Healing from Domestic Abuse – The Creation
and Implication of Fuzzy Versus Firm Boundaries
by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.
This is an important lesson for anyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship, either with a parent or with an intimate partner. It’s a lesson that requires clear and focused integration and application, yet this lesson is all too often ignored.
Read on to learn about the conditioning of fuzzy boundaries in abusive relationships...
The Fuzzy Boundaries of Abusive Relationships
Abusive relationships have implied rules with respect to boundaries. These rules create and maintain fuzzy boundaries that support the power and control tactics of the abusive relationship.
For example, checking out cell phone messages, numbers called, emails sent and received, as well as the contents on one’s hard drive and in one’s purse or wallet is common practice in abusive relationships.
The abusive party will snoop to confirm a hunch or as a fishing expedition. Then, once something is found, they will hold it in the mind’s eye as a club to clobber their partner with in real life.
More often than not, the abused loses herself/himself in the dance over what was found. Rarely is issue taken with the violation of their personal space—their personal boundaries.
Mutual Conditioning in Abusive Relationships
Both parties’ fixation on the “evidential findings” remains well beyond the trespassing of boundaries. Yet, at a core level, the victim continues to feel violated as a result of the intrusion.
Since nothing is said about this violation, the relationship message supporting fuzzy boundaries remains intact—and is actually strengthened. The abuser is conditioned to trample his/her partner’s boundaries and the abused conditions herself/himself to expect the same.
The abuser actually believes he/she is entitled to penetrate her/his personal space and possess her/his outer and inner world. And the abused goes along with this intrusion so as not to rock the boat. For she/he knows should that happen, the bigger “one” is just around the corner.
In some respects you might conclude that the victim is motivated by their fear of what their partner might do. While this is appropriate to abusive relationships, when carried over into other relationships, it can create interpersonal havoc.
Boundary Lessons for Domestic Violence Survivors
If you continue to assume responsibility for other people’s aggressions and affections, then you are setting yourself up for a perfect fit with another abuser. If, on the other hand, you recognize that you are not responsible for another person’s feelings and behavior, you open a new door. You free yourself up to hone in on taking responsibility for your own feelings and behavior.
And with this, you can learn to effectively voice your limits and teach others to honor and respect your boundaries. Once done, you will find yourself experiencing your own integrity within your personal relationships.
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Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.