The Boundaries We Seek

Sometimes our breakups end well, amicably. Sometimes when we decide that we can no longer have a person in our lives and we put boundaries into place, they are respected. Sometimes this is not the case, and the person with whom we have asked for some space persistently pursues, sometimes to the point of manipulation, abuse, and attempts to coerce.

When we have an ex or a fallen out loved one who begins to relentlessly text, you can almost guarantee a mixed bag of messages – apology texts to the point of begging, angry texts that are meant to punish, manipulative texts that infer that suicide might be a possibility. Sometimes you hear nothing for weeks, only to wake up to a barrage of texts in the morning. Phone calls out of nowhere.

It is through our boundary setting and consistent response that we can begin to feel as though we have some control in what is intrusive:

  • Decide that you won’t play the game; that you won’t get pulled in. Our own emotions often get in the way of our rational decision to end the relationship; allow the facts of the relationship to be present when our naturally driven, ‘hopeful’ thoughts come into play.
  • Remain consistent with your message. If you have to have contact because of shared children or you attend the same family events, be cautious of the emotional nature of your communication. Switch to text or email only if the phone calls tend to go sideways; only answer the factual parts of the message.
  • If you no longer need to have this person in your life, consider blocking their avenues to contact you. So often, I hear from clients that they “feel bad” doing this. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be necessary if the person was respecting the space you have asked for.
  • If they threaten suicide, call 911 and report it. It is not our place to try and guess if the person is serious about the attempt or trying to manipulate. By calling 911, it moves it out of your hands.
  • If the behaviours towards you increase and you begin to worry about your safety, report it to the police.

It is important to recognize that the patterns that make up relationships are still present even after the relationship has ended. If your ex or family member disagrees with the separation they may be consciously and subconsciously working hard to maintain the dynamic. Recognizing that is what allows us to consistently maintain our own boundaries; to build our seawalls when the storms are surging.

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