Unhealthy boundaries often emerge from dysfunctional family backgrounds. The needs of parents or other adults in a family are sometimes so overwhelming that the task of raising children is demoted to a secondary role, and dysfunction is the likely result.
Consider the role of the father who screams at his children or becomes physically abusive with them as a way of dealing in a self-centered way with his own anger. His needs come first, and the needs of the children for safety, security, respect, and comfort come second. What the children are likely to learn in this situation is that boundaries don’t matter.
As they grow up, they lack the support they need to form a healthy sense of their own identities. In fact, they may learn that if they want to get their way with others, they need to intrude on the boundaries of other people – just as their father did. They would likely grow up with fluid boundaries, which may lead to dysfunctional relationships later on in life. They would have a hazy sense of their own personal boundaries.
Conversely, they may learn that rigid and inflexible boundaries might be the way to handle their relationships with other people. They wall themselves off in their relationships as a way of protecting themselves, and, as a consequence, may find it difficult to form close interpersonal bonds with others in adulthood.
A qualified couples and family therapist can help you identify unhealthy internal and relationship boundaries and develop healthy ones. The rewards can be immeasurable – for both you and your partner.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT