Question (from Facebook community): “Why is it so difficult to set boundaries with my {abusive} husband? Why do I feel like the bad guy?  And how do I actually do it?”
It is so difficult, sweet one, because you’ve been dancing a certain dance with your spouse for a long time, and it’s so very hard to introduce new steps.  When one of you makes even a slight change, the entire dance must change.  And very few people embrace adjustments, especially those with abusive personalities.  They thrive on things staying status quo, but more importantly, on being the one in control.  So when you start making some shifts, you will more than likely come upon resistance.  Add to that, denial is usually at play to some degree. 
I remember when I first began attending a twelve-step recovery group.  I was thought idiotic for attending because it was unnecessary.  Why would I need a recovery group if there were nothing in our relationship to recover from, if there weren’t really a problem?  And so, therefore, putting into practice things I was learning in a group that supposedly didn’t apply to us was foolish and a waste of time.  Except that the group and its teachings did very much apply to our lives and situation, and I very much needed a new way of learning to live within the confines of our broken marriage. 
And you feel like the bad guy probably because you’re standing up for yourself perhaps for the first time or at least in brand new ways.  But let me reassure you.  You are allowed to stand up for yourself.  Those who toss around “turn the other cheek” to women in abusive marriages do not understand the complexities of what we’re dealing with on a daily basis.
Barbara Roberts says in Not Under Bondage: “Paul said, ‘Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.’ (Romans 15:2). In other words, our pleasing people should build them up in godliness.  To please an abuser by allowing him to go on abusing is not building him up in godliness. It only enables him to sin for longer.”
Read those words again and let them sink in.  It will be challenging for you to set boundaries, for sure, but it is not going against God’s will to do so. 
Let’s talk through a couple examples of how this might work in your marriage.
Say your husband comes home from work at a different time every night and you hold dinner.  You are resentful and your kids are cranky.  Try coming up with a set time, with your husband, that dinner will be served every night.  Then, whether he’s home on time or not, you serve dinner at that time.  Your kids are on schedule and your husband sees that you are consistent with your word.  On top of that, your resentment will fall away as you feel more in control of the situation. 
Another example.  Arguments with your husband can get out of hand.  He may be a yeller or a hitter.  If he’s a yeller, you are allowed to choose not to engage.  You can simply but firmly say, “I do not accept being yelled at. We can finish this conversation when you’ve calmed down.”  No questions.  Don’t let him bait you.  Just walk out of the room.  If he hits you, that’s an entirely different level of boundary that needs to be set.  You need to tell someone and you need to get away.  You may even need to obtain an order of protection.  This is something you can find out about simply with a call to your local police station and asking for more information. Scary? Yes. You never thought you’d be in this position? I know.  Necessary? If being physically abused, absolutely.
Your husband drinks and drives.  Tell him that you will not allow him to drive you or your kids when he’s inebriated.  It may mean you start being the primary driver for a time.  It may mean you and your children drive separately to all of your family events.  Whatever it takes to keep yourself and your children safe.
What you need to remember is it will feel uncomfortable and it may even feel like  you’re wrong for doing what you’re doing and saying what you’re saying.  It’s only because it’s a new behavior.  But when you set up a boundary, you must remind yourself that it’s not a consequence on the other person; it’s a statement of what you are willing and not willing to live with.
*I would highly recommend Boundaries and Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend for further study on this topic.

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.


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