Developing safety and connection through internal and external boundaries





Internal and External Boundaries

Welcome to our Bloom Live! By way of introduction, my name is Andrea Rowley. I’m the Coaching Director here at Bloom and over in our path for men platform as well. we are going to be talking tonight about boundaries. So hopefully this will give you some insight, some understanding.

I will leave a little bit of time at the end for some questions and answers, if you guys have any. So, take some notes along the way. Make sure that you have some questions. If you have some that you want to have answered at the end, and I would be happy to do that for you. 

So, we’re going to go ahead and get started. I’m going to share my screen with you really quick and we’ll jump in. 

So, internal and external boundaries this is, first of all, boundaries and consistency are some of my favorite things to talk about. Boundaries are so important and oftentimes they are very misunderstood.

They’re not done as well as they could be or should be. And so I really love teaching clients this concept of boundaries. And, oftentimes we only think of external. So, we’re going to jump in tonight and talk about both internal and external boundaries. So, we’re going to talk about the importance of boundaries and then jump into internal and then external. 

The importance of boundaries

Starting off with the importance of boundaries, many child development experts assert that children flourish when they are in an environment with well-defined, but flexible rules and limits, which are boundaries.

Adults are no different. When we understand our own boundaries, along with others boundaries, we tend to feel more comfortable, more willing to be vulnerable and safer overall, remember feeling safe is always a prerequisite to practicing authentic, vulnerable intimacy. This is where a lot of times we can go terribly wrong because we think that we have to sacrifice our own needs and our own value systems for other people or for the sake of the situation.

And it really doesn’t bring that true intimacy that we need in healthy relationships. Parents real very well in his book. The new rules of marriage stating when you are boundary less, you are connected, but not protected. When you are behind a wall, you are protected, but not connected. Neither one is intimacy.

The answer lies somewhere between, so we want to make sure that we are connecting in a healthy way we’re being protected and connected at the same time. Oftentimes when we hear this concept of boundaries, we think does that mean I’m putting up a wall? Does that mean I have to shut people out?

And the answer is no boundaries are actually invitation to connect. And it’s saying, I want to connect with you in a healthy way, but it needs to be a healthy way. So when I. Working with clients often I’ll use this term because it’s so important, healthy versus unhealthy because when we get caught up in our feelings and emotions, sometimes it can get lost along the way.

And what we really want to do is say, is this a healthy space or is this an unhealthy space? And that makes things a little bit more clear because when we can identify what healthy looks like for us, then we can really have that gauge to go by which we’re going to talk about. Some people believe that boundaries create obstacles to loving and giving to others.

However, Brené Brown in her book Daring Greatly asserts that 

“the most compassionate and empathetic people she knows have very strong boundaries.” 

She further states that 

“compassion, empathy, and love are unsustainable without boundaries. We have to have boundaries in place in order to truly have that compassion and empathy.”

One of the things being that when we have good boundaries in place, we know how important it is to, to respect our value systems and when we can respect our own value system, we can better respect the value systems of another person. This is where in a relationship with someone struggling with addiction, can go very wrong because they don’t have that internal value structure. And, so it’s very difficult for them to respect if not impossible, to respect the value system of another individual. So we want to make sure that we have that good value system in place. We know. What is important to us, what we’re willing to accept and what we’re willing to do and what we’re not willing to do.

So, how can you accept and love others if their needs and your giving are limitless? If you are giving your time, attention, love and compassion in a boundary less capacity, it is a recipe for hurt and feeling others are taking advantage of you. You can not care more about people pleasing than your own boundaries and needs.

If you do, the result will be emotional exhaustion and resentment. One of the hardest things about boundaries is that in order to set a healthy boundary and to maintain that boundary, you have to let go of the outcome. Most people love the idea of a boundary they love, yes, I want to have a healthy space. But, this is the thing that usually keeps people from setting boundaries across the board, which is, but I don’t want to let go the outcome. I want a boundary and I want my values to be respected and I want to have this healthy place, but I also really want this outcome. And, when you hold on to that outcome, you are in danger of not maintaining your boundary, compromising your value system, manipulation or being manipulated. And, so it’s really ,important for us, if we’re setting a boundary, we have to also acknowledge here’s the outcome that I do want, that I have to let that go, or I might hold on to that and sacrifice my value system in order to get.

So, when we are betrayed by trusted loved ones, physically and, or, emotionally, there is a long path to healing and recovery, suffering, betrayal and hurt in a relationship leaves us feeling deep pain from disconnection and fears of unworthiness. This makes it difficult to trust and connect intimately with others. Plus, the gaslighting that often occurs with betrayal makes identifying and setting healthy boundaries, even more confusing. 

