Those who have experienced physical abuse are often advised by therapists to create physical boundaries with the abuser. In some extreme cases, that might warrant a restraining order.
The same method should be employed when toxic emotional abuse arises between two people.
It could very well be that a person turns to abusive behaviors after years of not exhibiting any, which will necessitate the need for a boundary.
It’s normal to feel weird about setting up a boundary, especially if there has been no previous need to protect yourself against someone.
People are not static beings, and circumstances change. The first thing to do is to ask yourself if you are indeed experiencing abuse and if you are at “the point of no return” with this person. Determine if it’s still possible to dialogue with this person. If not, look to see what is initiating the toxicity in the relationship.
Are you picking a fight by being passive-aggressive or are you on the receiving end of someone’s abuse? Look at your motives to see if something has changed. If you are the toxic one who is crossing someone else’s boundaries, then you need to focus on yourself. If you are the recipient of someone’s abuse, then you need to set up a boundary.
If you are the one to set up the boundary, then speak to that person in a neutral tone. Explain what you are seeing and the reasons it feels toxic to you.
If the person dismisses your observations or takes no responsibility for their behavior, then the boundary is warranted. Sometimes an abuser will blame you for “making me act this way” but that is just more avoidance. All relationships should be built on mutual respect and trust, which also includes respecting yourself enough to protect yourself against emotional abuse.
Even if it feels unnatural at the beginning to exercise your boundaries with people who are unwilling to respect you, it’s a necessary step to healing from and not experiencing more abuse.
You will learn to become stronger at exerting your needs instead of allowing abuse. People who are caregivers especially have a hard time putting up emotional boundaries, partly because they like to accommodate and help others.
There is nothing wrong with helping someone if you have extra resources, but you always need to consider the cost to yourself. It’s also important to recognize what is emotional abuse and what isn’t.
If you are enabling abuse, then you will need to learn to enact boundaries because the person abusing needs to be held accountable and not be accommodated despite their poor treatment of others.
Setting up emotional boundaries is not about keeping everyone out, it’s about knowing who is safe to let into a closer relationship with you.
It’s wise to want to align yourself with people who are similar in emotional maturity. It doesn’t mean you can’t have friends who think differently than you; only that the friends you choose for your “inner circle” will be the safe friends.
Enacting healthy boundaries is the protective fence around your personal space where only safe people are let into your life through the gate of wisdom. Auditing a person well before letting them through that gate is of paramount importance because then you will eliminate unnecessary toxic relationships from the get go.
If you aren’t sure if they’re safe, don’t bring them closer until you do. There is no hurry and you’re better off with fewer friends than having many that need constant attention. Emotional boundaries are the “self-care necessity” to enjoying much healthier mental health!
Bogdanos, M. (2017). How to Create Emotional Boundaries. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 22, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/07/10/how-to-create-emotional-boundaries/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Jul 2017
Originally published on PsychCentral.com on 10 Jul 2017. All rights reserved.