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To tell you what I learned about maintaining boundaries with men?

(14 Posts)
stumblymonkeyreturns Sun 14-May-17 10:12:25

When I had been single for a few years interspersed by dating a few shitty men I paid to have a dating coach (yes, these exist and she was brilliant).

We talked about red flags and maintaining boundaries and she got me to do a really simple exercise which helped me so much.

I thought it might be helpful to some others...it's best to complete this while single if possible so it's not influenced by any particular person you're with and their bullshit justifications for their crappy behaviour circumstances.

Take two sheets of A4....one gets titled 'dealbreakers' and the other 'three strikes'.

On dealbreakers you write down those things that a man (or woman if bi/gay/male) could do or be which you would consider an absolute dealbreaker. No second chances. If they did this/were this, you'd be done immediately.

For me this was things like cheating of any kind (including kiss), not wanting to be married, any kind of physically abusive behaviour including raising a hand even if they didn't follow through, etc.

On the 'three strikes' page you list things that you would really not want in a relationship but they are not immediate dealbreakers.

With these the first time they do them it is your responsibility to communicate clearly but calmly how you feel about it. If they do it a second time it is your responsibility to remind them clearly but calmly that you had told them how you feel about it and that if it continued it would be a dealbreaker for you. If they do it again (third strike) you get rid.

It really, really helped me to be clear in my own head as to what I found acceptable or not and how I would deal with it in a relationship....

LedaP Sun 14-May-17 10:23:35

It sounds like a good starting point.

However those lists can change when you have been together a long time.

Women especially can find they put up with a lot more, when kids are involved.

For example i gre up in a family where sunday was for the men to go watch football at the pub and fall home drunk in time for the women outting on a huge sunday roast at my grandparents. As a result a big no no for me was a man obsessed with football and whose social life revolved around it and drinking. I also did not want to be with someobr who expected food on the table and thought the house was my job.

Now, after 15 years of marriage I wish dh did have a hobby and bloody went out more. I also realised that my aunties actually loved sundays. They got time with their mum and sisters (mum has no brothers that are alive) and the loved having all the kids playing together. They actually enjoyed Sundays as much as the men in the pub.

While getting hammered every week is still a big no no for me. I do want dh to go out more and have a social life outside me and the house. Which he is doing. Now the kids are older, i wouldnt even mind if it was every week.

I also want to get women to the point that signs of abuse dont have to be written down and pointed out as 'dealbreakers'. I want it to be ingrained in our children that walking away at the first sign of abuse. That it doesnt need listing as a dealbreaker.

Sorry that was long. I hope it made sense.

MargaretCavendish Sun 14-May-17 10:56:50

I think the problem is that identifying unacceptable behaviour in the abstract and identifying it in the person who love are very different. I'm lucky enough to have never been in an abusive relationship, but I think that women know in principle that, for instance, violence or extreme jealousy aren't ok. No one would go on the second date with a guy who hit them on the first one. But that's not how it happens - abusers get their victims trapped and vulnerable. Some things are also so subjective. I think one of my friend's partners is worryingly controlling. She says that he 'makes her feel like a queen', and I suspect she secretly pities me because my husband isn't overtly romantic and doesn't make big gestures. Now, both of us would put 'controlling' and 'doesn't make enough effort' on our list - but neither of us would see those qualities in our own relationships, even if we would in each others.

Kittencatkins123 Sun 14-May-17 11:07:33

Can you give an example of the three strikes stuff? I can't really understand why this is different from the dealbreaker as it ultimately becomes a dealbreaker if they do it three times? In which case surely it is just a dealbreaker?
Or maximum - if it is a slightly lesser evil - there should be two strikes? I.e. you let them know you're not up for that and then if they do it again it's dealbreaker time?
I just think three strikes could mean you waste quite a lot of time on someone you are not compatible with. But maybe I'm not understanding the 'strike' stuff.

IamalsoSpartacus Sun 14-May-17 11:44:26

I have a three strikes example. Mumsnet really helped me with it at the time.

Some men like to slap arses during sex. I won't accept being hit so this is a dealbreaker for me. But it would be unreasonable to boot them out of bed if the topic hadn't arisen.

I met a guy OLD and he slapped me on the arse. We stopped, and I said, I don't like that, please never do it again. A few days later he did it again. I reminded him that it was not acceptable to me and if it happened a third time that would be the end of our relationship. And lo, he did it again, and I dumped him.

He didn't accept being dumped, and came and parked on my drive until friends came to my rescue.

I was proud that I had upheld my boundaries and it was quite a scary eye-opener that he refused to accept my right to assert them.

