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  • Kevin Patton

Bad Love and Boundaries

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Red Flags in Relationships

Some red flags indicate undeniable truths. The wise partner will memorize, pay attention to, and utilize these signs of as opportunities to re-examine the relationship – or to exit, if necessary.

Tell yourself the truth about your relationship. Take the quiz to see if any universal red flags are present in your current relationship. If you‟re not currently dating anyone, answer the questions as they relate to one or more of your past relationships, whether serious or casual.

Is this relationship going in a direction that meets your needs?

Tick all the following that apply even if only remotely:

You feel uncomfortable about something they have said or done, and the feeling remains

You often feel mad or scared, or they remind you of someone else you know with a serious problem.

You wish they would go away, you want to cry, and you want to run away from them.

You dread their phone calls

You are often bored with them.

You think no one else in their life understands them.

You think no one else in their life has ever really loved them/helped them.

You think you are the only one who can help/love/understand them.

You have the urge to “love them into emotional wellness,” if that were possible.

You think or wish you could help them “change” or “fix” their life.

You let them borrow money from you or ask your friends to lend them money.

You feel bad about yourself when you are around them.

You only feel good about yourself when you are with them.

You find your identity in your relationship with them.

You feel they want too much from you.

You are emotionally tired from them; you feel they “suck the life out of you.”

Your value system and theirs are very different, and it‟s problematic

Your past and theirs are very different, and the two of you have conflicts over it.

You tell your friends you are “unsure about the relationship.”

You feel isolated from other relationships with friends and family.

You think they‟re too charming or a little “too good to be true.”

You feel in the wrong because they are always right and go to great lengths to show you they are right.

You are uncomfortable because they continually say they know what is best for you.

You notice they need you too frequently, too much, or too intensely

You wonder if they really understand you or instead just claim to.

You feel uncomfortable because they have touched you inappropriately too soon.

You notice they quickly disclose information about their past or present or their emotional pain.

You sense they are pushing too quickly for an emotional connection with you.

They push you early on in the relationship to disclose information about your past.

Although you don‟t believe it, they claim to feel an immediate connection with you (a sign of false intimacy).

You see them as a chameleon; you notice they can change to please whoever is in their presence.

You notice how soon they tell you about their earlier failed relationships and about their previous partners and their flaws.

You notice they mostly talk about themselves, their plans, and their future.

You notice they spend a lot of time watching violent movies or TV or playing violent video games; they can be preoccupied with violence, death, or destruction.

You have heard them confess to a current or previous drug addiction.

You have information about major relationship problems that they handled poorly.

They have confessed that they have been violent in the past

You know they have multiple children by multiple partners, are inconsistent in paying child support, or rarely see their children; you find yourself blaming the ex-partner for this

You find yourself accepting them “for now” even though you have plenty of red flags that would help you to terminate the relationship if you paid attention to them.

You find that you would rather be entertained in this go-nowhere relationship than be bored alone.

You make excuses for why you are dating them.

You make excuses for their character and minimize their behaviour.

Your friends or family don‟t want to be around them.

You make excuses and don‟t allow others to be around them because of what they think of them.

How many did you tick?

Setting boundaries is essential if we want to be both physically and emotionally healthy.

Creating healthy boundaries is empowering. By recognizing the need to set and enforce limits, you protect your self-esteem, maintain self-respect, and enjoy healthy relationships.

Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries

Telling all

Talking at an intimate level on first meeting

Falling in love with a new acquaintance

Falling in love with anyone who reaches out

Being overwhelmed by a person - preoccupied

Acting on first sexual impulse

Being sexual for partner, not self

Going against personal values or rights to please others

Not noticing when someone else displays inappropriate boundaries

Not noticing when someone invades your boundaries

Accepting food, gifts, touch, sex that you don't want

Touching a person without asking

Taking as much as you can get for the sake of getting

Giving as much as you can give for the sake of giving

Letting others direct your life

Expecting others to fill your needs automatically

Falling apart so someone will take care of you

Self Harm

Sexual and physical abuse

Drug, alcohol and tobacco use to manage mood

Using food to manage mood

Healthy boundaries are:

Conscious A boundary has to be present in your awareness to some degree or else you may be unable to set it or let it go if you choose to.

