Do you ever feel like your feelings don’t matter to your partner? This is unfortunately a true sentiment for many people in relationships. The truth is, it’s not a good sign, because emotional boundaries are very important in any healthy relationship, romantic or otherwise. So, what are emotional boundaries? Are your emotional boundaries being overstepped? Have you been forced to get rid of yours? Let’s take a moment to look at the importance of these boundaries and what they look like.
What Are Emotional Boundaries?
To begin, we have to answer the very important question: what are emotional boundaries? The short answer is, these boundaries are safety nets and walls a person has to keep them safe and comfortable. Now, these aren’t the kind of walls you want to break down. They function the same way our skin does. That is, by keeping out the things that are not safe for our emotional wellbeing.
A great example of an emotional boundary is refusing to let your partner call you names or make insulting jokes about you. This one may seem obvious, but there are more emotional boundaries that are easier to miss. If you have a boundary about name-calling, should your partner call you a name or make fun of you, there will be some kind of social consequence for it.
Why Are They Important?
The same way that physical boundaries keep us physically safe, emotional boundaries keep us emotionally safe. Therefore, if you wouldn’t tolerate your partner hitting you, why would you tolerate your partner making emotional jabs that hurt you emotionally? The answer is, you shouldn’t!
Emotional boundaries look different for everyone. One person might have a boundary that their partner is not to talk about food nutrition. Perhaps it’s a trigger for an old eating disorder. Another person may not mind food discussion but is not okay with their partner discussing any detail of their sex life with friends.
How Does Abuse Enter the Picture?
If your partner doesn’t respect your emotional boundaries, it’s a sign that they don’t respect you as a person. Many people have their limits disregarded by their partner. For others, they’re forced to rid themselves of emotional limits entirely.
Here are some red flags to look for regarding emotional boundaries:
- If your partner says your boundaries are silly, unnecessary, excessive, or in some way hurt them.
- Your partner tries to push your boundaries a little at a time (i.e. calling you names in a joking manner even though it makes you uncomfortable, only to use them later on when you have a fight. Then, when you say they crossed a line, they say something to the effect of, “You never mind when I call you that other times!”)
- If your partner tries to get you to compromise your emotional boundaries to accommodate their emotional boundaries.
These flags frequently lead to emotionally abusive or toxic relationships where one partner is forced to rid themselves of boundaries to make the other person happy.
How to Confront Emotional Toxicity and Abuse
If your partner is ignoring your boundaries, you need to take action ASAP. This is arguably one of the hardest abuse situations to pull yourself out of. This is especially true when your partner has convinced you they’re all you have. Therefore, find it in yourself to take the first step in healing by recognizing your relationship needs help.
If you believe your partner is well-meaning, confront them about the situation. Let them know you’re not comfortable with how they’re treating you. Many people will respond positively if given the opportunity to reflect on their hurtful behaviors. Scheduling an appointment for couple’s therapy is a great first step to relationship recovery. However, if they respond negatively, it may be time to plan your exit.