This is where it’s really important to get that outside, help and guidance.

But, what we’re really trying to do in this space, we hear the word recovery all the time and I’m going to recover.

And oftentimes it’s this connotation, we’re recovering the relationship. We’re recovering me and my partner. And, really what we want to shift clients to understand is the first recovery that will ever take place and needs to take place is the recovery of self. If I can’t recover who I am and who I’ve always been and connect with my inner self, I will not be able to recover.

Anything externally. and oftentimes when we’re with an addict, like it said here, we’re being gaslit and table turned, we disconnected from ourselves long ago. We wondered, I feel off, something doesn’t feel right. And, when he says he’s fine and everything around us looks like it’s fine, but we still feel off, that’s where a lot of times we’ll disconnect. Maybe I’m just crazy. Maybe I’m overreacting. 

And, so, there’s this internal disconnection that takes place. And, what we’re really trying to recover is that self-connection, again, we’re trying to recover the self-love. The self-respect, the self-trust. We’re trying to really make this internal space, a healthy one.

And, when we do that, then we have a better chance and ability to recover. Any relationship externally. Same thing for the addict. They have to recover their own value systems, their own self, and then they have a better opportunity to recover and to help heal the relationship. 

So we need to practice boundary setting. It’s a cornerstone to healing and rebuilding real intimacy within a relationship. We’re not usually used to doing this. We’re not taught this unfortunately. And, so as you’re learning the space of boundary setting, please remember to be patient with yourself, understand that you’re practicing a new skill that you really haven’t been taught a whole lot about, and you haven’t really done a whole lot of probably your whole life. And, so this space is really where we have to give ourselves a lot of grace and we practice. And, as we keep practicing, we will get better. And, as we go through this process, we can know where we need to adjust things and correct. Maybe some things that didn’t go very well and keep moving forward in that space.

So, the kindest, most loving thing that you can do for yourself, and others, is to explore and identify your personal values, your personal goals, your personal strengths and weaknesses, your needs and your limits. This is the realm that we want to look at when we’re setting boundaries. 

What are my values? What goals do I have? Because again, when we’re in betrayal trauma, we often disconnect. Everything feels so broken and so hopeless. And, so, we need to go back and say, what are my value systems? What are my goals? What strengths do I have that I want to, increase and grow? And what weaknesses do I have that I want to start working on?

What are my needs? Oftentimes, I see a lot of women who feel like their need in life, and this comes from usually a family of origin but their need in life is to make others happy. That they need to make sure everyone’s happy, that everyone’s feeling good and they don’t ever take the time to see, but what are my needs? What do I need in order to survive and thrive in this world? And, it’s really important for you as the individual to write down what do I need to be healthy and happy and thrive?

We need to know our limits. That’s another really important part about boundaries, because if we don’t have limits, we will get taken advantage of, and we will sacrifice ourselves on the alter of everyone else’s happiness and that’s not healthy.

So going back again to healthy versus unhealthy, that would go in the category of unhealthy and want to make sure that’s our gauge is this healthy? Is me, having limits healthy? And, absolutely it is. We all need to make sure that we are not doing more than we’re capable of doing.

So these are authentic, real pieces of you that should be seen, heard, and respected by yourself and others.

Internal Boundaries

So, we’re going to talk about internal boundaries, which again, often when we think of boundaries it’s kind that external me and another person. We don’t really think about boundaries with us and us , um, Many of you probably don’t know that your internal boundaries, what the, what your internal boundaries are.

They should roll off your tongue like the alphabet. Internal boundaries are between you and you. They help you regulate the real relationship you have with yourself. Your boundaries are your values. Boundaries represent how much or little you respect yourself. 

Examples of Healthy Internal BoundariesSo we’re going to talk about some examples of healthy internal boundaries that I would highly recommend putting in place in this space called betrayal trauma.

These are things that most people should have in place anyway, but especially when you’re doing this recovery space. Having good internal boundaries will help you to maintain good external boundaries. If we don’t have good internal boundaries and really respect those and maintain those, we will not be able to do that externally.

So one of the boundaries that I tell clients to really make sure they put in place and practice because again, we’re not used to doing this. Um, One of them would be, I will not take on the responsibility of another person’s behavior. When we are in a relationship with an addict, oftentimes they will do blame shifting and you know, well, if you hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t do that. And, so, we need to be very careful about not taking on the responsibility for someone else’s behavior. Um, This is very important, especially if we’re doing any kind of out of home separation. I know a lot of times when we’re doing that type of separation, it’s very easy to go, well, now that I have this boundary and I maintain this boundary and he’s out of the home, if he relapses, it’s my fault, because I he’s out of the home and I kicked him out. 

