Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Domestic Violence Treatment: Healing the Two Sides of Boundary Issues in Abusive Relationships

People say that domestic violence victims have serious boundaries issues...which they do. And so do the perpetrators that they live with. It comes with the territory of being in an abusive relationship.

You might think of it as two people having a tolerance for the actions of the other. Or, it can be seen as operant conditioning in play wherein one person conditions the other to surrender their boundaries for safety in the relationship. Abusive relationship help typically recognizes these boundary issues.

Abuser's Lack of Boundaries

From his point of view, "If you are in relation to him, he has the right to all that is you." For example, when he asks you a question, he expects you to deliver an answer—no matter what.

From his perspective, she merely appears as an extension of him. She does not come to the relationship with boundaries. To the contrary, should she interact with him as though she does have personal boundaries, then there are consequences.

These so-called consequences may be a continued tug-of-war, an attack on another front or some subtle punishment simply for her attempt to be herself. For when she is herself, he experiences it as his being slighted—the nerve of her not to deliver what he wants or expects.

Victim's Lack of Boundaries

Now whether she came to the relationship with porous boundaries or developed them in the context of the abusive relationship is debatable. Some people will tell you she lost her boundaries to stay "alive" amidst domestic abuse.

Other people will say that she wouldn't have gravitated to nor remained with an abusive partner if she had boundaries in the first place. The implication, of course, is that her lack of boundaries is what led to her staying in an abusive relationship. I think both are true.

Healing Boundaries Issues for the Abuser and for the Abused

A cornerstone of abusive relationship help involving effective domestic abuse counseling is teaching both people how to access, exercise and honor personal boundaries for themselves and for each other. This requires a relearning of interaction skills. And the good news is that it can indeed be done.

Both batterers and victims recognize that they are not responsible for the faulty learning that resulted in their boundary issues; rather, they are responsible to acknowledge and counteract their boundary issues. Their respective jobs are self-discovery, responsible interactive assertion and the ongoing honoring of one another, while honoring oneself.

If you are in an abusive relationship, which fails to honor and respect your personal boundaries, initiate a domestic violence intervention to ultimately break this dysfunctional dynamic before it spirals out of control.

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