Set Personal Boundaries to Empower Yourself

May 1, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

Personal boundaries empower people in abusive relationships to gain self-reliance and self-esteem. Those qualities help end abusive relationships. Take a look.

Verbal abuse, in essence, seeks to destroy your perception of your Self. The abuser sees you as the enemy to his way of life, and therefore will do everything in his power to diminish your mind, body, and soul to nothing and rebuild you in his image. Your abuser wants you to be non-existent, or at least weak and defeated, so he can define you as exactly what he wants you to be: his slave.

But you didn't know this was his goal. Over time, you didn't notice that you gave of yourself but he contributed nothing. You cited his rotten childhood or made some excuse that fed your desire to help him to overcome his horrid life situation, drawing yourself into codependency and taking on responsibility for his thoughts and actions.

Having No Personal Boundaries Empowers Your Abuser and Makes You Disappear

You succumbed to his thoughts about you more than you honored to your own. You gave of yourself to the point that he has (almost) won complete control over your thoughts and feelings about yourself. He thinks you are nothing; you think you are worthless.

You believe that you are nothing without him. You think that life without him is akin to death. You don't realize that you, as you were meant to be, are already dead. He's murdered you bit by bit, and gets away with it because your shell still walks among us. You can't prove that you're dead.

Personal Boundaries Empower You to Take Your Self Back

Is it any wonder that the idea of self-reliance seems terrifying? Is it any wonder that the idea of detaching from him, even in a small way, seems like pushing a dead elephant off your prone body?

Personal boundaries help abuse victims regain self-reliance bit by bit, just like you overcome any challenge. Read this and stop verbal abuse.Like every other challenge, you must break the task into small pieces. (How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite.)

You must "Reach Out" (gain allies) and "Educate Yourself" (gain information) so you have the armor of truth you need to bolster your courage. There are weapons and strategies you can develop to free yourself of his oppression and gain self-reliance:

Call Your Enemy By Name

Your enemy is not Paul or Suzie. Your enemy is made up of the thoughts and beliefs that seek to subjugate you to Paul or Suzie. Your enemy's name is Abuse.

Misplacing your focus onto an individual opens you to this same fight with another individual in the future. When you battle Abuse, you clearly see its face in multiple situations involving multiple people in your world (now and in the past and future). This is important. Abuse is insidious and cowardly - it hides in the places you least suspect to ambush you and leave you defeated. Detaching from individuals who use Abuse is not the same as letting Abuse win, nor is it equivalent to defeating Paul or Suzie.

Personal Boundaries Empower Self-Defense

You must know what you are fighting for if you hope to successfully defeat Abuse. If you do not know what you are fighting for, then you may as well surrender to slavery. You create the boundaries; you enforce the boundaries. No one else can do this for you.

Develop personal boundaries to define your territory. Personal boundaries are not drawn in the sand where you can adjust them depending on what the person possessed by Abuse does. The boundary that limits your mother is the same one that limits your husband because no matter what person presents an attack, you know that Abuse is the one you face.

Personal boundaries are not punishments (although Abuse will tell you it is being punished and that you are evil for drawing the line). Personal boundaries are the walls to your castle. No one, no idea or insult, enters that castle but the ideas (your knights in shining armor) who defend you against Abuse.

Read "Boundaries Help to Overcome the Victim Mentality" and "Set Personal Boundaries" to learn how to create your first line of defense. Developing your boundaries and enforcing them is your first step toward self-reliance. Once you have some success in protecting yourself, you will see that you are not powerless after all.

After celebrating some triumphs, you can move into the realm of advanced battle planning (aka Safety Planning), to further enhance your self-reliance.

How Do I Stop the Verbal Abuse? (Part 1)
Help for Verbal Abuse: You Have To Reach Out For It (Part 2)
Learn About Verbal Abuse So You Can Stop It (Part 3)
Set Personal Boundaries Empower Yourself (Part 4)
Develop An Exit Strategy And Safety Plan (Part 5)
The Signs of Verbal Abuse (Part 6)

You can find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Amazon Authors, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, May 1). Set Personal Boundaries to Empower Yourself, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

May, 6 2011 at 12:20 pm

I found you on Twitter and am glad you have all this info. Im still working through a lot. Thank you

August, 27 2012 at 5:49 am

The past four years have been filled with verbal abuse. I am tired of being asked if I am stupid or lazy, when he does nothing. He has broken me, and its time to stand up for myself.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
August, 31 2012 at 5:35 am

Sue, your comment is beautiful and painful. I hope many people see it and take it to heart.

November, 20 2012 at 8:45 pm

Hi kelly..i love your blog ii think its great courage to publish a blog that speaks clearly of what you are going through ! my sisters husband is a verbally abusive man and we are in a traditional religious culture that in case she decides to leave him he is sure to gain custody of kids concern is if we cant stop it i want to be able to help her kids through it their father is breaking their spirit i wonder if you can help by publishing something in your blog about kids suffering an abusive father ..the kids these days seem to me like they have given up and started believing his nonsense as you put it and its affecting their self esteem... thank you for any help you may give and God help you and any person suffering THE SMOOTH CRIMINALS as i like to call verbally abusive partners ..
amal-Saudi Arabia

November, 24 2012 at 7:28 pm

what about friends who offer support which you think is unconditional but becomes abusive because you leave your partner & suddenly youré the one at fault,how would you tell this person their criticsms aren't constructive just plain bloody abusive

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
November, 29 2012 at 4:13 am

Rachel, Zara’s father attempted to leave a hateful comment about you on this blog. I sent an email to your address, but since he has access to that email address, I cannot guarantee you will see it. Please contact me using a different email address as soon as possible. I would like to do my part to help you, but I cannot without an updated email address.
Hope you see this! ! Kellie

Kellie Holly
November, 26 2012 at 3:49 am

Rachel, try saying exactly what you wrote above. "Hey, friend, your comments are not helpful or constructive. They are bloody abusive. Stop acting like that and treat me with respect, or leave me alone."
If that doesn't work, cut the "friend" out of your life like you cut your ex out of it. You're better off without the ex, and you'll be better off without an abusive friend, too.

