Relationship boundaries and the damage done by Domestic Abuse

What are relationship boundaries?

Relationship boundaries are a set of rules we can put in place to protect ourselves from being abused or taken advantage of by others.

relationship boundaries
They are like an imaginary wall around us.

These boundaries will determine how physically or emotionally close we will allow others to be with us, and what sort of treatment we would accept and not accept from them. The boundaries that we set will be different depending on the person and our relationship with them.

If we’re shouted at and hit by our lively 2-year-old, this behaviour is not likely to violate us in the same way that similar treatment by our intimate partner might.

We may be happy for close family to come physically very close to us, however if a stranger came this close, we may feel our physical boundary or personal body space had been invaded.

Boundaries should be flexible and adjusted as circumstances change and relationships develop.

There is a strong association between having strong boundaries and high self-esteem, and conversely low boundaries and poor self-esteem. Having strong boundaries in place demonstrates that we’re protecting ourselves because we feel we are worthy and deserving of such protection.


Relationship boundaries are very often damaged by Domestic Abuse.

  • When the perpetrator insults, humiliates and belittles us, he has likely ‘trampled over’ our emotional boundaries.
  • If he assaults and rapes us, this behaviour will break down our physical boundaries.
  • If we had strong boundaries at the start of the relationship, repeated attacks on those boundaries will weaken and ultimately dismantle them.

We may have started the relationship feeling certain we’d refuse to be controlled by a partner, however countless small incidents of controlling behaviour may creep up on us, repeatedly breaching our boundaries, causing further weakening on each occasion until they are effectively destroyed and we accept the controlling behaviour we are being subjected to because we have no defences left.

We become not only accepting of abuse from the perpetrator, but because we have weak or non-existent boundaries, we are more likely to accept abusive behaviour from others, too. Other people will often detect week or absent boundaries and home-in to attack and abuse.

Does everyone naturally have relationship boundaries?

Most of us have relationship boundaries, some have strong boundaries, others will have weaker boundaries. Without them we would be very vulnerable to serious abuse on a habitual basis.

protect, boundaries
Women who have been treated very badly over a protracted period of time, especially if this bad treatment or abuse started in childhood, may have few boundaries and often have a feeling that they deserve to be treated badly by others. They may find saying ‘no’ difficult or impossible.

They may have a feeling that others, especially their intimate partner has a right to treat them as he wishes. These women will be highly vulnerable to further abuse. Some people may have a natural feeling of where their boundaries lie and have no issues in protecting themselves from abuse. For others, there is a need to consider this issue and work to deliberately build boundaries. This is true especially for women who have suffered Domestic Abuse and found that over time, their boundaries have been dismantled by their abuser.

Relationship boundaries can fall into two main categories:

Emotional boundariesPhysical boundaries

You can read more about these boundaries, and how you can strengthen you boundaries by continuing to read this blog on BWP Outreach Worker, Sandra’s website: Relationship Boundaries – Domestic Abuse Survival

Blog written by Sandra Reddish.

Sandra hopes to reach thousands more women by sharing her wisdom in a new book One in Four Women,  which is now for sale on Amazon. In the self-published book, Sandra shares her incredible knowledge of the vital steps to recovery for women who have been abused. Starting with their gaining a solid understanding of the complexity of abuse they’ve faced, and perpetrator’s behaviour.

You may also want to read these further blogs from Sandra.

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