Appropriate The boundary has to be appropriate for what‟s going on in your life right now; how you‟re feeling, who you‟re with, what you‟re aiming to achieve etc.

Protective The boundary is there to protect the wellbeing and integrity of yourself and those around you.

Clear You need to be clear about the boundary with yourself and with others with whom you are setting the boundary.

Firm You need to be clear about how firm you want your boundary to be. You are in control of this.

Flexible To have healthy boundaries you also need to be flexible. There are times when you may need your boundary to be rock solid in a particular area and others when you may need to relax it or let it go in order to get what you want or need.

Receptive You should always be aware of whether it would be useful, helpful or enjoyable for you to loosen your boundaries in order to let in another person or experience.

Healthy boundaries are not:

Set by others To be healthy ones boundaries must be your own. You may have spent a lot of your life with other people telling you what to do and feel and often modelling unhealthy boundaries. Some members of your family or even partners may be influencing your life and encroaching on your boundaries in ways that you find painful. By being aware of this and setting boundaries which feel right to you rather than ones which you have been told you should have you can take more control and stop feeling the pain of not meeting expectations placed on you by other people and with which you do not agree.

Primarily hurtful or harmful When you set or loosen a boundary the intention should not be to hurt other people but it may never-the-less be painful to them. It may also be painful to you. What you may need to consider under these circumstances is how hurtful may it may be to you or others in the long run if you do not set the limits or boundary.

Controlling or manipulating One definition of manipulation is when a person tries to influence or get something from another indirectly. So your boundaries should not be set to get something from, or to effect other people in any way, but rather to ensure your well-being and integrity. If we consider the effect on other people too much when setting our boundaries we may end up feeling enmeshed or co-dependent with others.

A wall A healthy boundary does not cut you off from people or experiences unless you consciously choose not to be relating to them right now.

Eg in recovery you set a boundary whereby you choose not to be in any kind of relationship with your drug of choice and not to take it. A wall can be far too rigid to be healthy; consider the difference between a wall and skin. A wall may start off with a useful purpose but may end up cutting you off and not letting others in. You may lose some choices because of its “all or nothing” nature and may end up feeling isolated.

10 Practical Rules of Boundaries

(1) Behavioral ownership. Take responsibility for behaviors and their consequences. Result, it builds an internal sense of control (as opposed to feeling out-of-control).

(2) Ownership of feelings. “I‟m not in charge of or responsible for your feelings.” I am responsible for my feelings in an adult to adult manner.

(3) Personal power. I only have power over myself. I can‟t change someone else.

(4) Self-respect teaches me to respect others‟ boundaries.

(5) Healthy motives increase the freedom to say “no” (or “yes”) without guilt.

(6) Not all pain is bad pain. (Sometimes healthy boundaries come with some pain).

(7) Be consistent. Mean business. Reactive phases are normal when resetting boundaries but don‟t get stuck there.

(8) Boundaries reduce anger. Lack of boundaries builds resentments.

(9) Assertive boundaries aren’t secret, they are expressed and practiced.

(10) Boundaries help us to show up and stay present, and give voice to our needs and preferences.

Boundary signals. “Signal anxiety,” the manageable anxiety that tells us something is going wrong with our boundaries. It is the signal that tells us it is time to set and/or maintain our boundaries. Signal anxiety is different from flooding with anxiety. With signal anxiety we are still functioning pretty well, with flooding we are overwhelmed and unable to function well. “Anger” is sometimes the signal that our boundaries are in danger and it is time to fight for them. “Fear” is sometimes the signal that our boundaries are being violated and it is time to retreat. If we listen to these signals early, our relationships won‟t build up with unmanageable levels of stress and conflict quite so easily.

In my next blog, we will look at how to be assertive about your boundaries. In the meantime, I'm going to leave with some questions

Think about one relationship that you feel you have healthy boundaries in. Why do you feel it has healthy boundaries?

Think about a relationship which you feel does not have healthy boundaries in it. What would you like to change about this relationship?

How will you make these changes?

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