About breaking boundaries in pairs

Many problems in a pair can be avoided if the boundaries are right. To do this, you must clearly define how you can not be dealt with under any circumstances.

It is important to set boundaries at the very beginning of communication. And then make sure that they are strictly observed. What kind of partner’s behavior can be safely called unacceptable?

Unsolicited criticism

Veronica could change several outfits before getting her husband’s approval. The husband criticized everything. The skirt is too short (“I don’t want my wife to be like a prostitute”), then too long (“Are you going to the porch?”). The varnish chosen by the girl turned out to be “Vulgar”and the bag is “Cheap”… As a result, Veronica stopped buying clothes herself. Having come to a psychologist, the girl complained of self-doubt.

Unsolicited negative judgments about figure, clothing, or image are boundary violations. The partner should also not be allowed to call names or devalue you (“You drive like a chicken!”, “Who will take you to work like that!”). The critic puts himself in the position of an adult. He allows himself disapproving remarks, automatically assigning another person the place of an unintelligent child who needs constant control and guidance. But for a harmonious and healthy relationship in a couple, communication should take place on an equal footing. Remember that you and your partner are both adults.


Accusations

Cyril was constantly late. At a friendly party, an important business meeting or his sister’s anniversary – everywhere he invariably came later than everyone else. True, his wife Alina was always to blame. After all, it was she “his shoes were doing somewhere”, “she did not let him go to bed on time,” “she did not warn that the clock was being set.” When Alina went on a week-long business trip, Kirill was late, because Alina “called him at the wrong time.”

If a person is not able to take responsibility for his own actions, he has a great temptation to shift responsibility to another. This is how the mechanism that psychologists call projection works. A person sees his negative qualities or mistakes in his partner. If this happens in your relationship, it is a sign of blurry personal boundaries.

The control

Alla and Nikolay seem to be a wonderful prosperous family. Nikolay works a lot and with enthusiasm, and Alla runs the household, providing her husband with the “rear”. But behind this facade, Nikolai is gasping for breath. Nikolai’s salary card is with Alla, and his wife gives her husband money for gasoline and lunches in the office. Alla took over the family shopping and makes almost all important decisions: where and when to go to rest, whether you need a loan for a new car. Even in those areas where Nikolai could choose himself, he acts at the behest of his wife. Alla advises Nikolai to ask for a salary increase or offers to fire his secretary. Nikolai is grateful to his wife for her care. But at times he feels that he is living “some kind of a life that is not his.

This stifling concern is a controlling behavior. Often the one for whom decisions are made does not himself notice how his boundaries are violated more and more. Such distortions do not lead to family happiness. Indeed, in a healthy couple, each partner should bear his part of the responsibility for the relationship, without pulling the blanket over himself.

Manipulation

Katya had long wanted a fur coat, but she understood that her husband would not approve of the purchase. Victor is thrifty, and Katya already has a solid winter coat and a sheepskin coat. Then the woman convinced her husband that it was high time for him to update his wardrobe. Victor’s winter jacket is frayed, and he deserves much better. Victor protested, but Katya bought him several expensive things with assurances that she did not feel sorry for anything for her beloved. When soon Katya raised the issue of a mink coat, Victor had no choice but to agree to a purchase. Otherwise, he would look callous and ungrateful in relation to a caring and loving wife.

By communicating, we constantly influence others, and they influence us, whether we like it or not. But when one person quietly and deftly achieves his own benefit at the expense of a partner, regardless of his interests and desires, this is already a real manipulation. The victim does not realize that she is being manipulated, so she cannot fight back.

Threats and coercion

Alexander has been living with his unloved wife for many years and is burdened by this. But he cannot part with his wife. Lyudmila has a weak heart. If Alexander is not caring enough, his wife turns pale, suffocates and asks to urgently bring medicine. Lyudmila often tells her husband that she will not survive the divorce. And if she ends up in the hospital, she will tell everyone she knows who brought her to this state.

Unlike stifling control and unsolicited advice, threats and coercion are most often perceived by the participants in the relationship as pressure. However, having got used to living with blurred boundaries for years, people no longer know how to change the situation for the better.


If you realize that your boundaries in a couple are being violated, then it’s time to start rebuilding your personal space. The good news is that you are the person who has to show your partner where your boundaries lie. This means that the ball is on your side.

To build boundaries, you yourself need to clearly understand what is acceptable to you and what is not (for example, you cannot be beaten or you cannot be deceived). You need to rigorously require others to respect your boundaries. Always, and not from time to time, otherwise these are not boundaries, but whims that no one will take seriously.

For your boundaries to be strong, you yourself must not do what you consider unacceptable to others. For example, if you can’t stand yelling, never yell at your partner.

When you try to establish tighter personal boundaries after breaking them for years, those around you are likely to be very surprised. Indeed, everything was fine before, but now you are changing the rules. Be calm, firm, and consistent. Then your loved ones will receive a clear signal and will accept new rules for interacting with you.

It’s never too late to start building boundaries.

Good personal boundaries are the key to harmonious relationships and good mental health.

Lyudmila Ivanovskaya,
psychologist, trainer, specialist in the field of relations
and family constellations

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