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Setting Boundaries

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Establishing clear, firm boundaries is the first step
in learning that the only behavior we can control is our own.

From a member: "The EVIDENCE of properly used boundaries is not always a "fixed" situation or loved one. Properly used boundaries do not insure "success"; they only add protection for the person using them properly. Nobody expects boundaries to HEAL anyone; they can only help to protect our own personal dignity and restore sanity."

This is in contrast to ultimatums, which seek to force someone else into doing what we want. Establishing boundaries is not only for ourselves, but a kindness and act of love for our bipolar loved ones.

Below are the boundaries one courageous member established, and testimonials from several members.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I was thinking I should probably share my heart and ask for prayer
during this time. In recent weeks the abuse has been severe andthe kids
and I have been crumbling. My husband's depression, anger and rage has
caused a domino effect into the lives of everyone around him. His
mother's is having chest pains with extremely high blood pressure, I am
having some major health concerns too, and struggling to keep my head
above water. My children are hurting deeply.

I began to pray this week as ask for specific direction of what God
wanted me to do. I felt him asking me to set some strong new
boundaries. I cried over this because I knew that setting these
boundaries would bring about a massive backlash of hurt, yet save us
from hurt at the same time. I spent several days in prayer and met with
two counsellors, and two Christian mentors. With their help I wrote up
a comprehensive boundaries statement that suites our situation.

I gave it to my husband in counselling last night. The back lash began.
I listened to him yelling, telling me that I was handing him divorce
papers in setting boundaries. He could not see how crushed I've been and
how I need to protect myself and the kids, all he saw was rejection.
From his feelings of rejection came anger and a desire to hurt me and
the kids in return.

The new boundaries are such that they cut out abuse.. Literally. There
are consequences listed for breaches of the boundaries and I need prayer
and strength to be able to follow through on each and every one.

I am attaching the boundaries doc, just in case anyone wants to browse
it. Maybe it will give someone else some ideas of boundaries that can
protect them from their bp family member.

I am joyful this morning because I know God is here and I am walking in
obedience. Yet the pain of hearing my husband tell the counsellor that
he knows he is abusing me and that he refuses to stop, and justifies his
behaviour. It ached..

Pray that God gives me strength to walk alone, without my spouse through
this really painful time.

Husband bp, unstable,
Children 7, 10, 11.

Boundaries doc.


I no longer choose to be a victim. I choose not to put my children in
the role of victim by not protecting them from verbal and emotional

While I understand I cannot force anyone to respect me, I choose to, set
up boundaries that will protect our hearts from any behaviour that is
inappropriate or damaging. I now choose to set a boundary that says, I
will no longer allow myself or the kids to be hurt daily, and become
emotionally exhausted by disrespect. THOSE ARE MY CHOICES.

These are common types of disrespect that I have failed to set
boundaries against in recent weeks and months.
* Blaming me for the consequences of someone else's actions
Example of a blaming statement "I am this way because you won't let me
* Manipulating me, via guilt, tears, sweetness, conning, lying,
* Not allowing me to be loved by others, including having friends
and family, being praised by others, being given gifts or help from
others, phoning, emailing or being with others (laying guilt trips,
controlling statements, angry outbursts)


a. I choose not to allow someone in my home who will disrespect me.
My home needs to be a safe place for my children, myself, my daycare
kids, students and anyone else who enter our door.
b. If a conversation turns disrespectful, I will choose to
immediately terminate the conversation. I don't need to explain or
apologize for doing so. I will not continue the conversation at any
time during that day.


1) My husband may not be in the home at all, unless he has been
respectful of me and the children for 30 consecutive days. Respectful
would mean not being hurtful in the ways listed above and in general.


a) I am asking my spouse to consider taking turns caring for the
kids during the week. I will encourage my husband to take the children
at least one evening and one day per week, according to his schedule so
that he can spend quality time with them as much as his schedule allows.

b) I will encourage my husband to equally share the responsibility of
getting the kids to their events and activities as much as possible. The
kids may be dropped off or picked up but my spouse will not come to the
door until the 30 consecutive days have been fulfilled. At that point
new boundaries will be discussed with a counsellor.
c) After the 30 consecutive days of respect have been fulfilled, the
privilege of being in the home (not living) will be reinstated on the
basis that respect continues and boundaries are adhered to, i.e. leaving
willingly when agitated. Leaving when asked to leave, without guilt
statements, comments to the kids or door banging, storming off, driving
away in a manner that shows the kids frustration etc.
d) No "marriage struggle discussions" are to take place in the
presence of the kids. It is unfair to them. I choose not to engage in
any such discussions outside of counselling or mediation.
3) I am willing to meet with my spouse outside the home once a week
in a public place i.e. the mall to date...

4) During these dates, I choose not to subject myself to any blaming,
venting directed at me, manipulation, hurtful statements, guilt trips,
anger directed at me, or hostility in any form, etc.I hope to encourage
this to be a time for constructive conversation. My goal is to make our
dating time, a time for building our relationship in a healthy way.

