Boundaries around what?

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Narcissists and other abusers take. They take whatever they think they can get from you. I have often referred to them as predators. They drain you of any resource you may have. Some have told me how the abuser took their money, their strength, their reputation, their health, their friends, their family, their home, and even more. This is not an exaggeration. Ask people who have been in narcissistic relationships what was taken from them. The list is long.

So, what should you be protecting with your boundaries? Everything you have. Everything the Master has placed in your care.

But the preacher says that a certain amount of money, a percentage, belongs to the church. Does the Master tell you that? I have heard teachers suggest that there are three tithes, that the Lord expects His people to give at least 30%. Believe me, the asking and expectation will not stop at that point.

It is important to remember that your Master is Jesus, not the Old Testament law, nor the interpretation of whatever teacher is in vogue. Jesus is real and active. If you ask Him and listen, He will lead you. Should Christians give of their money? Of course. Should they tithe? Only if the Master tells them to. There is no tithing requirement on believers today, but there is a call to be generous and kind.

So, put a boundary around your money. The narcissist should not be able to tell you what to do with it. The abuser should not be able to take it away. I realize this is a big discussion, but it is important for you to see that money is something the Lord has placed into your care and expects you to protect.

What else? What about your space? Something I have noticed about narcissists in particular is that they will work themselves into every personal space you have. Abusive spouses often leave no private or healing space for their wives/husbands. Narcissistic bosses or co-workers will sit at your desk, call at your house, even take your lunch. Abusive neighbors will walk across your lawn, help themselves to your parking, and on and on. You get the point. Even your space is something you can and probably should protect.

How? Well, good fences make good neighbors, the old saying goes. You may need to physically limit a neighbor’s access with fences, locks, etc. If the offender at work is not your boss, you might take the issue to the boss with the suggestion that the action is a type of harassment (use that word, that’s what it is). I realize that this is much more difficult if the controller is your spouse or parent, but you may be able to find a place where he/she does not go or create a space in your mind and heart that he cannot access.

What about your time? When you start a job, ask how many hours a week they will expect of you. They will almost certainly give you a number. If you accept that and take the job, then your 100% stops at that number. When the boss says you all must give a hundred percent effort, that means forty or fifty hours according to your employment contract. You can give more than that, but it is a gift from you. Not only will you not get paid for it, you probably will not find much other benefit from it. And it will cost you.

Time is a valuable commodity today. Bosses want to control employees’ time. That’s why they have such disruptive and abusive schedules in so many retail and other jobs. That’s why anyone in management feels under constant pressure to be available and active at work. I am amazed at how many women are expected to come home from work to be a full-time mom and wife and housekeeper. Yes, that still happens.

These are just a few examples. I have a couple more for next week. The point is that you will have to actively stand against the abuse. The narcissists and abusers will take whatever they can. And they won’t care what it costs you. They may not even be actively pushing you. They have created systems at work and in the church and at home where the expectations are almost unspoken. You have to perform at higher and higher levels just to feel good about yourself. But it doesn’t work.

You have permission, even a call, to take care of yourself. That means limiting what others can take. Yes, they will whine, and argue, and fight, and complain, and manipulate. That’s what they do. You have to stand up and stand strong. Set a boundary and keep it in place. Be prepared for their challenges, but know that you are right.


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5 responses to “Boundaries around what?

  1. Steve Tompkins

    Pastor Dave, good, helpful and affirmative advice for taking care of ourselves with necessary boundaries! Thanks, as always.

  2. CC

    Another great post! So confirming and helpful. Thank you.

  3. Jae Blessing

    Wow.  Sometimes it seems like Jesus is telling you what all is transpiring in my family’s life so He can, through you, tell us what we need to do. Thank You, Lord.  And, thank you, Pastor Dave.

  4. S

    How is it possible to place boundaries on money when it concerns a relationship between a husband and wife? My husband has used my money freely and has even increased his savings from my salary whilst he has contributed nothing financially and continues to expect me to provide finances for further purchases like car, another house and maybe even for a business he plans to start.

    I am so burdened by this and wish Jesus would save me from this relationship. I am mentally very exhausted living with a man who continues to confuse me with his behavior until I wonder if I am over imagining and I am the unappreciative one or if he is actually manipulative. I have lived like this for 30 years, always giving him my money and having very little say, unless I do things in secret. This article has given me a glimmer of hope although I don’t know the way forward, as long as I am living with my husband.


    • Hi S! I am so sorry for your pain! What you describe must be both sad and frustrating, let alone frightening. Please understand that I don’t know many details of your situation, so I can only tell you what I have told others.

      I believe a wife has a right to personal finances, money she can control and access without having to give an account to her husband. That might be only a few dollars, or it might be a significant savings or investment. A husband should support this.

      This is especially true in two circumstances. You are in both. When you earn the money, you should be able to access it and benefit from it. And when your marriage is struggling, you should have funds available if you need them. If the family finances are shared, the wife should have equal access. If he has separate funds, you also should have separate funds. These do not have to be a point of contention. They should be seen as a form of sharing resources.

      So, here’s the question: Do you have the right to have a secret stash your husband does not have access to? Certainly, if he has that right you do also. However, if you can see a time when you will need to leave the relationship, you should provide some funds ahead of time. That probably means a few hundred dollars in cash or an account in just your name. If you need to travel or find a place to stay, you will need money.

      I would also have you understand that what has been normal for you for a long time is not normal in most marriages. From the outside, this appears to be a form of abuse and exploitation. Victims become habituated to long term abuse and don’t see it as unusual. What you are struggling against is unusual.

      As I say this, I am also aware that taking a stand of any kind may be somewhat dangerous for you. You don’t speak of his anger or control, but it is certainly suggested by your story. You should find a supportive friend or counselor who can help you weather whatever storm your new boundaries might produce.

      When a spouse has broken marriage vows by being manipulative and abusive, a secret plan with provision may be necessary. Most of us don’t like the idea of secrets in marriage, but we also don’t have to share everything. It seems to me that it is necessary for you to begin to take care of yourself and your future. You don’t have to use these funds to separate or divorce. That’s another step, and the Lord will lead you there as well. But having an “emergency” fund available just for your use is neither wrong nor unwise. Having a plan to protect yourself, thinking of where you would go and what you could do, will not cause things to happen. It will, however, give you some strength in the relationship.

      I have made your post more anonymous just in case. Please know that I am praying for you. I know others here will also. You are not alone.

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