Personal Boundaries: Has Your Partner Crossed the Line?

4 minute read

Personal Boundaries

It happens easily! Unconsciously and unintentionally we cross over the not so visible boundary lines with our partners, friends, colleagues, and children because we are not thinking.

We can even be on automatic pilot, distracted, angry, sad, scared, tired, or tense and before we know it…. We’ve said something or done something that dishonors both of us in the relationship. 

Crossing boundaries can result in pain in our relationship and may just be a slip of an attitude, a word, or even an action.  Unfortunately, these actions in boundary-crossing can cause BIG tears in the fabric of our marriages and relationships

So, let’s take a closer look at some typical boundary violations that occur in relationships. Are any of these happening in your relationship today?

Four Types of Personal Boundaries

Emotionally Intrusive/Rejective Messages: 

  • Name-calling.

  • Because I feel the way I feel, you should change (or give me what I want).

  • You are responsible for how I feel.

  • You should feel ____(bad, guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, responsible for me).

  • If you really loved me, you would_______.

  • I’m your victim (said directly or indirectly).

  • I’m the victim of _______ (illness, depression, abuse, anxiety, helplessness, misunderstanding, etc.)

  • The world should _________ (excuse me, make it up to me, give me special privileges, overlook my bad behavior).

  • I’ve done so much for you. You should _______(the martyr stance).

  • If you won’t ____, then I will _______.

  • You’re all I’ve got. I can’t survive without you.

Emotionally Projecting Messages:

  • I know how you feel better than you do.

  • I know how you feel, even if you don’t.

  • I feel what I imagine you feel, but I’m unaware of my own feelings and assume they are coming from you.

  • You make me feel ______.

Mentally Intrusive/Rejective Messages: 

  • This is the TRUTH. This is what you ought to think.

  • My ideas count. Yours do not.

  • I know what you think.

  • I can read your mind accurately all the time.

  • My interpretation, analysis, or judgment of you is correct.

  • My interpretation/analysis of what happened is correct.

  • Do not dispute my authority.

  • Only what I think, want, say, or do counts.

  • I know what you ought to do.

  • I’ll ________ (some threatening behavior) if you don’t do what I want you to do.

  • What you think is bad, wrong, and misguided.

  • Your point of view, perceptions don’t count.

  • Don’t ever tell anyone our family secrets.

  • You don’t see what you think you saw. 

  • If you ever tell, I’ll ________ (threatening behavior of some kind).

  • We don’t talk about that subject.

  • Don’t think that.

  • Don’t think for yourself. Let me think for you.

  • You’re stupid, dumb, wrong, misguided.

Spiritually Intrusive/Rejective Messages:

  • I (or we speak for God).

  • You’ll go to hell if you don’t follow our rules.

  • There is only one way to believe, and this is the way.

  • Don’t question your faith.

  • Don’t explore other points of view.

  • Anything other than our way is the devil’s way.

  • Your sexuality is bad.

  • Your feelings are bad.

  • Your thoughts are bad.

  • You are bad.

  • God wants to punish you.

To be in a healthy and loving relationship, it takes loving awareness and courage to transform boundary intrusions. Doing so requires us to step out from behind our defensive walls and own up to what we really think, feel, want, and need. 

Instead of attacking our partner or spouse, it’s crucial to stay present and reveal our authentic selves.  This also means revealing our vulnerability and trusting our ability to handle whatever response we receive from our partner to respond in a loving and kind manner.

If you're struggling with personal boundaries in your relationship, we are here to help. We have both in person therapy and online therapy for individuals, families, and couples.

Discover more about Imago with our Imago Professional Membership, Imago Professional Facilitators, Imago Professional Training and Imago Educational Webinars


Connect. Transform. Thrive.

Imago Relationships 


Paula M Smith, MDiv, MA, MFT-1This blog was written by Paula Smith, Ph.D., MFT, M.Div. 
Paula M. Smith, Ph.D., MFT, M.Div., is an Adjunct Professor, Imago Faculty Candidate, Advanced Imago Clinician, Certified Imago Therapist, Workshop Presenter, and Consultant. Dr. Paula is a co-Founder of Imago Relationships-Providence with her spouse Yael Bat-Shimon, a Certified Imago Therapist & Workshop Presenter. Together Yael and Dr. Paula offer “Getting the Love You Want” Couples Weekend Workshops for Interracial Couples & LGBTQIA couples. Dr. Paula also offers Getting the Love You Want Weekend Workshops for BIPOC couples. As partners in an interracial marriage, Yael and Paula draw from their own relationship journey towards embracing, honoring, advocating, and celebrating each other’s differences, and they help couples do the same. 

Dr. Paula is passionate about helping ALL couples create safe, healing, egalitarian, connected partnerships in deeply perceptive, precise, and appropriately playful ways.

For 16 years, Dr. Paula has worked exclusively with couples. Over the past 8 years, she has developed a specialization in 2 and 3 Day Private Intensives for couples in crisis, engaged couples, and couples struggling in the aftermath of an affair. The Couple Private Intensives are process-driven, exclusive, profound, and life-changing because they allow couples to explore relational issues and dynamics that cannot be understood in shorter sessions. She dives deep with partners over a span of days for deep exploration, understanding, connecting, and fun. Dr. Paula opens couples’ eyes to previously unseen and unfolding possibilities in their relationship. 

Having experienced the miracle of healing and recovery herself, Dr. Paula's life’s work is rooted in a deep belief in the transforming power of relationships. She's been active in 12-step spiritual communities for 36 years. She teaches Introduction to Couples Therapy at Antioch University New England and has also taught courses on topics related to Race, Racism, Whiteness at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Medical School, Rhode Island College, and Imago Relationships North America (IRNA). 

Paula is a member of the RI Association of Marriage and Family TherapyAmerican Association of Marriage and Family TherapistsAssociation of Pastoral CounselorsImago Relationship International, Antioch Alumni Association, and Harvard Alumni Association, and a co-author of the article “Marriage & Family Therapy Training Programs and Their Integration of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identities,” published in the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy and “Post Katrina Theology," published in Harvard Divinity Magazine.


Topics: Healthy Relationships, Breaking Habits, Invisible Abuse, Self Care, Adulting, Getting the Love you Want, personal growth, Creating Healthy Relationships, Long Term Relationships, Online Therapy, Married Life, Healing Trauma, Personal Boundaries, Boundaries, Healthy Boundaries

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The Imago Relationships Blog features content from our team of professional therapists, workshop presenters and facilitators who are passionate about helping you discover a new way to communicate and love your life.

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