When Giving your all Isn’t Good Enough- Healthy Personal Boundaries in Relationships by Debra Sutton


In my marriage to a closeted gay man I lost my sense of self. I had poor personal boundaries and did not know how to begin communicating my own needs. Everything became about him and his needs. How can I help him with his depression, his problems. His problems were endless, he was never happy. We were isolated it was just the two of us, so I became very dependent on him for his company.

Living with the lie of a closeted gay man will effect most aspects of your daily life. These men are not happy and they blame their wives for their unhappiness. My ex husband was both physically and verbally abusive. I know not all closeted gay men are physically abusive, but most wives have suffered from some type of abuse. These men are blaming their wives for the problems in the marriage including the sexual problems if not telling their wives they are at least insinuating the reason they are not attracted to you is because you are not good enough.

The physical abuse happened early in my marriage after several arrest he did stop putting bruises on me that could be seen. The threat of violence continued throughout the marriage. The verbal beat downs were constant. He was on me for every petty thing you could think of. I couldn’t make a move from shutting a car door to turning on the thermostat for air or heat. Anything he perceived as wrong doing on my part no matter how petty would lead to verbal terrorizing that could last all night.

Why would anyone want to stay in a marriage like this? There are many reasons women stay in abusive marriages. Much of it has to do with fear. Fear of being alone because when you are isolated you become dependent on the very person who is abusing you. Fear of economics you may not know how you will make it without him financially and if you have children you worry about how you will provide for them. It is scary starting over.

Once I left the marriage I went through a phase of apologizing to family for every little thing. I would apologize for apologizing. I felt like I was broken mentally and spiritually. Then came some anger and even some outburst. I no longer wanted to be that yes person. I felt drained from always putting myself last, and not taking care of myself or my own personal needs. At first my emotions were all over the place, every little slight felt overwhelming. Then my emotions began to stabilize. I knew how important it was for me to have healthy personal boundaries. These boundaries would protect me and give me rest when I needed, it would also show others how I expect to be treated.

Healthy Personal Boundaries

When we don’t have healthy personal boundaries we have no sense of self in a relationship everything becomes about pleasing, fixing, or caring about the other person. We always put our needs on the back burner putting ourselves last. This is very unhealthy. The first step in caring for your self is when you begin to form healthy personal boundaries. Healthy boundaries need to be flexible, you don’t want to be too rigid because if you are you close yourselves off, then it’s hard to find intimacy.

This is one of the first things I was compelled to do. I was no longer willing not to care about my own needs. After what I went through this was not an option. It was the first step in caring about myself. It was something I had to adjust over time. At least for the first two years I felt every slight and took it personally. My emotions finally stabilized and I was ready to set my own personal boundaries. I knew it was not up to anyone else to make me happy, or fill any voids in my life. I was on my own for the first time in forty years. No longer would a marriage define me.

Healthy Personal Boundaries define who we are, and teach people how to treat us. Boundaries are the line that says this is where I end and you begin. Without healthy personal boundaries we cannot have healthy relationships without them we leave ourselves open to abusers, manipulators and bullies.

How to set Healthy Personal Boundaries

Learning to say no, as a people pleaser I hated saying no. I did not want to upset or anger anyone. I did not like to disappoint. I really started suffering from burnout. I realize now I was getting my self worth by what others thought of me.

When people are used to you saying yes when you first begin to establish your boundaries they may become upset or angry. This is where it gets hard. It is part of the process. You have to be willing to stand up for yourself by letting them know they have crossed the line. Learn to trust and believe in yourself by making your own decisions. Realize you cannot fix everything for another person. Being able to identify your own needs is so important. Knowing what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior is the first step in learning to love and care for yourself.

Signs of having poor personal  boundaries in relationships 

In order to set healthy boundaries we need be able to identify what unhealthy boundaries look like.

  • Rushing into a new relationship after a breakup or divorce.
  • Rushing into a marriage to someone you hardly know.
  • Talking about personal or private things too early in a relationship.
  • Allowing inappropriate touch or sexual talk too soon in a new relationship.
  • Wanting to spend every minute together or to know where that person is at all times.
  • Letting others define you.
  • Feeling like you need someone in your life in order to be happy.
  • Letting others control your emotions or happiness.
  • Expecting others to know and fill your needs without asking.
  • Not speaking up when you are treated poorly.
  • Not being able to spend time alone.
  • Giving your all to someone who gives nothing in return.
  • Wanting to be taken care of.
  • Feeling guilty when you say no.
  • Having a lack of respect for oneself or others.
  • Going against your own personal values to please others.
  • Using drugs or alcohol to feel more comfortable in a relationship.
  • Jealousy or lack of commitment.
  • Putting yourself down.

Knowing your own value and your own self worth you will attract better for yourself. Abusers, manipulators, and bullies don’t look for people who feel good about themselves. They are looking for someone they can control and dominate.

Relationships are about give and take not you giving your all to someone who would be more than happy to take your last breath, and while doing so they will still complain you aren’t doing enough.

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