I was never good at setting boundaries. They were aggressive and that’s not how to handle a hot-headed narcissistic man or woman. Once I walked away, I set boundaries. We signed an agreement not to spend over a certain dollar amount without consent from both of us, not to sell assets, that kind of thing. Those boundaries were promptly battered and trouble was…exactly what was I going to do about it? There wasn’t much I could do in reality until I publicly filed for divorce, but there were a lot of repercussions to doing that initially that dwarfed his boundary battering ways.
I discovered an important thing through those first six months after I left.
1. I learned not to declare a boundary I couldn’t defend or enforce. It demonstrated my vulnerability and his defiant strength.
2. I accepted that I couldn’t control or change him.
Any fence or boundary that can be mowed down, hopped over or driven around is worthless. It becomes a joke. Another humiliation. Further evidence we’re powerless.
My discovery? It’s not a boundary for them. It belongs to you.
I only set boundaries I have the intent, determination and ability to effectively implement or defend. Suddenly they weren’t fences surrounding or protecting me. Once I made a declaration of what I would tolerate and how I would react, they became more like a moat surrounding a castle. A span of water that calmly encircled me. If I heard a splash, I sped up the current, deepened the depth, left no hand holds to grab onto and then did exactly as I had said I would. Every challenge you make, yet can’t defend becomes a defeat. It strengthens them. Weakens you and your resolve.
All of our situations with narcissistic relationships have common aspects, yet all are unique. Cliches become such because their wisdom transcends time and circumstance, and here are a few.
Choose your battles. (My addition) Choose the ones you can win. You’ll win more than the battle. You’ll gain credibility and confidence.
Speak softly, but carry a big stick was dear old Teddy Roosevelt’s statement regarding foreign policy. (No sticks please. What that means in a troubled relationship is state your boundary quietly, fairly, and then react with the impact of that stick if they ripple the waters of your moat. Be decisive. Firm. Immediate. Calculated. Controlled. Active, not reactive.
Remember that you cannot control them…goodness, they can’t control themselves. What you can do is tell them, if you continue this behavior I will…… and then it’s up to you to decide how you are willing to react. Never…Never make the statement and relent.
Say what you mean, mean what you say, speak your piece quietly. It’s not their boundary, it is yours. Your trip wire call to action. At a point you’ll need to stop expending your emotional energy fighting them and put it all into fighting for yourself.
Own your life. You matter. Be kind. Be fair. Be firm. Be consistent. Believe you can redefine yourself and your life whatever your age. I wake now with enthusiasm. Savor the froth on my morning coffee. My life is full of possibilities, opportunity and nobody messes with my moat. 🙂
My best wishes,