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When a loved-one has traits of Borderline Personality

Monday, December 6, 2010

Do You Have Healthy Boundaries?

Posted by   on Pinterest reminds us of the importance of honoring our own values.

Everyone has a personal code of values.  We all have codes with respect to finances, romance, parenting, lifestyle preferences, personal safety and faith.   Boundaries are what we communicate as reasonable and permissible ways for other people to behave around us and not violate our code.   For example, a recovering alcoholic may communicate that he doesn't want to participate in group events involving alcohol or a women may communicate the she doesn't want any time of physical touching during an argument. 

Many of us believe one thing but communicate or signal something very different and are then hurt when our boundaries are not respected.  This can be a particular problem when a loved one has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  People with BPD often have poor judgment with respect to others.

To defend our boundaries, we must be clear about our own values, we must communicate them to others, we must conduct ourselves in way that other see our commitment to our values,  and we must respond when someone crosses over our limits.

When we respect and defend our boundaries it is a sign of healthy self care.   For example, it's not enough to tell others that drinking and driving is bad.  We must never let others see us drink and drive.  We must never ride with others who have been drinking.   It is the power to say “no” and the strength to stand behind it.   Defining, communicating, being a role model, and defending boundaries is how we protect ourselves so that we aren’t hurt or taken advantage of. 

Unfortunately, many of us don’t do this well and allows others to take advantage of us or harm us in some very painful ways. While there are a variety of possible reasons, many based on a low sense of self esteem, there are times when our inability to stand by our boundaries is based on fear.  We fear the consequences if we say “no” or we are just too worn out from what seems like a constant battle, so we give in.

If your gut clenches up at the thought of defending a boundary, then it is possible that your fears are actually preventing you from taking care of yourself. How? If you fear a person’s anger more than you fear riding in the car with someone who’s been drinking, then your honor them is more than you honor yourself. If you fear stating your boundaries, then you allowing someone else to determine what you need or deserve. Essentially, your fears are allowing others to manipulate and control you.

Sheer exhaustion can also weaken your ability to have boundaries. Example, your young teenager nags and nags and nags you to lend them the money and to give them permission to attend a concert (which runs way past curfew, and which isn’t intended for young kids), till you finally just give in. Your spouse wants to go on a fancy vacation way beyond your budget. After months of badgering, ridiculing, and nagging, you finally agree to go – even though you aren’t sure how you will pay for it. By giving in you are taking the path of least resistance and getting some relief from the pressure the other person has placed on you with their constant pushing and badgering. You are also signaling to them that you don't really have a boundary, guaranteeing that they will use the same tactic the next time they want something from you.

To overcome a fear based aversion to defending boundaries, you must first admit to them. Admitting that you are afraid of someone’s reaction can help you examine your fears, which is the next step – analyzing what you fear – someone’s anger. To reduce and control your fears, you need to analyze and dissect them. Are they based on distortions or will you really be killed if you are late coming home? If they are based on threats you’ve been told, is the threat of their anger worse than the fear of dying? Do you believe the person would actually follow through on their threats? Can you face that threat and follow it through to it’s logical conclusion – and envision how you would cope if it came true? Would you be able to survive? What are you realistic options? Facing your fears and making plans removes a lot of the power they have over you.

If sheer exhaustion is wearing you down, then you need to practice better self care. Just like when your body is wore down it is more susceptible to getting sick, so is your emotional strength wore down when it feels drained and empty. Making the time to do things for yourself is critical to help balance out your emotional strength. This could take the form of getting some alone time, meeting with supportive friends or family members, engaging in activities that rejuvenate you, or getting some personal therapy to help you with rebuilding your inner strength. Essentially, the better we feel about ourselves the easier it is to withstand stressful situations and the pressure others place on us.

The bottom line  -  if you don't believe in your code of values - no one will.

Examples of Boundaries
  • Demarcation of where you end and another begins and where you begin and another ends.
  • Limit or line over which you will not allow anyone to cross because of the negative impact of its being crossed in the past.
  • Established set of limits over your physical and emotional well-being which you expect others to respect in their relationship with you.
  • Emotional and physical space you need in order to be the real you without the pressure from others to be something that you are not.
  • Healthy emotional and physical distance you can maintain between you and another so that you do not become overly enmeshed and/or dependent.
  • Balanced emotional and physical limits set on interacting with another so that you can achieve an interdependent relationship of independent beings who do not lose their personal identity, uniqueness and autonomy in the process.
  • Set of parameters which make you a unique, autonomous and free individual who has the freedom to be a creative, original, idiosyncratic problem solver.
Authors: United for Now, Skip provides support, education, tools, and perspective to individuals with a loved one affected by Borderline Personality Disorder. BPFamily is a non-profit, co-op of nearly 75,000 volunteer members and alumni formed in 1998. We welcome you to join our free 24 hour on-line support community with its nearly 3 million postings and grow with us as we learn to live better lives in the shadow of this disorder. For more information or to register, please click here.

    Write comments
    1. This is a very good article and I commend the authors on making sense out of this often misunderstood topic of "boundaries". After all, isn't "healthy boundaries" simply about having the knowledge and strength to make healthy choices in life? Isn’t poor boundaries about making bad choices or being fearful to stand by your beliefs.

      For example, if you didn’t learn what a healthy relationship is (both your part and your partners) or you are too weak to learn or to make the choices and sacrifices consistent with having a healthy relationship, how can you possibly expect to have a healthy relationship?

      Many people make poor, ill informed, fear driven decisions for years and years and then seek to resolve the resulting chaos by finding fault with the very environment and people that they surround themselves with and feel that they are a helpless victim of them.

      Sure, it's a difficult dose of medicine to take responsibility for making a mess in our life, but isn't this what we need to do? Admit our errors and redirect ourselves?

      All to often we ignore the facts, deceive ourselves, fear failure, deflect mistakes, blame others, excuse ourselves, hide our struggles, change the subject, and avoid seeking help from those that can help us.

    2. Seems to me that this is how one should address pwBPD successfully.

    3. This is something I have always found difficult, and living with a partner with BPD has made me take a long, hard look at my boundary setting skills.

      I felt guilty before for "pushing my own needs" or "not thinking of others". But actually, I've come to realise that healthy boundaries are not about being self centred or difficult. It's about taking care of myself.

      I think that I learned early in childhood to be a "good girl" and not push for what I wanted or take my own needs into account. The result was that in my relationship with my BPD partner I became exhausted. He doesn't have the capacity to look out for me in a meaningful way, and I wasn't doing it either. If he wants something or has a feeling that goes against what I feel, he will push my boundaries as hard as he can. And I didn't know how to take care of myself. A recipe for disaster.

      It's tough to start setting boundaries. What I found the most enlightening is that boundaries are all about me. I don't need my partner's approval or agreement to set a boundary. I don't even have to tell him. My life, my boundary, my responsibility to uphold it. Scary at first, but also liberating! I wish I had known about HEALTHY boundaries before.