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For those of you who had abusive upbringings, how have you managed to fix your boundaries?

(33 Posts)
applemac Tue 18-Nov-14 08:25:17

I've posted on here many times, probably under different names about the shitty relationships I've got myself into and then struggled to get myself out of. I was parented in a way which made me feel that my feelings came below everyone else's. I think it's possible either or both of my parents have a personality disorder.

Recently I posted about a man I had been seeing who was pressurising me to do things I didn't want to during sex. I've stopped seeing him but part of me still wants to see him again. I won't do this but I guess I'm frustrated about why I don't feel the overwhelming urge to get away from these people, the minute they do something abusive. My dd's father was also abusive and enjoyed physically hurting me during sex. This was about 7 years ago and I struggled to get out of that relationship.

I have had pretty extensive counselling

applemac Tue 18-Nov-14 08:27:05

For two years. The therapist was very good - she helped me to fix many of my issues. But the relationship one is still a big problem. The therapist I had before is now retired. How do you find one who specialises in people who have issues with boundaries?

I'm wondering if you post on the stately homes threads, what have you managed to in the way of damage limitation?

applemac Tue 18-Nov-14 17:07:16


GoatsDoRoam Tue 18-Nov-14 17:21:19

Most therapists will be able to help you with your boundary issues. When you shop around for a new one, state clearly that you want to work on your difficulty setting limits with romantic partners, and ask them how they think they might help you.

How to fix things? Pretty much like for any new behaviour you are trying to learn: Time, awareness, and practice. It is entirely feasible.

You can do it.

divetastic Tue 18-Nov-14 18:27:43

For me, the first step was recognising that I actually needed some boundaries. Second was to figure out what those boundaries were (learning what were genuinely unacceptable behaviours and also what were personally unacceptable). Lastly, learning to enforce those boundaries and spot people who are going to overstep them...

I found sites like baggage reclaim useful for understanding it to start with. Mostly I just spent a fair bit of time single, figuring out who I was and learning to trust (and listen to) my own feelings. To start with I'd almost have an internal conversation with myself about things trying to work out how things made me feel (even stupid stuff like 'do I want to go out tonight?') After a while I was 'tuned in' enough that I didn't actively have to keep stopping to think about how things made me feel.

From there its just about treating yourself with respect and compassion. Ask yourself would I let someone I care about be treated like that? If the answer is no, don't accept the behaviour! I'm sure you don't want to see your daughter being treated the way you have been. Every time someone is treating you badly and you let them, imagine what you would do if it was her being treated like that.

applemac Tue 18-Nov-14 18:28:58

Thank you Goats. I am sure it is possible. I know intellectually what's correct and I just want to feel different emotionally.

applemac Tue 18-Nov-14 18:30:12

Thank you dive. Sure, I would be horrified if she were treated that way.

Chrysanthemum5 Tue 18-Nov-14 18:36:32

I've really struggled with this. I've had counselling on and off but it didn't really help. My father and ex-H were both abusive. I met DH and he turned out to be lovely. But I didn't respect myself enough to expect that if you see what I mean.

Over the years DH has really helped. If I'm unsure about things I'll talk it over with him and he will help me see what I want to do - he's very good at being assertive.

I've now got a new counsellor who is really helping me understand boundaries. One thing that helps is understanding that I deserve to be treated with respect, and it's ok to say no.

I'm pretty old and sometimes I despair that my past still haunts me, but then I try to be kind to myself!

Woozlebear Tue 18-Nov-14 18:36:48

I'm honestly not sure, and, weirdly I've never asked myself.

However, I suspect that the answer is - within weeks of turning 18 I got myself into a horrific and utterly textbook abusive relationship. Over 3 year I was physically beaten, psychologically bullied, isolated from all friends and family, my tastes and interests belittled until they virtually disappeared, my career choice sabotaged. I was , at the end, raped, and left in absolute tatters with anxiety problems that plague me a decade later.

I think I had to reach absolute rock bottom to be able to recognise abuse for what it is, and why I needed to stop it, rather than absorbing it and internalising it as a normal part of life.

hamptoncourt Tue 18-Nov-14 19:49:27

Absolutely agree with divetastic re baggage reclaim.

That site literally saved my life and has set me on the road to being a far more assertive person with boundaries ( I wasn't allowed any growing up) and far higher standards of what I would accept in terms of behaviour from anyone, not just romantic partners.

The site is amazing and would recommend to anyone experiencing heartbreak or who has issues with relationships - you can find it here

LadyBlaBlah Tue 18-Nov-14 20:10:14

Sounds really flippant but it's also developing self-control.

I used to read baggage reclaim and totally get it, but then easily slip into bad habits.

Self control is the thing that will get you through the moments of 'slipping back'

Loads of googleable techniques on it.

russellgrantschin Tue 18-Nov-14 20:35:36

I have also struggled with this.

One of the biggest concepts to get over is that it isn't always a case of people trying to ram down your boundaries, and you having to keep them up. It took me a long time to realise that the only type of relationship/friendship I knew how to have was one where I was constantly compromising myself, so I used to choose people for my life who would reinforce the only dynamic I knew.