5) I choose to not allow our kids to be used as a bargaining tool. I
choose not to allow them to be placed between us in any way.
6) I choose to encourage the children in a healthy loving attitude
of respect and admiration towards my spouse. I feel that it is
essential that negative frustrations regarding the marriage relationship
are not expressed to the kids in any sort of parent dissing. If I feel
that the kids are being poisoned by manipulation etc, then I will choose
keep the children at home with me for the remainder of the week. At such
a time I will choose to offer the kids outside counselling and support
so they don't feel an unhealthy pull between parents.
7) Time my spouse spends with the kids and I, is strictly to be
healthy family time, not fighting time. If that boundary is crossed the
family time will be immediately terminated for that week. This is not
8) I feel that it is essential that I be allowed to go, when I want
to say goodbye, or need to tend to the children. This needs to happen
without my spouse hanging up on me in an unkind way, getting angry,
hostile, blaming, guilt trips or manipulation. I choose to no longer
subject myself or the kids to such behaviours. For this reason I will
state that I choose to go, and I'll simply go (or hang up).
9) We will not have any sleepovers until we have first passed the 30
consecutive days of respect. Then we will date... And eventually have
sleepovers with clear boundaries in place.
10)There will be no sexual affection until the 30 consecutive days have
passed. This may include kissing, hugging etc. I want to be respected
as a person outside of my sexuality.
11)There will be no sexual contact until we are living together again,
so that sex is not a manipulator, a guilt tool or something that is held
against me, as an excuse for anger and unkind behaviour towards me or
the kids.
12)I believe that.." Feeling" loved and fulfilled will need to come from
accepting the truth of my love and commitment to him, rather than my
efforts to convince him. His emotional fulfillment needs to come from
God, not from physical intimacy while separated. While separated I am
only willing to conduct myself as if we are dating, (in a way that
honours God.) I feel that Intimacy in our relationship right now is
inappropriate because it often sends mixed messages and can be used as a
manipulative tool.

13)I choose to no longer allow phone conversations, phone messaging and
email contact to be a forum for debating the marriage situation, or
venting frustrations towards me, because I choose not to be bombarded
with guilt messages and other messages that bring further hurt and
destruction to our relationship. If there are issues that need to be
discussed, I am willing to discuss those things in counselling.
14)Phone and email contact will only be for discussing plans of getting
together, and building relationship in a positive way. I choose not to
expose myself to blaming, guilting, attacking or other things that I
find hurtful and destructive to my emotional wellbeing. If there is any
breach of this, contact with myself and the kids will be terminated for

I will no longer accept any responsibility for the emotional health and
happiness of my husband. I believe that his choices and beliefs
determine his thoughts and the emotions that follow.

I love my spouse and therefore am deeply committed to working towards
reconciliation and having a strong healthy loving marriage without
emotional, verbal, physical, spiritual or sexual abuse. I am willing to
wait for the day the God brings healing to our marriage, but I am not
willing to expose myself or the kids to any more. For that reason, this
list of marriage boundaries will stand until it has been fulfilled and
or needs amending under the guidance and prayerful direction of
counsellors and pastors who are investing in the building of our

I have written these boundaries with careful thought and extensive


How Boundaries Change Lives

From K.:

This has been a year of immense learning for me and my children. The

basis of learning has been in part learning how boundaries are the

essence of every healthy relationship. I can not have any healthy

friendships, working relationships or family ties without healthy


Boundaries don't need to be a list of rules printed out.. They are the

lines and limits we draw around ourselves daily to kept he world from

trampling us. It is saying No,, when we need to say no, but feel

guilty... For me boundaries have been the basis of establishing my self


God says I am a child of the Most High God. One year ago, I was ready to

take my life, and couldn't believe God loved me let alone anyone else.

The boundaries that become a part of my character are lines that hold to

the truth of who God says I am. When someone begins to treat me like I

am theirs for the using. it doesn't hold weight against what God says.

God doesn't call us to abuse.... I have learned that!!! So my daily

boundaries will allow me to say no, when I need to, to stand up for

myself instead of letting the world trample on me.

This is no easy task when you have lived your life blinded by abuse.

There has not been one year of my life that I was free from living with

abuse. I have walked such an ugly road....and so much would have never

happened if someone had told me years ago that I can stand up and say


For all of my life, I thought I deserved the abuse and I thought I had

to submit, that I was powerless. I didn't realize God cared so much

about me that he wanted me to have to right to say No. I could have

avoided such pain, I could have protected my children from so much hurt

had I known I had the right to say no. My boundaries don't change my

spouse, my birth family or my children... They change me and allow me to

begin to heal and grow.

This week my son was faced with a small situation.. He's 11yrs old. He's

spent his money on some candy. We haven't had much money to go around

so he hasn't had allowance in a long time. So this precious spending money.

and candy were very dear... it was like a sweet reward he has so

patiently waited for. Then another child began using guilt trips,

manipulation and hurtful tactics to try to force him to yield his candy.

