Learning How to Enforce Our Boundaries Sometimes Means Risking a Relationship


From Dr. Nerdlove: “How Do I Enforce My Boundaries?”

“Doc, I was hoping you could help me with something. I’m a 30 year old guy who was sexually abused as a child by a woman. When I was younger, dating and even flirting with women brought about anxiety and a vague sense of dread. A few years ago, I got myself into therapy, started being more mindful of things that trigger me and subsequently got much more confident around women. I’ve been doing the online dating thing for the last couple of years and it’s generally been a good experience. Even when the women haven’t been a good match for me, I’ve generally enjoying meeting and talking to new people. As a result of my abuse though, I’m not really capable of physical intimacy with women until I get to know them a bit and feel comfortable around them. I usually tell them that, “I just want to take things slowly,” since I don’t feel like disclosing my abuse to people that I’ve just been on a date or two with.”

“Unfortunately, many of the women are totally baffled by a guy who turns down sex and they often get upset. The last girl I went on a few dates with actually called me a faggot for not wanting to sleep with her. Is there a way that I can communicate my boundaries while making it clear that I’m still interested? Thank you Dr. NerdLove you’re my only hope!”

Don’t Know What to Say

“First of all, DKWTS, I’m sorry for what you went through and I’m proud of you for not only having survived it but for having been strong enough to get help and work through your issues. It’s entirely understandable that you have scars from your experience – after all, you went through some hellish shit! – but those scars aren’t something to be ashamed of. They’re proof that you’ve been through the shit and came out on the other side.”

“So far, you’re doing the right thing for you: taking your time and establishing a level of comfort and trust with the women you’re interested in and that’s good. You’ve got every right to want sex on terms that make you the most comfortable and feel safe. From the sounds of things, it sounds like you’re having two issues. The first is communication. It’s a social trope that all guys are horny at all times and can’t wait to bone. Sometimes when a guy wants to take things at a slower pace, this gets read by others as “not actually interested”. Now you don’t say where your limits are and depending on how you’ve set them, this may cause some confusion; if you’re uncomfortable with, say, kissing or making out, it’s understandable that – even when you say you want to take things slowly – that women may feel as though they’re getting mixed signal, especially on the first couple date. If there’s no sign of physical chemistry, even a good night kiss, then your date may think you’re just not interested in her at all or that you’re only interested in her as friends. If you’re setting the bar towards heavy fooling around (mutual masturbation, oral, etc.) or penetrative sex, then it’s a bit easier to explain.”

Read more here.

2.  From essentialskills.net: “Healthy Personal Boundaries & How to Establish Them”:

How do we establish healthy personal boundaries?

Know that you have a right to personal boundaries. You not only have the right, but you must take responsibility for how you allow others to treat you. Your boundaries act as filters permitting what is acceptable in your life and what is not. If you don’t have boundaries that protect and define you, as in a strong sense of identity, you tend to derive your sense of worth from others. To avoid this situation, set clear and decisive limits so that others will respect them, then be willing to do whatever it takes to enforce them. Interestingly, it’s been shown that those who have weak boundaries themselves tend to violate the boundaries of others.

Recognize that other people’s needs and feelings are not more important than your own. Many women have traditionally thought that the needs of their husbands and children are more important than their own. This is not only untrue, but it can undermine the healthy functioning of the family dynamic. If a woman is worn out mentally and physically from putting everyone else first, she not only destroys her own health, she in turn deprives her family of being fully engaged in their lives. Instead, she should encourage every family member to contribute to the whole as well as take care of himself or herself. Putting themselves last is not something only women do, but many men as well.

Learn to say no. Many of us are people-pleasers and often put ourselves at a disadvantage by trying to accommodate everyone. We don’t want to be selfish, so we put our personal needs on the back burner and agree to do things that may not be beneficial to our well-being. Actually, a certain amount of “selfishness” is necessary for having healthy personal boundaries. You do not do anyone any favors, least of all yourself, by trying to please others at your own expense.

Identify the actions and behaviors that you find unacceptable. Let others know when they’ve crossed the line, acted inappropriately, or disrespected you in any way. Do not be afraid to tell others when you need emotional and physical space. Allow yourself to be who you really are without pressure from others to be anything else. Know what actions you may need to take if your wishes aren’t respected.

Trust and believe in yourself. You are the highest authority on you. You know yourself best. You know what you need, want, and value. Don’t let anyone else make the decisions for you. Healthy boundaries make it possible for you to respect your strengths, abilities and individuality as well as those of others. An unhealthy imbalance occurs when you encourage neediness, or are needy; want to be rescued, or are the rescuer, or when you choose to play the victim.

3.  From spectrum recovery solutions:

A printable checklist for healthy and unhealthy boundaries.

4.  From Your Tango: “Top 7 Signs You Have Unhealthy Boundaries“:

1. Adjusting your life to suit a man’s (or woman’s) schedule

2. Giving in to anything that is not aligned with your values

3. Settling for less than you know you really need or desire

4. Staying in a relationship that you know is passed its deadline

5. Smothering the person you’re dating with excessive needs or control

6. Going back to a relationship that you know is over

7. Entering a relationship to avoid being alone

Photo credit.


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