Therapy Resources

The goal in an intimate relationship is to feel calm, centered and focused. When we lack these elements in our relationships it is due in large part to an inability to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with one another. Healthy boundaries allow a person to experience comfortable interdependence with other people, resulting in well functioning relationships and positive self-regard.

This resource will help you:
- understand the importance of boundaries in relationships
- understand different types of boundaries
- identify healthy and unhealthy boundaries

Boundaries are key to helping the true self emerge and are therefore important to any individual's mental health as well as within all relationships. Boundaries are the physical, emotional, sexual and mental limits you set in relationships that protect you from being controlled, manipulated, abused or exploited. Boundaries make it possible for you to separate our own thoughts and feelings from those of others and to take responsibility for what we think, feel and do. They make it possible for you to hear what others are telling you like ‘No’ and enable you to be also be assertive. They make it possible for you, to be aware of where you end and another begins. They enable use to make choices about how you feel, think or behave. They help us to draw a line between "me" and "you".

Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries determine the kind of relationship you will have with others, especially in your intimate ones. People with healthy boundaries are able to identify how they feel or think about something, how they react or behaves in a situation. With healthy boundaries you are able to distinguish between your own emotions, opinions and behaviors and those of others, and you own these feelings and thoughts. You do not blame others for how you think, feel or behave. You are very clear where your feelings and thoughts begin and end, and where another person’s begins and you maintain that line. You are able to stand up for yourself, without bullying or manipulation.

The Importance of Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

Successful relationships are composed of two individuals, each with a clear definition of his or her self, sharing themselves with each other. They are not a coupling of one person or both people feeding off each other to get their needs met.

Some people believe that ‘love’ consists of becoming totally absorbed by or engulfed in the other person. This is not true. Real love requires that each person be a healthy individual within themselves before they can form a healthy relationship together. If you are not happy alone, you will not be happy in a relationship.

Each person in a relationship needs a clear sense of who they are in order to clearly communicate their needs to their partner without manipulation or mind games. You can't do this if you are carrying someone else's emotions, blaming others for your behavior, or practicing someone else's beliefs.

One measure of healthy self esteem is how we manage our emotional boundaries. Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to protect ourselves from being manipulated by emotionally needy others. Healthy boundaries eliminate the need for blaming, emotional blackmail, manipulating and victimizing. If everyone in the relationship is responsible for their own behaviors, thoughts and feelings it eliminates a lot of pain and game playing.

Having healthy boundaries also makes the resolution of problems much more simple and clear. If someone hurts you, having healthy boundaries allows you to experience the hurt, know that you have a right to protest the hurt and stand up for yourself. You can do this by simply stating that you are feeling hurt and asking that the behavior not be repeated. If the person who caused the hurt decides to keep hurting you, healthy boundaries will allow you to walk away from someone who is hurting you. People with healthy boundaries do not allow themselves to be mistreated or abused. Healthy boundaries are not selfish. They allow a person to have a clear sense of how they experience things. They also allow a person to have empathy for others, without taking responsibility for them. Healthy boundaries create a good balance between taking care of yourself and being there for others without being manipulated or exploited.

The face of unhealthy boundaries

People with unhealthy boundaries often find themselves carrying the feelings, ideas or behavior of someone else, and are usually unaware of this violation or may have rationalized that it is justified. This is evident in relationships where there is ongoing abuse or in relationships where there is co-dependency or where one partner loves the other and will let them get away with anything and everything. A telling sign of having unhealthy boundaries is when one part of a couple believes they cannot live without the other. That they would die.

Without a solid foundation to who I am I cannot hope to weather strong emotional upheavals or protect myself from destructive situations. In this case “me” becomes very vulnerable to what people say and do to me, to the momentary problems that crop up and therefore I cannot regulate my emotions. I am likely to respond reflexively, unconsciously or on the basis of old “scripts” from my past. I am a slave to my irrational thoughts and feelings. 

In the case of an abusive relationship, one partner will walk on eggshells around the other to avoid making them mad or having them get violent. The abused partner subjugates their emotions, opinions and behaviors to the wishes of the other. If you are not allowed to have your own emotions, opinions or behaviors that is emotional abuse, and leaves no mark. In many ways, this is the ultimate boundary violation.

Types of Boundaries

There are five types of boundaries.