It wasn't that my son wouldn't share... he was sharing but the child was

trying to force him beyond all fairness and in a mean way. My son has

been learning boundaries with me as he watches me start to stand up for

what is right. So he said to the child. Those statements are guilt

trips and manipulation, I will not choose to listen to those. He walked

away from the situation having set a boundary instead of being walked


That is a tiny example but that lesson in life will take him far. I was

so proud of him because he is learning to be the young man God wants him

to be. Not a trampled defeated Christian but one who believes that When

God says he loves us.. That he really does and wants the best for us.

I wrote that boundary doc.[on the left] two weeks ago. I cant tell you that

its been easy. In fact its been incredibly hard, and painful and so much

has happened. My husband is still abusing me, daily, in many ways and

the hurt seems more than I can bear at times. Yet.. I am walking away

from the abuse each time instead of accepting it as my lot.. And

internalizing the hurt. I end the conversations before he can say more

and I walk away. That is my boundary.

My marriage counsellor is asking me to drop the 30 consecutive days part

of the contract because she says its an impossibility for my spouse.

Yet she says not to drop a single personal boundary. The second that a

word of manipulation, hurt, pain or blaming come from my spouses lips, I

am to end the conversation immediately so that the power of abuse is

broken. consistently and tactfully. If I allow him to verbally abuse me

and the kids, or abuse us in other ways... without setting any limits of

what we should be subjected to... I hurt him! My lack of boundaries can

in fact be a source of constant pain in the life of my husband.

It is like a child who has never been given limits. They don't know how

far they can go, and they destroy themselves and others trying to find

the limit. God is a God of limits. He wrote the Ten Commandments

because he loved his people so much, He gave us his word because he

loves us. He sets limits for us and those limits keep us from harm.

Its easier to let things slide than to live a life of healthy boundaries

but in the end a boundary less life leads to more pain, hurt, and

despair than a life of clear boundaries.

These are the lessons I have been learning.... not through philosophy

but through tears, and gut wrenching honesty with myself.

Not a one of you know my story or the road I have walked, but if you

knew where God has taken me... And the healing he has brought me, my

children and my husband by teaching us boundaries, then you would agree

with me... But since you don't know all that.... and this letter is

already so long you'll have to take my word for it.

Bless you all

Husband is bp, rapid cycling, very unstable,

Children 7, 10, 11,


From M.:

"I know the hardship of supporting the family and looking after the children meanwhile dealing with a husband with bipolar - 16 years of it and when I joined this group it was a godsend. For the first time in my life I heard "boundaries" and I understood that it was ok to insist on a certain quality of life for myself and the children (two teenagers now.)

After all those years and many episodes (horrible) and hospitalizations (traumatizing) he now takes medication on a regular long term basis - something I never thought we could achieve. I never in the past thought I would say this but I know now that it is the only hope. I dread to think what would have happened if we had not made this change.

I am now happy to support the family - he contributes how he can and I am fine with his limitations as i know he has taken the responsibility to his family of continuing with the meds. He IS disfunctional and I can handle that - where I couldn't handle it when he was in denial. It comes down to commitment and compromise and willingness to work to the greatest good.

Again, I NEVER could have done this without the wonderful support of everyone here - bless you all."

From T., mother of M.:

"I can only speak from my experience, but most in the group know M. and I went thru over a year of being out of contact. SO much went into the cause of that happening, but the main reason was her treatment of her kids. I COULD not watch that anymore. I think that's what made me get so bottom line with M. (as far as boundaries were concerned) as I did. As hard as that time was, sometime I thank God for it. M. and I both needed to be jerked back to reality after her dx. Of course D. and I being out $20.000 didn't hurt any in setting boundaries. :-)

It is so hard to tell someone what their boundaries should be because everyones individual situation is SO different. ... Avoiding our bps is a form of boundary. I think that works because no matter how ill our bps are, most of them still want the warm fuzzy of their family. They will (at least what I have seen from M.) do what it takes to get that back. With M. it meant owning and taking responsibility of/for her illness. She knew after a point in time, she would get support if she did that. She gets that support now as long as she does that and tries to the best of her ability to raise her kids well.

I can honestly say I can remember reading one of K.'s posts that said her husband had the choice of taking meds or not. If he chose not to....he had 3 days to pack his bags and find another place to live. Made a huge difference in how I deal with bp now because I have seen boundaries work. Thank you K. I will forever be in your debt in my bp world."
From W.:

"I'm really into boundaries thanks to the Christian psychologists books/radio ministry "New Life" (you can hear on the website ) . I cannot recommend these guys' books & radio show enough...namely 3 books Boundaries, Boundaries in Marriage, and God Will Make a Way. Before that I was turning into a basket case & the final straws were being diagnosed with high blood pressure at 32 and 2 small babies who made me realize that I was in a toxic situation.

My husband is still BP but thank God I have a framework in which I take care of my self and children and have set the parameters of what I will and will not accept from my husband. Who knew that a few times of being left home on the doorstep while the rest of us enjoyed an outing would curtail his name calling & rages to a great extent (this was pre-diagnoses). Makes me want to kick myself around the block for taking it & yelling back for 7 years of dating & 2 years of marriage!

My struggle is mostly now with his inability to hold a job, and him accepting he has BP & needs meds (not just anti-depressants) and also maintaining boundaries lovingly with him (it actually takes work)."

Visitors since 8/2004.