So, be very careful about not putting so much onto yourself. If he’s out of the home, he has a lot of great resources. There’s so many good resources out there. Um, He should have a sponsor. He should have a group. Um, There’s a lot of things that he needs to be doing outside of that home separation, in order to build the trust to come back into the home. So, don’t put so much responsibility on yourself in that regard.

 Um, The next one is I will respect how I am feeling and not beat myself up. So, oftentimes we’ll say, I shouldn’t feel this way, this isn’t who I am. Um, 

This is how you feel. This is where you’re at. Don’t beat yourself up, but respect that. And I love that word. I use that word quite a bit with my own clients. We need to really get comfortable respecting where we’re at and not beating ourselves up for where we’re at. So that’s another great boundary to put in place. Get curious about your feelings, respect your feelings, do not beat yourself up. 

Another one is I will sit with my uncomfortable feelings, learn from them, respect them and will not shove them under a rug to make others happy. 

When we are not comfortable with our own uncomfortable, we can not be comfortable with other people’s uncomfortable. So again, we have to learn how to say this is where I’m at. This anger, I’ve never felt this before my life. It is uncomfortable. I’m not used to this. I’ve always shoved it down. I’ve always you know, pushed it away. Now I’m letting myself feel, and I’m learning how to navigate anger in a healthy way. I’m learning how to express myself in a healthy way and trying to respect myself and other people.

So, we need to make sure that we are really respecting that and sitting with ourselves in that space. Once we’re able to do that. And really get comfortable with our own emotions and feelings, we can do that with another person. Again, I want you to think about the addict in your life. They spend a lifetime really trying to avoid feeling anything. They numbed it out. They avoided and , um, self medicated those feelings. And, you have probably experienced that, where you’re having these emotions and he can’t sit with you in those emotions because he’s never really sat with his own emotions. He has never been able to say, this is how I feel and I’m going to sit with these feelings. He’s always known them out and push them away. 

So, he has a lot of work to do in this area as well of letting himself feel, letting himself own those feelings. So, that he can sit with you in your pain , um, and like vice versa, we have to be able to sit within our own pain so we can be better able to help other people and sit with them in theirs. Um, really, really important

 Next one is I will get curious about my emotions and what they’re telling me. So coming back to that, you know, learn from them, respect them, understand that they’re there for a reason. And don’t say , well, maybe I’m just, that’s kind of a red flag phrase that I give my clients. You know, Maybe I’m just crazy. Maybe I’m just overreacting. Anytime we say, maybe I’m just, let that be a red flag phrase for you, because that means you’re about to. How you feel that means you’re about to dismiss something important that is happening inside of you or outside of you. And we need to make sure we stop and say, wait a minute, I’m feeling this way for a reason. Why am I feeling this way? Um, 

The next one is I will not speak unkindly towards myself. Really Really important to do, especially as we’re trying to rebuild our relationship with ourselves. Um, Think about how you talk to yourself, think about how you treat yourself internally. And if you had a friend externally who was treating you that way or talking to you in that way, , Um, if it’s negative and it’s not kind, I guarantee that relationship would be very fractured. You would not trust that person. You would not feel safe with that person. If you came to someone with some deep feelings and emotions and they said you’re just overreacting, you’re being ridiculous, um, why do you have to keep dragging this out? 

You would a, not want to go back and talk to them ever again with your deep feelings and b, would not feel safe with them and it would definitely hinder the relationship. Yet, we do that with ourselves. We are often, you know, tearing ourselves down for having emotion at all. We’re tearing ourselves down for not getting over things as fast as we think we should. And um just like that external relationship, we are damaging our relationship with ourselves.

And what we want to do is set boundaries there. Have a good, healthy relationship with yourself. You would never let someone externally in your life treat you that way. Hopefully. Um, don’t let you treat yourself that way. Really important boundary to set. 

And then the last one is I deserve respect and so do others. Really make that a good internal boundary. I do deserve respect. I don’t need to accept unhealthy behavior. I do deserve to have a healthy relationship, a happy relationship, and I will give that as well. 

So these are important internal boundaries. There’s others. If you think of them, write them down, you know, what do I need? Internally to survive and thrive and make a list and then kind identify what your top five are or your top 10, whatever you want it to be.

External Boundaries

Those are your internal boundaries. External boundaries are what we moved to next. Because again, if we can’t maintain internal boundaries, we will be very poor, if not able, to at all maintain external boundaries. So where you are staying in your relationship, whether you were staying in relationship separating or permanently dissolving your relationship, you will need boundaries.