Kellie Holly
November, 26 2012 at 3:58 am

Amal, I am sorry to hear about your sister's plight. Unfortunately, so long as he is their father and has access to them, he will (most likely) continue his behavior. Their father would have to rebel against society and all he has been taught in order to change, so it is unlikely that change in him will occur.
However, like I tell mothers in the US, you can educate the children about "bullying" without mentioning their father. In time, and with age, the children will connect the dots. In the meantime, offer them true praise as often as possible. Do not praise them for no reason or they will see your betrayal! If their father tells them they are weak, give them examples of how they are strong. If dad tells them they'll never be worth anything, show them how valuable they are to you, to their mother, to their community. Counteract his negativity with their positivity. Keep your head up. This is going to be a difficult ride, but you can do it.

March, 31 2014 at 4:51 am

I've searched the internet high and low to further educate myself on the subject of abuse. Your blogs and information have helped me not only have a better understanding but has given me strength that I was unaware I could gain. I share a son with a man that emotionally abuses me and at times my two boys from a previous relationship. I've dealt for so long that it's getting to the point of me exploding then him being able to say im the crazy one and convince others of this. My situation is very deep and complicated.Couple therapy starts tomorrow, I hope this will help some. After all I have three boys who mean everything to me who count on and depend on me to make the choices that they can not. Thank you for all your wonderfull words, they have made a huge difference opening my eyes to seeing what I couldn't have imagined was there before.

October, 1 2014 at 8:37 am

Thanks, Kellie, for your very helpful articles. I do have one question that is troubling me- how do you enforce boundaries with an abuser? I thought the abuse in my 27 relationship was "getting better" but I have just come to find out that I have just gotten better at avoiding abuse- I'm a pro at it now! Your husband can't yell at you and insult you about you asking him to do his share if you've given up asking him to do his share. He can't bother you for sex if you schedule it and then treat it as another task to be completed. He can't break your spirit if you no longer have any spirit. He can't punish you for making him take care of the kids if you always take care of everything. He can't prevent you from going out with your friends or family if you no longer wish to do anything with your friends and family because you no longer enjoy anything. He can still always be selfish, entitled and cut you down, though- I haven't figured out an antidote for that, yet. I realize that I have become numb to all feelings- I can't tell you the last time I have cried, or the last time I've been really happy....

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
October, 5 2014 at 3:12 pm

Beth, the same feeling came to me when I realized I had to leave the house more than I could stay. My boundary was that I would leave if I felt threatened in any way by his words or behavior.
After that, I started thinking that I didn't have much of a relationship at all. No relationship, really. There can be no relationship when there is no relating to one another.
Soon after, I decided that I WOULD leave the marriage and made a three-year plan. I didn't make it that long because he crossed my boundary of "I will leave this marriage if you put your hands on me one more time" within a couple days of hearing it.
I don't know when your point of choice will come to you - the choice to leave or to stay... But it sounds like you're on the brink of realizing the same thing I did: There's no relationship to save and no hope of improvement in his behavior. The question is, what do you want to do about that?

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Connie Garcia
October, 17 2017 at 6:18 pm

I have a couple of questions, but am in a relationship that I am verbally abused so bad I don't even trust myself. One of my questions is what can I do or where, or who should I go to for help on coping and stopping what I ultimately am allowing to happen to me by my fiance who is a beautiful man at times but the rest of the time he is a monster. He has been using meth by syringe since he was 14. He is the exact description of a narcissistic sociopath. He has schitzophrenic tendencies as well. He films me under the bathroom door convinced there's a littlean in the tub with me. He thinks there's someone under our bed Im having an affair with while my fiance is in the room. He's on probation I don't want him to get into trouble. So I don't call police because I deserve it or must like it if I am staying with him still. I have not one resource not one friend or family member I can turn to. Nowhere I can go and the little income I do get lasts for about 3 weeks at the hotel weblive at due to I lost my place to live on the account of his off behavior he has when he is high. I could go on and on. It's got me to the point that I am planning my own death without pain. So I can just not exist anymore. Then my mind goes back to if I kill myself who is going to look out for him? Any and all suggestions are welcomed that are realistic please.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 21 2017 at 1:50 am

Hi Connie,
Thank you for your comment. Firstly, I have to say, if you're feeling suicidal then please consider calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK. I too felt suicidal when I was in a verbally abusive relationship, but five years on I am in a much better place with a fiancé and son who adore me. I can't tell you how glad I am that I didn't act on these feelings.
What you're going through sounds awful, and my heart goes out to you. What I'm picking up on though, is that you are putting the welfare of this man above your own. His paranoia could be down to his schizophrenia, drug use or sociopathic tendencies, but that's not for you to figure out. This man needs help, but not from you. Please talk to a professional about his behavior. You should go to the police if his behavior is threatening or intimidating, but if you don't feel like this is an option then you should call a domestic abuse hotline or start seeing a therapist.
It's common to feel that we deserve abuse, as that's how our partners make us feel when they behave this way. It is absolutely not your fault, however, and there is no way that anyone would put up with that behavior because they enjoy it. There's a reason so many people read and comment on the Verbal Abuse in Relationships blog, and that is because abuse is complex and difficult to understand. If it were that easy, we'd all have left our abusers at the first sign of trouble.
Please consider seeking help for what you're going through. You can and will come out the other side of this, but not on your own, and not while you're still exposed to this man's behavior.

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