The first time I ever heard "boundaries" mentioned, it was by my then husband. He informed me that I had to protect and hold his boundaries. (There was nothing that man wouldn't dump at my door!)
It took me a long while to learn:
a)what boundaries were
b)that he was responsible for his own boundaries
c)that I had boundaries too
For women who've been through an abusive relationship, it can be hard to understand about boundaries; and harder still to establish them. Their lives are like great open stretches of country that pretty well anyone can ride roughshod over. (When the steppes are that open, it's not that surprising that a Ghenghis Khan-like figure will gallop across them on a mangy steed, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.)
These women may be able to be utterly uncompromising on little things. A couple I've worked with were adamant that hell could freeze over before an obscenity would ever pass their lips. Yet they'd let people take advantage of them endlessly with barely a murmur. Because they had no effective boundaries.
So what are boundaries? High walls and fortified defences are not boundaries, both because they leave the person inside them in a constant state of siege and because they can always be breached.
For me, boundaries are a series of gates into different areas of your life that you decide to open or close at will. Whether you choose to open them, or not, depends on whether you judge the person standing at them to be trustworthy.
Every area of your life where you feel even remotely vulnerable is a boundary. You have a perfect right, even a duty to yourself, to choose whether or not to let someone through any one of your gates. You don't even have to be consistent. What's right for you today, might be wrong tomorrow. That's fine too. What's right with one person may be totally wrong with another.
At this point you need to ask yourself where you truly stand in your own universe. If you stand somewhere on the periphery (or deep in space), you can't possibly police all the gates into your universe. Marauders can invade from every direction before you can possibly mobilise yourself to close the gates.
When you stand at the centre of your universe then you have more or less 360 degree vision. You can keep a watchful eye on all the gates.
When you put yourself at the centre of your universe, you occupy the best position from which to (wo)man your boundaries.
And the curious thing is this: if a boundary is (wo)manned, most people won't even try to breach it.
I coach women into developing strong boundaries.
(C) 2005 Annie Kaszina
An NLP Practitioner and Women's Empowerment Coach, Annie helps women to create strong boundaries, so they can learn to build healthy, nurturing relationships where they can give and receive the love they want, safely.
Email:email@example.com To subscribe to Annie's twice monthly ezine, or order her eBook 'The Woman You Want To Be, go: to joyfulcoaching.com