When does a relationship qualify as abusive? One of the ways to answer that question is to look at boundaries that must never be crossed. Boundaries are intended to protect you as a valued person in a relationship. There are four boundaries that abusive people violate because they do not see you as a separate person with rights:
Your right to say no. Abusive people don’t listen to you when you say no because they believe they have a right to control you by choosing for you. They do not see you as having the right to have power over your own life. They may accuse you of wanting to control them but in reality they seek to control you by taking away your right to say “no.”
Your right to have other relationships. Abusive people are threatened by your close relationships with other people and as a result, seek to isolate you from family and friends that support you and speak truth to you about your life. They will be jealous and competitive with anyone in your life that you care about and will either make it difficult for you to spend time with the person or try to get you to doubt that the person cares about you.
Your right not to be hurt physically or emotionally. Each of us has the right to not be hurt by other people. We also have the right to speak up when we are being hurt and to have the person listen to our concerns and stop doing what is painful. Anyone who cares about you in a relationship will care when you say you are being hurt. Physical abuse is easier to identify than emotional abuse but nevertheless, if someone is treating you in a way that hurts you, they should be willing to listen to your concerns. Abusive people do not care if they hurt you, in fact, they intend to hurt you.
Your right to have and express your opinions, feelings, and perceptions. One of the main characteristics of verbal/emotional abuse is the undermining, ridiculing, and denying of your opinions, feelings, and perceptions. The abuser essentially conveys the message that you are stupid, ignorant, oversensitive, crazy, mean, controlling or any other label used to prevent you from being able to hold your truth as yours. Rather than validating you, they use every tactic they can to invalidate you.
Each of us has the right to be treated with respect and dignity. God created each of us uniquely in his image with a precious self that needs to be honored in relationships. One of the ways you can tell if a relationship qualifies as abusive is if these boundaries are repeatedly crossed by a person who doesn’t treat you as a precious child of God.