Defining Boundaries

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Narcissists take what they want because they believe they are entitled. After all, if others exist only to serve them, there is no privilege or desire that should be withheld from them.

Suppose you invite a friend to your home, someone you have known for a while, but not an intimate friend. You leave the room for a bit and, when you return, he is digging through your refrigerator for a snack. What do you do? Or you find that she has opened your mail and is reading your letters. What do you do?

Well, you would probably be offended. You might even ask that person to stop or leave. You certainly would be cautious about inviting him or her back to your home. And you would be within your rights. There are certain limits.

But the narcissist does this kind of thing regularly. He rifles through your desk at work. She asks questions and expects answers on topics that make you uncomfortable. He borrows your car without asking. She went through your diary. He talks with your friends about you. She calls you when she knows you are busy or comes over when she knows you have a guest. There is no such thing as privacy or personal space with a narcissist.

Sadly, that’s because the narcissist does not see you as a person. He would be greatly offended if someone crossed that line with him. She would never want to tell you her secrets. In fact, when you think about it, you know little about the narcissist. And what you do know, you aren’t sure you believe.

You need boundaries. But boundaries against the narcissist are an offense to him/her. Boundaries show your lack of love, lack of trust. Boundaries prove that you have something to hide. If you don’t allow the narcissist access to every part of your life, you are mean-spirited and unloving.

And you find yourself believing that perspective. It’s hard not to answer the phone when you know it’s from her. It’s hard to hide the keys to your car or lock your desk. You feel it’s wrong somehow. And that’s just how the narcissist wants you to think.

Boundaries are part of every sane life. If you are allowed no boundaries, you are an abused captive. Boundaries are good, no matter what the narcissist thinks.

Sometimes the boundary is as bold as saying, “No.” Sometimes it is not answering the phone. Sometimes it has to be negotiated. You don’t close the door completely, but limit access to certain times.

Sometimes boundaries are internal. Refusing to argue when prompted by the narcissist. Choosing to walk away instead. Limiting conversation to certain topics. Refusing to worry about the problems the narcissist presents.

Sometimes boundaries protect you. Your health and sanity are important, and your needs are valid. Even if the narcissist doesn’t see you as a person with value, you should see yourself that way. And sometimes your boundaries protect others. Your children, your co-workers, people you care about. In fact, your boundaries may even protect the narcissist. Who knows what could happen if you are pushed too far?

Boundaries are good. They may be hard to determine and hard to maintain, but they are important enough to justify the work. Even if they are broken, they are worth trying again.

I wish I could look each victim of narcissistic abuse in the eyes and say, “You are worth it! You have a right and a responsibility to set boundaries. Boundaries are good for you!” The narcissist will fight you, blame you, criticize you, bargain with you, push you, and tempt you. Keep the boundary in place. It’s for your good.

By the way, the Bible does speak of boundaries. While teaching that believers are one in Jesus, the Bible also acknowledges that there are people who may be toxic to you. The primary command is to live as one, to be of one mind, to care for each other, but even Jesus separated Himself from the crowd at times. He avoided situations that He knew would not be good. And, of course, the wise book of Proverbs has several references to people we should avoid. We might love them, but do so from a distance. (See Proverbs 22:24; 21:19; Titus 3:10; 1 Corinthians 7:15) You won’t find many proof texts, but you will find affirmation for boundaries in the Bible.

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Apparently the audio file is not included in the email of this post. It may be too large or email filters might not let it through. If you would like to listen to the audio version of the post, you will find it on the blog site.

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3 Comments

Filed under Narcissism, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Defining Boundaries

  1. Batya Ahul

    & boundaries are hard especially when there is a figurative neon sign above your head (that only narcissists or folk with narcissistic tendencies can see) that says “ no boundaries here- feel free to abuse”.
    I try & set boundaries with every fibre of my being but this often creates conflict presumably because that dang neon sign says the opposite is true.
    For me I know in these situations I am subconsciously/consciously trying to fix my primary relationship with my narcissistic mother/FOO. I also realise that those with narc tendencies may be doing exactly the same & see me unconsciously saying “feel free to abuse” & consciously doing the opposite but imposing boundaries- I guess this creates confusion & I come across as overly assertive. In the UK an assertive woman is seen as aggressive….😩

    Understanding it doesn’t make it any easier.

  2. Cecilia K

    Very good information. I dimly remember a conversation with a former significant other/fiancé about boundaries (specifically, I think we were talking about the book by Charles Townsend and the other man whose name escapes me right now), and the gist of his take on it was that he was not in favor of them–at least, not for the wife in a marital relationship. I honestly don’t remember his exact response to it, but I imagine it was probably along the lines of, boundaries for a wife are not right, because if she sets up boundaries to her husband, then she is not submitting to him.

  3. K. Turner

    Thank you for this posting

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