Let’s get right to it.
Even in the most dysfunctional families…those families where the cops get called to every gathering…family members generally accept boundaries, so long as they’re temporary, and don’t last longer than what the group deems acceptable.
Your brother might punch you in the face and you might not talk to him for two months. Your parents might make threats to your livelihood or children and you might tell them not to come over anymore. Or maybe your younger sibling has a wild party at your house while you’re out of town.
Even the most unhealthy people would expect some sort of reaction or response.
But what if your boundaries become permanent? Or what if your boundaries require some sort of action or change?
What if you tell the younger sibling they are no longer welcome at your home? Or at the very least never allowed to house-sit again? Your unhealthy family members might tell you you’re being harsh and unfair. They might even badger you relentlessly until you change your mind.
What they really want from you is an emotional, temporary response that doesn’t really lead to any lasting change but sort of “protests” without any true conviction or backbone. Because you obviously can’t do nothing, but just don’t do “too much.”
You Aren’t The Exception
I have an acquaintance (let’s call her Amber) who’s husband is addicted to heroin and gambling. His parents are well off and are incredibly enabling, bailing him out whenever he calls.
Amber loves him. Of course, she loves him. He’s promised for over a decade to get clean and stay that way. A decade of hell and loss and pain and so so so much suffering.
His parents don’t mind when she kicks him out, so long as it’s only for a punishment and so long as its not permanent.
Can you imagine how different all their lives would be if someone just stood up and finally said, “No more!” No more bailing you out. No more money. No more excuses.
Abuse victims NEED to hear this; it’s the hard truth but it’s true: YOU ARE NOT THE EXCEPTION. You are the rule. You are the rule every single time until you stand up.
When you keep living like you’re the exception you will keep ACCEPTING painful, sinful behaviors in your life with no regard to your future, your health, your children, or your own worth.
You might be the victim of someone else’s actions. But there is no excuse for being the victim of your own. Healing means you are willing to risk your fear for the sake of what is good and true.
Some Boundaries Will be Temporary
If you set a boundary with someone who truly loves you and wants to changes and be healthy, they will accept your boundary.
Children throw fits. Adults don’t. If you set a boundary and the response is a fit, you’ve got an Adult-Child on your hands. Behave accordingly. Be firm and clear about what you need and why. They broke your trust. It’s up to them to rebuild what they broke. Be honest and fair and be willing to let them rebuild trust with wisdom. It’s ok to be extremely cautious here!!
Some Boundaries Are Permanent
Some people, for whatever reason, choose to remain how they are. They do not want to change. They do not want to grow. They do not wish for healthy relationships. They are not vulnerable or real. They are very self-centered and proud.
I feel sorry for people like this. Because they miss out on all of the best parts, the most beautiful parts, that life has to offer.
They miss the middle of the night phone calls because you are their safe place. They miss living vulnerably in community with others. Mostly, they tend to miss sacred, intentional moments of beauty and worship and intimacy. These people never really grow up or wake up. They are like shadows of who they were created to be, and perhaps that is why some stay so long trying to toss out rescue lines these people refuse to grab.
Some boundaries in your life will be permanent. You might even set a boundary with someone with every intent of it being temporary, and the person gets so offended they leave your life forever. As long as your boundary was wise, someone else’s response has nothing to do with you.
If you require your physically abusive spouse to get counseling and he refuses, that’s all the answer you need right there. He will not change…he doesn’t want to. Rule. Not the exception.
If you break relationship with someone you love, and you tell them, Ok, here is what I need you to do to rebuild trust with me…and they actually do it, consider yourself extremely blessed. This is rare in my experience. It almost never happens.
I know what it’s like to set a boundary with someone I love and watch the relationship fall to bits before my eyes.
It doesn’t matter if you are the only one in your family. It doesn’t matter if you were the only person who stood up and said, I will not take this anymore. Stand anyway.
It doesn’t matter if everyone wants you to stay in an abusive marriage/relationship. Doing what is right usually makes unhealthy people very upset.
But be warned. Get ready for lies to be told about you and the circumstances surrounding your choices. There is a 100% chance you will be misrepresented. Get ready to lose friendships and relationships. Brace yourself for the smear campaigns because they will come.
Side note: If someone tells you you’re deranged and need to go to a mental hospital but won’t go to counseling or talk about their past traumas, they are projecting their view of their own self onto you, and what they said has no basis in reality. (This is a very common tactic with Narcissistic Abusers.)
But none of it has anything to do with you. These people… Whoever they are in your life… Whether they are friends or family or in-laws or children or parents or coworkers…they live in their own little universes that likely revolve solely around them.
You’ll know if it’s right if you feel instant and sudden relief. If you start to be able to breathe and eat and sleep again. If your heartbeat calms a little.
Abuse has such a physiological affect on our bodies. Because we are not just bodies. We are souls first and foremost.
You can do hard things.
You can do impossible things.
You can set whatever boundaries you need to live a life of peace and growth that honors God and honors yourself as a Child of God.