Boundaries for Emotionally Abused Women

10 Oct 2013

boundarystopsmall Boundaries are not the strongest suit of emotionally abused women. In fact, they could well be the weakest one. 

It’s not that emotionally abused women don’t know they should have boundaries – you can talk as knowledgeably about the need for boundaries as the next person. It’s just that you don’t know how you could have them. Nobody has ever taught you what a boundary is, or how to create one… effectively. 

In an emotionally abusive relationship there are NO boundaries.

It’s almost like the whole “Soulmate” preoccupation. That’s one of those hugely overworked cliches that everyone knows about but… Most people I’ve ever spoken to can’t define what they mean by a Soulmate because, when you meet your Soulmate, you “just know”. 

How do you know? 

You “just know”. 


The teeny tiny problem with “just knowing”, is that this “just knowing” thing is not something you can put into words that make sense. Actually, it’s rather like “Chemistry”. You only have to say the word “Chemistry”, and people will nod sagely: “Chemistry is “Chemistry”. In other words, it’s another of those powerful feelings that you “just” have, but can’t explain, in an intelligible fashion. 

As we’ve all proved to our cost, you can have a LOT of “Chemistry” with an emotionally abusive man. It’s justthat word again – the wrong sort of “Chemistry”. 

Chemistry”, like soulmate recognition at 20 paces, is great if youre firing on the right cylinders. But as every emotionally abused woman has proved quite conclusively, you’re not. 

In fact, the reason why we are not is precisely because of the boundary issue. 

A boundary, as I see it, is all about knowing where you end, and another person begins.

An emotionally abusive relationship, on the other hand, is predicated on you not knowing where you end and the other person begins. It’s also predicated on your emotionally abusive partner not caring where he ends, and you begin. 

Where there are boundaries, a person will RESPECT your ‘otherness’. They will understand that you are not them. 

When you have a boundary, you understand what is – and is not – acceptable where you are concerned. And you have no qualms about upholding those boundaries. 

Now this is where it can start to get woolly. So, let me give you a very concrete example. My emotionally abusive husband was, naturally enough, a Master of Boundary Violation. One of his best tricks when he was sulking – which was most of the time – was taking himself off to bed early. Since getting into bed next to a snarling, hostile creature is not a lot of fun, I’d delay going to bed until I was exhausted – and hoped Mr Nasty should be in a period of deep sleep. 

That never worked, (Not least because he’d usually had half his night’s sleep by then.) Instead, I’d stagger into bed, exhausted, and just as I was dropping off, he’d launch an immaculately prepared verbal assault. He’d find a threat that panicked me so much I’d spend most of the night sleepless – while he’d finish his rant and go back to sleeping like a baby… and snoring like a hippopotamus. 

Not a nice experience; and probably not an uncommon one. 

But the point is this: the wasband was, quite deliberately, violating my right to a safe space in which to rest. He was doing that because he could. Sure, you can find deep psychological explanations for why emotionally abusive men do what they do, but the bottom line is this: they do it, and keep on doing it because they can 

I tolerated this behavior because I accepted that he had the right to violate my feelings, and my physical well-being, at will. 

Before you can have a boundary, you have to know what you will and won’t tolerate. 

At the moment, chances are you will tolerate anything Mr Nasty wants to send your way. You have to change the belief that you have to put up with bad behavior. Just getttng round to ejecting your abusive partner from your life won’t be enough to change your mind-set. That is something you have to work on. It’s something I spend a LOT of time working on with my clients, because that is the basis of their future happiness, and peace of mind. 

If you don’t have a natural understanding of boundaries, then you need to learn how to ‘do’ boundaries, almost by rote. That’s how human beings learn most new skills, in point of fact. What’s more, most of us don’t waste time beating ourselves up over it. We don’t say:

baddriversmall“I have to take lessons in order to learn how to drive, because I don’t know how to drive. Not knowing how to drive means that I’m inadequate, pathetic, incapable of learning, and just plain AWFUL. It’s one more thing I have to be ashamed of!” 

We just get on and do it. Some of us get the idea right way, others (like me) take a little longer. Even a lot longer. I had nearly as many driving instructors as lessons – and I had a LOT of lessons. But I got there in the end. It’s just the way that it is. 

It’s an inconvenience, sure. But if it’s a necessary skill you make it your business to learn it. Having effective boundaries is far more life-changing than learning to drive. You cannot afford to be without boundaries any longer. 

Having healthy boundaries something I learned to create for myself, and now teach clients to do, because it is SO necessary, as part of a holistic process of healing from emotional abuse. The starting point has to be becoming aware of what you don’t want, and how you do NOT want to be treated.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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