Everyone gets angry and has conflict in relationships. How we handle our anger or our partner’s is essential to keep the relationship healthy. We all have different tolerance levels of conflict as well. In relationships I call this having boundaries. We have physical boundaries in relationships and emotional boundaries. I want to talk a little about both.
Boundaries look like a bull’s eye target. You get to decide how someone treats you both physically and emotionally. Emotional boundaries have to deal with respect. The rings of the target represent the boundaries in a relationship. The outer most ring defines the tone of voice you allow someone to use with you. Some people allow their partner to raise their voice at them. If you do, you are allowing your partner to cross that boundary. For some people this boundary isn’t a problem. If it is, you will let your partner know you will only have a conversation with them when they are calm and use a respectful tone of voice. If they refuse to cooperate you would choose to leave the relationship in order to keep that boundary intact.
The next ring represents name calling or put downs. Some people allow name calling in an argument. If you do, you are allowing your partner to cross that emotional boundary. If you don’t, you will refrain from engaging in a conversation with your partner unless they are more respectful. You let them know you won’t tolerate being in a relationship with someone who continues to put you down no matter what happens.
The next ring represents coercion and threats. Some people use coercion to persuade their partner to do something. If that doesn’t work they will resort to threats. How do you know when someone is using coercion? The person will not be able to handle it if you use the words, “Maybe”, “I don’t know”, “I have to think about it”, or “No”. If you don’t agree or say yes to them right away, they will resort to using threats to intimidate you. If you allow coercion and threats, you will give in and let your partner have their way. If you don’t, you will let them know you will have to leave the relationship if they continue to use this type of behavior. **Warning** It is very easy to give in to a coercive and threatening person. They know what buttons to push to scare and intimidate you. A person allows someone to cross this boundary usually out of fear. If someone is threatening you, you may need outside help to leave the relationship.
The next ring represents physical violence. Some people allow a person to grab, push, hit, kick or throw things at them. If you do, you are allowing this person to touch you in a violent manner. This is unacceptable. No one deserves to be physically abused. No matter what you do, no one has the right to put their hands on you in a violent way.
The innermost ring represents sexual violence. No one willingly allows someone to violate them sexually. A person may not outwardly fight or verbally say no because of extreme fear. This is the last boundary that is available for someone to cross. The person is now actually penetrating your body. Unless you give them VERBAL consent to have sex with you, this is an act of violence. Silence is not consent!!! Some women feel guilty because they didn’t feel brave enough to say no. If you didn’t say yes, it was still a violation. You can learn to be more assertive with your words and actions to reduce the risk of a date rape situation, but remember it is never your fault if someone sexually assaults you.
Rape is so traumatic because this person effectively crossed every boundary you have in seconds. It is not an easy thing to “get over” or “forget about”. If you are in a relationship with someone who is violating your boundaries, please seek help. Domestic Violence in any form is not okay. The websites below can link you to the resources you need to get further help. If you are entering a new relationship, be firm about the boundaries you set from the beginning. You will deter abusive people if you refuse to let them cross those outer boundaries in the beginning. It is hard to lose someone, but a violent relationship is never worth it.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence- www.ncadv.org
Domestic Violence Information- www.domesticviolence.org
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network- www.rainn.org