IamalsoSpartacus Sun 14-May-17 11:48:52

I haven't read all of this paper in detail yet but I think it is another good resource - about building our 'shark cages' to protect from abusers. Some of us have strong shark cages because of the lessons we learnt growing up. Some of us have weak shark cages for the same reason and need to build them up.
www.psychotherapy.com.au/fileadmin/site_files/pdfs/SharkCage.pdf

Ship0fFools Sun 14-May-17 12:10:13

A good starting point when dating possibly but relationships evolve and boundaries change.

IamalsoSpartacus Sun 14-May-17 12:12:16

disagree - I am never going to accept being hit during sex.

Ship0fFools Sun 14-May-17 12:15:28

Not all boundaries, obviously.

WellThisIsShit Sun 14-May-17 12:21:31

I read the shark cage metaphor paper and think it has some very good points.

However it seems to focus only on meeting and spotting 'sharks' to avoid getting into a relationship with them. Which is a great start.

But often it's after you've let someone through the bars of the cage that abuse gradually starts. Granted this can be cut down on by identifying attacks to your boundaries/bars of the cage, but abuse is so insidious, that it won't keep out every shark.

And what do you do then? It's when your guard is down and you are enmeshed in each other's lives (finances, children, social groups etc). It's then that it's hardest to recognize and defend yourself from any abusive acts. It's then that lines become blurred and the person often believes the abudive partners excuses or reinvention of what happens.

WellThisIsShit Sun 14-May-17 12:25:37

But, like Iam, some boundaries are clearer to enforce and unchanging smile

Although thinking about it, I wonder if someone else with more confused boundaries might end up in a situation of doing something she doesn't enjoy or like in bed... and wouldn't see it as simple as 'No arse slapping. Full stop!'

It is easier to enforce boundaries right from the start and show that your boundaries are not now and not ever up for being pushed aside, or any flexing by any means; persuasion, threats or blackmail etc.

IamalsoSpartacus Sun 14-May-17 12:38:55

It took me a lot of work to get to the point where I was able to set the boundary and enforce it - I am still getting over 2 years in an emotionally abusive relationship and do agree that there is a real need to be able to recognise the red flags and boundary violations as they arise. I was very fortunate in that although my EA ex wanted to get me pregnant it didn't happen so I was free to leave once I finally understood what was happening.

The shark cage paper does talk about existing relationships towards the end and flags up a few other resources which I want to check out.

If I'd known about MN when I was in that relatinship I think I would have been out of it much sooner. There's a 'what were your red flags' thread running at the moment and they are very familiar!

I wonder if for balance there should be a third page about the positive things you look for in a relationship?

WellThisIsShit Tue 16-May-17 09:21:36

Yes I'm not dismissing the good things in the shark cage smile

Just pondering on what I felt instinctively is missing for me... and it's the maintaining / reasserting boundaries within a relationship that's the sticky bit for me.

I guess you could argue that by creating a strong sharks cage you don't let anyone in that could ever be abusive... but it's a bit too black and white if that's the only way you can guard your own boundaries. And actually, it's a hell of a lot easier to reject strangers due to alarm bells ringing, than to maintain strong and healthy boundaries within your everyday relationships with close family etc.

I also think it doesn't reflect the more nuanced and insidious way abusive relationships unfold. My 'husband' (speech marks as he's not my husband in anything else but law, and I can't say stbxh as he won't soon be, as that involve many contacting him which I can't/ don't want to do).

Anyway, him, if I'd have had a sharks cage I'd hope he'd have got repelled very early on. But, if he hadn't been, his behaviour evolved as he tested boundaries over time and squashed them down, and I had no defense to that as I didn't know how to enforce my own boundaries and needs... and had a lot of guff in my head about true love being about forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance, support and developing together etc.

I guess I'm saying... great analogy and I can see it's a very useful and insightful tool. But I think they need to extend the metaphor to include a Step 2:

Boundaries within intimacy.

Maybe that step is about exploring the positives you want/need as well? Your 3rd page...

WellThisIsShit Tue 16-May-17 09:29:28

Btw having come out of an abusive marriage 5 yrs ago, and cut all contact 3 yrs ago, I've been completely alone since.

I'd love to find someone, but I know I'm not fixed enough... but i can't be resigned to being alone for the rest of my life.

I'd like to learn / relearn how to 'do' a healthy relationship and get myself some skillz!

Working through a lot of my personal baggage, but I think it's beyond that too. Learning new stuff, not just digging through the bad stuff iyswim?

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