What you need may change as your circumstances change. So you will need to develop the ability to determine what you need at different times. Living areas. Um, so these are some of the boundaries that you can do living areas, , um, whether you will stay in the same household. Rules for engaging or separating within that space. Um, Really important to have that laid out. You know, If a relapse happens, what happens then? Are we going to do an in-home separation and out-of-home separation? 

Um, The next boundary you want to look at is non-sexual touch the level of touch and physical affection that you were open to, um, given the hurt and pain that has occurred. So, oftentimes I know this one’s a tricky one because , um, I, I know I’ve experienced this myself and a lot of clients have had talked about this where, I’m fine with him holding my hand or touching me non sexually one day and then the next day, I’m not. I’m feeling very triggered and feeling very, you know, I’m upset.

And so we need to make sure that we’re also one of our boundaries is I will respect where I’m at. And, I know , um, for me, I’ve had to explain this to my husband many times. I’m just not there today. I might be there tomorrow, but I have to respect where I’m at today. Today, I’m just not able to do this. Um, Or I’m not able to do this, but I am okay with this. And, you kind of just say, this is where I’m at and this is what I’m okay with. I want to work towards being able to feel comfortable with more non-sexual touch. But right now this is where I’m at. 

And then of course, sexual contact. The level of sexual touch and interaction you are currently open to as you heal from betrayal that has occurred.

So, really just, kind of like, okay, where am I at now? Again, same thing with non-sexual touch. What am I okay with? What am I not okay with really respecting where you’re at. Don’t beat yourself up for not being, you know, where you were before or where you would like to be. Just really respect where you’re at.

And then safety issues, areas in which you feel physically or sexually unsafe and what you need in order to restore a sense of safety. Um, This can be relationships , um, job support groups, you know, really what, what makes you feel safe and what makes you not feel safe and kind of explore that space and say, okay, what do I need in order to feel safe in this relationship? If you do not feel safe, you cannot heal. That is probably one of the best ground rules for recovery that we can give you here is you’ve got to have safety. Um, So, whatever that looks like for you, if it means separating yourself a little bit from the situation, until you can get some good knowledge under your belt , then, then that’s what you need to do. But really make safety a big part of this.

Is there any questions?

 I have a question about the section that you talked about , um, with the importance of boundaries, where you talked about values, goals, strengths, weakness, needs, and limits , like, um, Do you have examples, like a real life scenario, so that I can kind get a better idea on how to identify those. 

In what area? There’s so many different… Yeah, the, I would say the strengths, or I’m sorry, the goals. 

So, you’re saying internal boundaries? 

Now , um, like you talked about, I think it was. A little further back. Yeah. This one. Um, okay. Um, when you talked about like the importance of the boundaries and identify our personal ones, like what could be some goals? I think that’s what I’m struggling with. 

Um, So this would be like your own personal goals. It doesn’t even have to be within the relationship. You know, Oftentimes when we’re in betrayal trauma, we get so caught up in the situation and the relationship that we forget that we’re a person and we have goals and desires and, you know, strengths and weaknesses.

And so this would be goals outside of the relationship. , um, Your own personal goals. We can have goals in the relationship, meaning I want to make sure that I’m always vulnerable and authentic and I’m not shoving my feelings under the rug. Those would be good relationship goals. Um, But really we want to make sure that you’re having your own personal goals too. Um, Are there talents that you want to improve on? We have to create balance in the space and oftentimes, you know, we can get lost in this, this thing called betrayal trauma. So, um, Having goals for yourself in self-improvement things that you can focus on that are not just the relationship. 

But goals within the relationship. Yeah. That would be more like, I want to make sure that I am showing up my true, authentic self and that I’m not um, putting my own feelings under the rug for the sake of the situation. Because a lot of times we’re like , well, I want to be vulnerable, but only if it goes well, and if he gets upset or if he doesn’t like my truth, then I’m just not going to, I’m not going to share anymore. So that would be , well, I want to, would be, well, I want to, I want to share my truth every time and I don’t want to let the situation kind of shut me down. 

So, those would be more emotional goals that you want to set in the relationship. 

Could you give some examples on values? 

Values. So that would be, so this is the really cool part about boundaries that really helped me because I was like, what is a boundary? When I finally realized it’s a value system, I was like, oh, okay, I got this. 

A value system. This would be your own personal value system. Are you okay with X, Y, or Z? Are you not? Okay. Um, I truly had so many great values before I got married. And then when I got married, I thought , well, for the sake of the relationship, I guess I have to, you know, compromise these values.

