Anxiety, Mental health, Relationships

Recovery from abuse, part 2: set boundaries for self-protection

image symbolizing setting boundaries in relationships for better mental health

The most important thing you can do for your self-esteem while you’re recovering from a toxic relationship is to set boundaries.

I wrote about setting boundaries before but people have sent me emails asking about this subject. I get it. It is not easy to learn about boundaries especially if you’re coming from a toxic family background.

The problem arises when, something critical happens in your life that forces you to learn your limits. You are in a bad job that drives you mad, your boyfriend cheats on you, or, worse, you discover that your mother suffers from narcissism and there’s no cure for it.

So, what are boundaries, you might ask?

Fences. A line we draw in the sand around us to separate ourselves from other people and find out who we are and what our needs are. Or, they are limits to what type of behavior you can tolerate in others. Unfortunately, some people don’t state their limits to others and find themselves drawn into toxic relationships. It’s very easy to get lost into another person if you don’t know what’s good for you. Right?

Bellow, I will talk about what types of boundaries you can set. If you already know your boundaries but don’t know what to do when someone abuses them, read ‘What to do when someone doesn’t respect your boundaries’.

Types of Boundaries

Physical boundaries

This type of boundary is soooo important. I can’t stress enough how much you need to work to make people respect your physical limits.

For example, you are going on a date (as a woman or man). Everything goes well, you both share things about yourselves, you drink, joke and make comments about Trump and his politics.

You then pay for your drinks and go for a walk. Then, your partner leans over to you and kisses you. He also decides that it’s the right time for him to massage the back of your neck. You feel his touch on your skin and you don’t like it. But not because it doesn’t feel good, it’s because it was TOO soon for you. However, you let this slide.

Fast forward to months into this relationship and you’re waiting for your guy to tell you what to wear because you can’t go out without him approving on your outfit. This is a toxic relationship that requires your partner to control you in order for him to feel secure.

However, this was an exaggeration. But you should keep in mind that, even if this guy was the greatest that ever walked the earth, you still started off the relationship in an unhealthy way:

By allowing yourself to do things you don’t feel comfortable doing.

A boundary of mine related to men is that I don’t want to be touched when we first meet. Yes, maybe a handshake is fine but not more than that. This boundary extends even to making new friends. I don’t allow people to hug me or kiss me without them knowing anything about me. That’s just not healthy and if someone does this, it’s a sign that something is wrong with them.

Don’t get me wrong. I loove to hug and be hugged. I love kissing and touching. That was my favorite part in my previous relationship. But it takes a long time for me to become trustful of the guy to allow the physical distance between us to dissolve.

Now, you might be different. Maybe you like to hug people right after you said your first Hellos. Maybe you like to have sex first and bond with the guy (or girl) later. There’s nothing wrong with that. But make sure it is something you really like to do and not something you feel forced to do just to please the other person.

I had guys kissing me at the first date and felt so uncomfortable and angry right after. I would resent myself for allowing this to happen. However, it wasn’t their fault. They were just following their own feelings and instincts and I can’t blame them for that.

If you don’t know what your physical boundary is when you meet a new friend or even a life partner, the other person won’t know it either. And you can imagine how unhealthy the relationship would turn out.

Read more about physical boundaries in Positively Positive’s article.

Emotional boundaries

Being yelled at

Can you tolerate people who yell at you often? Do you make excuses for people who raise their voice to prove their point? If they yell at you once and refuse to change their behavior, would you continue the relationship or hit the road?

Being put down or ridiculed

Do you tolerate being ridiculed, picked on because of your weight, talking, choices or clothing style by the people you love or hang out with?

Narcissistic abuse

Manipulation methods such as guilt-tripping, gaslighting, negative annotations or silent treatment give power to the narcissists to control the victim.

If you don’t accept being around a narcissist who constantly picks on you or undermines your sense of self, chose to break up with him/her and move on. And this applies to adult children with narcissistic parents too.

Terri Cole at Positively Positive, talks in more detail about emotional and boundaries. Read her article here.

Financial boundaries

Do you borrow money to your friends? What about to significant others? Will you have joint accounts when you’ll get married?

Material boundaries


How much time you want to spend talking to your boyfriend on the phone? How much time you want to spend comforting a friend who had a bad day? How late can someone call you at night? What about your mom? Can she call you five times per day? Is she allowed to own your time and do with it whatever she wants?

You decide how precious your TIME is. We all have a limited time to spend on earth. Spend it with those who respect your boundaries and who make you happy.


How often do you say ‘yes’ when you really want to say no to an event or a proposition from someone close to you? Do you allow friends to say ‘no’ to you as well?

Personal items

Are you comfortable with loaning clothes, books or other items to your friends or relatives? If not, tell them it is not a thing you’re comfortable doing.

Mental boundaries


Do you want children? Do you believe in God? Do you like Trump? (I’m kidding with this one :))

Do you support same-sex marriages and accept all people of all colors? Are you a vegan or a carnivore?

State your values to the people you meet and watch out for those who try to convince you to think otherwise. Some will try to tell you that God doesn’t exist or that maybe homosexuality is a disease. Some hate people who eat meat and will try to force you into veganism (I was one but now I’m cured :))

Sexual boundaries

This is more related to dating but make sure you know when you wanna have sex with your partner for the first time. Also, what are you comfortable doing in bed and what you’re not comfortable doing? How often do you wanna have sex and kiss? Do you allow time without physical closeness to pass by or are you frightened by it?

Whatever happens, don’t change your values just to please that awesome, cute guy you just met. There are an awful lot of awesome, cute guys out there anyway.

And when you’ll meet that one person who is worth your time and effort, who respects his/her boundaries, and everybody else’s, you can build something that will last a long time. Just like a beautiful house that does not crash at the first storm because someone has worked hard at its foundation.

Do you struggle with setting boundaries? What do you do when someone crosses them?

Please leave a comment.

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