\)
Guilty as charged! I'm a self-proclaimed geeky egghead - and I mean that in the nicest possible way! \:\)

P


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