By Jamey Sheesley
Creating boundaries may seem like an easy thing to do, but for those who have experienced domestic violence, it may be more difficult since so many boundaries were already crossed.
It is important to know the different types of boundaries that need to be set. According to DomestcShelters.org there are five major boundaries:
- Physical boundaries
- Emotional boundaries
- Material boundaries
- Spiritual boundaries
- Mental boundaries
When creating your physical boundaries, you need to know that you are the boss of your own body and you have the power to let someone touch it or not. If anyone touches your body in a way you do not approve, you have every right to tell that person not to touch you like that. In addition, you do not need to rush into being physical with anyone. You have already been hurt, so it is alright to set a boundary on the physical relationship. There is no timeline on when you need to get physical with your new partner. According to Love Is Respect, sex is not currency and you do not owe your partner anything even if they took you out to dinner or bought you nice things.
Physical boundaries go past sex. For example you may not like certain parts of foreplay due to previous experiences with an abuser. It is perfectly okay to let your current partner know you do not like what they are doing and tell them not to do it again. Remember you have a right to tell your partner no at any time even if they are pressuring you. Remind them that no means no.
If you were physically abused in the past, whether it is sexual abuse or any type of physical violence, you might feel uncomfortable setting these boundaries. It is easy to go back to the old mindset that you do not own your body and others can do whatever they want with it. Do not let those feelings take over; you are in command of your body. If someone gets physical with you in ways you do not like, you do not have to sit there and take it. Stand your ground and set your boundaries.
Emotional boundaries mean you are in control of your feelings and your thoughts. No one should tell you how to feel or how you should think, but if they do, you have every right to stop them.
It also okay to spend time apart from your partner. If you want alone time, let them know. You should not have to feel smothered by someone in a relationship in order to be happy. If your partner starts smothering you, let them know it is bothering you and that you need space.
Emotional happiness is a big part of any successful relationship. Your partner needs to respect your feelings and thoughts. If they do not respect you, do not tolerate their behavior. Know your self-worth and move on. Emotional boundaries may be difficult to establish after going through an abusive relationship because the abuser conditioned you to believe that this type of behavior was okay. Fight those old feelings because it is not okay. You have every right to feel and to be who you are.
What are material boundaries? According to DomesticShelters.org, material boundaries are your material belongings, such as your phone or money. If you have ever been in an abusive relationship, your abuser probably took your phone and scrolled through it to make sure you were not cheating on them or talking about them to anyone else. These boundaries are huge. It is not okay to go through someone’s phone without that person’s permission. If you find your significant other going through your phone, let them know they crossed a boundary even if they are doing it for reasons that are not to hurt you. It is okay to have a password on your phone and not give it to your partner.
Also, do not let them pressure you into borrowing your car, money, or anything else you do not feel comfortable with. You are not obligated to lend your significant other anything. This may go against what you know because you did anything in your past to keep your abuser happy, even if it was letting them borrow your car when you did not feel comfortable with it. This is a different relationship and it is better to set these boundaries early on. If they continue to pressure you, then move on. You do not need to go down the same road you just got away from. Respect yourself and know you deserve the best.
Spiritual boundaries are any faith-based beliefs you may have. There is nothing wrong with spiritually believing what you believe. If your significant other cuts you down or makes you feel less than for your beliefs, remind them that you are allowed to hold your own belief system or even none at all. Let them know this is who you are and if they do not like it, they do not have to be with you. Set those boundaries because the right person will respect your spiritual beliefs.
Mental boundaries are your thoughts and opinions on various parts of life. For example, maybe you do not like roller coasters, but your significant other does. If they start to cut you down or call you names for not liking those things it is not okay. You have every right to your own opinion. If your partner starts putting you down over something, no matter how small it is, let them know it is not okay. If they are a decent person, they will respect these boundaries.
Your abuser probably crossed this boundary multiple times per day. Anything from what television shows you liked or what your personal opinions were on a certain type of food. It is okay to like what you like, that is what makes you a unique individual.
Boundaries let you live your life healthier and happier. They let others know what you will not tolerate. They also weed out the abusers. Abusers do not like boundaries because they cannot dig in and hurt you as bad. So keep those boundaries strong and let yourself be happy. Boundaries let you have the freedom to be happy.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.