If you grew up in a family with addiction, likely some or all of those family relationships were co-dependent. For example, the relationships between family members might have been very close, or they might have been very distant.
It’s common in families with addiction to have co-dependent relationship. Essentially, co-dependent relationships will commonly include blurry or nonexistent lines between the two involved in that relationship. Typically unhealthy boundaries occur when each person puts the needs of other first, when each person disregards him or herself and feel like they do not have any rights. On the other hand there might be family relationships that are very distant, where there is very little communication. Furthermore, because relationship patterns are often passed down from one generation to the next, those with poor boundaries never learned how to have healthy boundaries in the first place.
Boundaries Haven’t Been Established
Boundaries can be problematic if they are too close or they are too distant. The following two lists will point out the differences and why both of these circumstances can be difficult for those involved in these types of relationships.
When boundaries are too close (when they are enmeshed or when one person lets the other in too much), you might:
- have a hard time saying no
- give in too much
- get involved too quickly
- trust too easily
- intrude on others (such as violate their boundaries)
- stay in relationships too long
When boundaries are too distance (not letting people in enough, detached), you might:
- have difficulty saying yes in a relationship
- isolate yourself
- distrust too easily
- feel lonely
- stay in relationships too briefly
It’s common that some people might have difficulties in both of these types of relationships. In dysfunctional relationships, establishing healthy boundaries will at first feel very difficult because it might feel like you are pushing the other person away. Yet, it is important for the emotional and psychological health of both parties to have clear lines between them. Healthy boundaries have the following characteristics:
- Present and clear
- Appropriate versus controlling or manipulative
- Firm but flexible, not rigid
- Protective, not hurtful or harmful
- Receptive, not invasive or domineering
- Not set by anyone else but yourself
Self-Love in Relationships
It’s interesting to note that relationships with too close or too distant are actually attempts at self-love. For instance, when someone behaves very closely in relationships, he or she is attempting to win the other person over. That person is often unconsciously looking for the acceptance and love of the other person. However, what often happens as a result is the other person is the relationship exploits or takes advantage of it.
On the other hand, when someone isolates themselves in a relationship and the relationship becomes too distant, he or she might be trying to protect themselves but then they do not end up receiving the support they need in a relationship.
However, healthy boundaries can keep you safe. For instance, saying no in relationships that are too close can protect you from unsafe sex, using substances if your partner invites you to do so, abusive relationships, and giving in to unfair demands. Meanwhile, saying yes in relationships that are too distant might allow you to rely on others, let yourself be known in relationships, and help yourself feel supported. Examples of healthy boundaries include:
Physical Boundaries: Deciding how much personal space and privacy you need.
Mental Boundaries: Recognizing how easily vulnerable you are to suggestions of others or if you easily inwardly react to the words and behaviors of others.
Emotional Boundaries: Being able to distinguish your emotions and responsibilities from those of others. Healthy boundaries prevent you from giving advice, blaming, or accepting blame. They can help establish an imaginary line that keeps you from feeling guilty about events that are not yours to be responsible for.
Sexual Boundaries: Being able to protect your sexual intimacy with another and know your particular comfort level.
Spiritual Boundaries: Knowing what your own beliefs and ideas about God or a higher power and not being easily swayed by the beliefs of others.
Boundaries can be set within any aspect of life and can establish limitation upon how much you need in a relationship. Learning how to have healthy boundaries can create relationships that are long lasting, healthy, and fulfilling.