Physical – help us determine who may touch us, how to touch us and when we may be touched.

Spiritual – protect our spiritual beliefs. I set my boundaries on who I allow to know about my spirituality, who I share my beliefs and practices with and how I allow others to interact with me.

Sexual – I choose who I share my sexuality with, when and how I talk about sexuality, who I share my beliefs with. Sexual boundaries go beyond physical activity it includes jokes, comments, gestures, what I watch and listen to.

Emotional – my feelings need to be protected. My emotional boundary will include how others treat me, whether my emotions are respected and honored and how I treat others.

Intellectual – boundaries protect my experience of my intellect. To protect how others talk with me, whether my ideas and perceptions are considered and listened to. It is also includes my access to knowledge and learning.  

How to identify healthy and unhealthy boundaries in a relationship

When you give up your boundaries in a relationship you:

  • Are unclear about your preferences
  • Do not notice unhappiness since enduring is your concern
  • Alter your behavior, plans, or opinions to fit the current moods or circumstances of another (live reactively)
  • Do more and more for less and less
  • Take as truth the most recent opinion you have heard
  • Live hopefully while wishing and waiting
  • Are satisfied if you are coping and surviving
  • Let the other's minimal improvement maintain your stalemate
  • I have few hobbies because you have no attention span for self-directed activity
  • Make exceptions for a person for things you would not tolerate in anyone else/accept alibis
  • Are manipulated by flattery so you lose objectivity
  • Try to create intimacy with a narcissist
  • Are so strongly affected by another that obsession results
  • Will forsake every personal limit to get sex or the promise of it
  • See your partner as causing your excitement
  • Fell hurt and victimized but not angry
  • Act out of compliance and compromise
  • Do favors that you inwardly resist (cannot say no)
  • Disregard intuition in favor of wishes
  • Allow your partner to abuse your children or friends
  • Mostly feel afraid and confused
  • Are enmeshed in a drama that is beyond your control
  • Are living a life that is not yours, and that seems unalterable
  • Commit yourself for as long as the other needs you to be committed (no bottom line)
  • Believe you have no right to secrets

When your boundaries are intact in a relationship you:

  • Have clear preferences and act upon them
  • Recognize when you are happy/unhappy
  • Acknowledge moods and circumstances around you while remaining centered (live actively)
  • Do more when that gets results
  • Trust your own intuition while being open to other's opinions
  • Live optimistically while co-working on change
  • Are only satisfied if you are thriving
  • Are encouraged by sincere, ongoing change for the better
  • Have excited interest in self-enhancing hobbies and projects
  • Have a personal standard, albeit flexible, that applies to everyone and asks for accountability
  • Appreciate feedback and can distinguish it from attempts to manipulate
  • Relate only to partners with whom mutual love is possible
  • Are strongly affected by your partner's behavior and take it as information
  • Integrate sex so that you can enjoy it but never at the cost of your integrity
  • See your partner as stimulating your excitement
  • Let yourself feel anger, say "ouch" and embark upon a program of change
  • Act out of agreement and negotiation
  • Only do favors you choose to do (you can say no)
  • Honor intuitions and distinguish them from wishes
  • Insist others' boundaries be as safe as your own
  • Mostly feel secure and clear
  • Are always aware of choices
  • Are living a life that mostly approximates what you always wanted for yourself
  • Decide how, to what extent, and how long you will be committed
  • Protect your private matters without having to lie or be surreptitious

Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship, needless to say, is very hard. However, as you embark on this difficult journey, keep in mind that it is not only necessary but also very rewarding. Whilst the first step to getting out is recognizing that you are in fact being abused, the second starts with a decision and a concrete practical plan on how you're going to do it.

This resource will help you:
- think your situation through and help you draw a map for the journey of regaining your life. 

Are you thinking you might be either on the abusing or abused end of a relationship? If you’re thinking you might be, then you probably are!

This resource will help you:
- understand the dynamics of abusive relationships
recognize the signs of a potentially abusive relationship
identify types of abuse

The Drama Triangle

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See how we slip into the Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer roles to play seductive high energy drama games in order to avoid attention on our own personal accountability and vulnerability.

This resource will help you:

- understand the counterproductive dynamics of game playing
- recognize when games are being played
- identify your preferred role

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