I guess I can’t do that. Um, So, for instance, I don’t really, I’m not okay with these certain you know, behaviors. But for the sake of the relationship, I guess I have to be. So, there’s a lot of times where women, even in sexual settings, they’re not able to you know, have a voice there and they’re like , well, I guess I have to be okay with this.

And it might be a little bit more violent. Your value system would be, I’m not okay with violent acts when I’m being intimate with my partner. Um, And, a different value system would be, I’m not okay , um, engaging in s behavior over here. You know, We have value systems that we probably had way before the relationship

So, kind of tap into that and say, okay, what was I okay with before and not okay with before? Um, I, in my relationship, I was like, okay, I want a relationship where there is complete fidelity, that you’re all in. Um, I expected that when I was dating, I shouldn’t have to give that up now that I’m married, of course.

So I would just kind of remind him if we’re going to move forward together. I need commitment. I need you to be all in and anytime he would kind of be half in half out, I would just say that, then, that’s your choice to leave this relationship because I, I want a relationship where you’re all in and in this space, it means you’re all in, on the work and you’re doing that work.

So, those will be kind of some of the value systems. Um, 

maybe A question in the chat that says this hasn’t happened and I didn’t really set a consequence. I’ve just sat silent um, and squirming, what should I do have the uncomfortable conversation with him? It’s not worth splitting up over, obviously, but it does disappoint me that he’s conveniently forgotten this one.

Um, Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t see the top part of a small boundary with my husband around strip clubs and scenes on TV. Yes. Um, about him to skip through those when we were watching a show together so far that hasn’t happened. 

Okay. Yeah. This is again, one of those things, if you weren’t comfortable with it before, this is the hard part is the letting go of the outcome. Um, I am not okay with this in my relationship. And if you want to be okay with this, then we need to talk about this because I don’t want to be in a relationship where these types of things are okay. This is the type of stuff that has hurt me deeply. Um, I’ve been with you in these places before, I get it. But now I actually want to go to a healthier place and this is not healthy. So that comes back to that verbiage. I love that verbiage because it takes away from, you know, I feel this way. Cause a lot of times when you say that they can say , well, I’m sorry you feel that way. What you’re saying here is this isn’t healthy and I want healthy. Now I’ve done unhealthy for so long. Um, I really, really want to get to healthy.

Really good, really good questions here. Any others?


If there’s no further questions. Oh, I think I see now. Okay, so thank you. Yeah. Um, Really, , uh, the thing I just want to say in closing is just make sure as you are doing the space called boundaries, that you are. Valuing yourself, you’re valuing other people, you’re focusing on what you can control. Oftentimes we think of boundaries as well, I need to put a boundary on another person. Boundaries are you’re taking control of what you can control. And like I said before, hardest part about this is you have to let go that outcome. Um, it may mean that you are separated for time or that he’s not happy, but we have to really look at it and say, is it healthy this healthy? I need to stay in I  I have done, um, unhealthy in the past and really look at that and say, you know, this almost destroyed me and that is your motivation to keep going in this healthy boundary space. 

But boundaries are an invitation to connect in a healthy way. I can’t stress that enough. That is the most important thing to remember about boundaries. It’s not a wall, it’s not to control another person, it’s not shutting anyone out. It is saying, I want to engage with you, but I also want this to be a healthy engagement. And we, in this betrayal trauma spacegagement feels like, what it looks like and what it leads to.

And so what we say here in the spaces, I already know what that brings, I can’t do that anymore. I want healthy or no deal. And the hardest part about that is the no deal. And I know that space, I I’ve got six children I’ve been there, where I’ve had to say, okay, You know, um, whether he comes with me or not, I’ve got these six children and I may be a single mom with six kids and I have to let go of that outcome.

But the most important thing you will ever do is take back that healthy space for yourself and stop, you know, stop sacrificing your own healthy space on the alter of the situation and other people’s happiness. Really decide for yourself what you can do, what you cannot do make your list. Um, and really respect where you’re at in that space.

Don’t beat yourself up, really focus on those internal goals, those internal boundaries, because those are the most important things that will help you externally. 

Any final thoughts or questions before we wrap up?

Okay, next month we will be talking about consistency. Um, I tell my clients this all the time. One of my favorite things about , um, recovery is boundaries and consistency. Those are the two most important things in recovery. Truly, um, you can have all the tools under your belt that you want, but if you’re not consistent with them, Or you’re not setting boundaries to maintain them, it really doesn’t matter. 

So, um, I hope you will join me next month as we talk about consistency and I will talk to you guys soon. 

Thank you.

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