The psychologically healthy/non abusive people I met were like ships in the night and the dynamic of mutual giving and receiving and respecting of boundaries was alien to me, so even if they were part of my life, I often thought there was something 'wrong' (I later realised they were just not co-dependent, like I was) and abandoned the relationship.

I'd say go with some of the feelings that feel alien and new to you when you meet people. Initially, with people who respect your boundaries you will not feel the same kind of chemistry or familiarity as you do with people who don't. But if you roll with it, you'll soon find a new normal.

BeeOrchid Tue 18-Nov-14 20:58:16

There's some great advice on this thread, thanks for asking the question OP. I'm another who doesn't have good boundaries and it's something I've puzzled over.

Off to baggage reclaim.

alongcamespiders Tue 18-Nov-14 21:21:34

Similar boat to you, am only just learning boundaries at the ripe old age of 42. I think this has come about partly as a consequence of becoming a parent , I don't want my kids to repeat my patterns and I don't want them to see me suffer.

alongcamespiders Tue 18-Nov-14 21:25:28

I am also just learning about co dependency and possibly about being an empath (early days of learning about this) fascinating how we are made up and how abusers etc can spot when we have weak boundaries and know when to pounce.

pdxs Wed 19-Nov-14 13:27:50

This has been a difficult ongoing issue for me... because of how my family was (and my parents' family to them)

What helped was: therapy, learning about code pendent, getting more emotionally healthy friends (in time), a few books...

Sometimes it helps to think.. would I be okay with it if someone treated my friend /child that wat

Good luck - it's worth it

TheLittleOneSaidRollOver Wed 19-Nov-14 19:12:56

Watching how normal people interact and do the same thing.

Decide how you want to be treated instead of thinking up ways of stopping baddies abusing you. Once you have decided how you want to be treated, you are completely intolerant of any deviation from that scenario. Does that seem too harsh?

Healthy people cut out toxic people very quickly when they overstep boundaries, even small boundaries, so it never gets far.

Those of us with abusive backgrounds sometimes agonise over whether and how to cut out people, about how to protect ourselves, whether it is "fair" to cut that person out now, whether we should accept the person's behaviour because they've been through a tough time, how can we help them, how they are good underneath if only we could get them to change a few things, if only they would let us help them etc.

Healthy people don't bother with all that, they just quickly dump the loser (friend, wannabe boyfriend, etc).

The biggest step for me fortunately came in my teenage years: that understanding and accepting are two different things. I can understand why you behave as you do, however, I don't have to accept you treating me badly, I can walk away and never see you again.

There is a little bit of recognising that you are no-one's saviour. You aren't that special. They aren't that broken. He/she is an intelligent adult, even if they've had a hard life, they could choose to behave differently, if they don't that's their choice, your only choice is over how you wish to be treated.

As a rough rule of thumb I'd say it is not your job to fix someone else unless they are under 18 and share half your DNA.

applemac Wed 19-Nov-14 20:36:03

Thank you so much for your replies. As a teenager - early 20s I definitely felt that it was my job to fix people which is why I ended up with my ex husband who was cold and emotionally unavailable (he still is and now his children are the ones on the receiving end sadly!) I don't feel it is my job to fix people any more but I still find it hard to cut ties with people I'm attracted to.

It makes so much sense what some of you say. I have terrible feelings of guilt when I cut someone off. Exactly as you said, 'is it fair' etc. I have managed to stay away from the last person I was involved with but part of me wants to see him again. I know this is ridiculous and I believe I will not see him again.

applemac Wed 19-Nov-14 20:46:22

Russell - yes! The people who I have felt the strongest attraction to were the most abusive sad

saltnpepa Wed 19-Nov-14 20:47:33

Always listen to your feelings. Put yourself first always

applemac Wed 19-Nov-14 20:56:01

I'm 34

CatKisser Wed 19-Nov-14 20:56:18

I had a fairly shitty upbringing in many ways, despite an outwardly "naice" appearance. In a nutshell, my mum's alcoholism, combined with the fact we didn't talk about such things, caused me a lot and anger and hate. Absolutely no self worth to speak of and was raped at 15. Obviously couldn't tell anyone.

I've never EVER had a decent boyfriend. Not one. They've all been either cheats or sexually abusive. One did something really awful to me and I remember lying there crying because I wasn't as "good" at sex as the women he looked at online....etc. etc. Not Good.

Bar a couple of ONS and FWBs, I've pretty much been single for the last years. It's done THE WORLD of good for me in every way possible. I've developed my career, I'm independent and I know I would never, EVER accept poor treatment in a relationship again. I don't know why the thought of singledom is so hellish to so many people - it will make you into the strongest person you can be.

applemac Wed 19-Nov-14 20:59:07

I'm fine with being single. But even with fairly low commitment relationships I seem to end up on the receiving end of shitty behaviour.

I have began to wonder if I'm also a sex addict and whether that actually complicates the issue even more.

CatKisser Wed 19-Nov-14 21:03:33

Well going without sex can get you really down - I hate going without it for too long. However, even casual relationships should involve mutual respect and shitty behaviour. I seriously believe some men have finely honed radars that allow them to seek out vulnerable people. sad

GoatsDoRoam Wed 19-Nov-14 21:04:38

That's a great post LittleOne.

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