Boundaries With Family

boundaries with family

by Christina Enevoldsen

I was talking with a friend who’s planning to set some boundaries with family. I’ve heard the things her parents have said and done to her for years so I’m celebrating this big step with her.

But my friend also shared her plans with someone else. That person wasn’t so supportive. That person’s advice to my friend was that she needed to accept her parents for who they are. After all, “They’re your only parents”. She suggested forgiveness in the name of love and peace.

I got the same kind of response about my family. Before people even knew what happened in my family, they judged me. Whatever the problems, I was supposed to work it out. No matter what they did, it was my job to “make nice”.

Putting “love and peace” above truth leads to anything but love and peace.

When I think about growing up in my incest family, not allowed to show any displeasure or negative emotions, was it a household of love and peace?

Real love doesn’t diminish a person yet insist that it’s okay. Real love recognizes the ugliness and does something about it. Love doesn’t squash and silence; it empowers.

Love and peace can only exist when conflict is allowed out in the open. They can only thrive with permission to set boundaries.

The breakdown in my family exists because my parents didn’t allow conflict. I had to be like them, think like them, believe like them and go along with them. There was no room for differences or disagreement.

I’m very close to a handful of friends and a few family members. They are deep, fulfilling relationships that have endured. They’ve lasted because conflict is allowed and normalized.

We can have those honest discussions because we’re willing to feel uncomfortable for a little while and let things be messy.

Love is messy. Love is involved. Not just in appearance, but in the nitty gritty.

I applaud my friend who is brave enough to be honest with her parents. Conflict exists. She’s not creating it; she is only acknowledging it. She’s willing to admit love and peace aren’t there now. And expressing her boundaries is the only chance it has of ever being there.


I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification.  As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.

Related Posts:
Rejecting Dysfunctional Family Rules
Feeling Guilty For Leaving My Abusive Parents
Stop Telling Me to Forgive My Abuser
Confronting My Abuser

Boundaries With Family

6 thoughts on “Boundaries With Family

  • November 20, 2016 at 4:58 am

    Hey. Just wanted to say, beautifully put. Seriously. And congratulations to your first friend for setting boundaries with her family, and good luck to her!

  • November 20, 2016 at 5:21 am

    I liked reading what you had too say’what you wrote .I am an avide listener of chrirtstina living and I too haven involved in incest.”not too a major degree of it but I have been apart of this type of thing. im here if you’d lik too share stories or if you would just like someone too listen. bye

  • November 20, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    I am a survivor of incest. I went into recovery in 1992. My brother and sister do not believe the abuse occurred. This conflict has been going on for 25 years.
    As recommended by so many people, I have practiced forgiveness and reconciliation. This has only driven my suppressed anger, rage, fear and sadness deeper into my body. It has made me physically ill with chronic fatigue and chronic sore throats.
    I am now processing the fact that my brother and sister are in denial, and that denial is a form of dissociation. I have been wasting a lot of energy trying to bring them over to “my side” by staying in relationship with them–which has involved keeping my mouth shut.
    I went no contact with my brother last June. I have gone no contact with my sister in the past few weeks. I have had some loyalty to my sister because at times she has supported me. She is on medication for mental illness. I never know what part of her is going to show up.

    I am letting go of taking responsibility for her well being, so that I can focus on my own. I have been so focused on their needs and not hurting them — that I have denied my own. It’s time for me to come out of denial about my needs–and surrender their needs. I am NOT responsible for their healing.

    Like a lot of trauma survivors, I am a caring, compassionate person. I understand now that forgiveness naturally arises when I have fully validated, valued and honored myself. That takes a lot of focus and deep listening. I am limiting distractions in my life while I continue my recovery. My brother and sister–what they think, their stories, what they need–are distractions that have kept me from the next stage of healing. It feels very good and peaceful to shift my focus.

    Yay for boundaries! Thank you for offering this course, Christina.

  • January 4, 2017 at 3:40 am

    As a survivor of incest I have been full no contact with my family for ten years now and only wish I done it long before that but I am constantly met with reactions of “but they’re your family” or “maybe she/he’s changed” or other totally non-comprehending and discounting statements. Like you, Christina, I knew and still know there is only ever one version of events – theirs; it’s tow the party line and don’t make waves. Well I won’t. Like you, I stand firm in the truth and I have no inner conflict with that: some things are wrong no matter what spin you put on them or defence you present and incest is one of those things. I salute all that you do for those of us living with the legacy.

  • March 4, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I went no contact with my sister two years ago. She was in denial of our family sexual abuse. Best thing I did for myself. Most of my family rejected me because I spoke the truth. They didn’t want to hear it, and they still don’t. My parents passed away years ago, but before that, I stopped having contact with them.
    My healthy family now consists of a few close friends and a cousin who believe me and support me.

  • March 19, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Thank you to each of you who have gone before me and have been brave enough to write about your experiences. Though each of our stories is different – the similarities are uncanny. I draw strength knowing that I am not alone in dealing with that which is absurd & often subtly evil. My story is a mixture of your stories. I am not believed by my family of origin. They call me a false accuser. I had not allowed myself to know & tell my own story until I was 50 years old. My dad is 80 & refuses to admit that he sexually abused me. My mom is almost 80 and is standing by her man. I have told them that I refuse to see them as long as they are calling me a liar. It’s been 4 years. My mom texted – she wanted to know if we could get together but not talk about “it”? I guess she pictures us talking about the weather? Or maybe she thinks that if we are face to face she will have more power to manipulate me into returning to the fold & recanting? No- I refuse to move my boundary. I spent too many years erecting a boundary & then kicking it down. I exposed my children to harm in the process. So, I listen to Johnny Cash sing “I Won’t Back Down” and I feel empowered. Unfortunately, there are many well- meaning friends who say things that set me back from time to time. Things like: “You could get together with your mom & just not talk about it- I’m sure she loves you & misses you”. Of course they don’t understand. It’s hard to explain in a minute a lifetime of being the recipient of mom’s cruelty. But I have to keep reminding myself that I am adult now & adults don’t have to explain. Why don’t people “get” that my dad denying what the truth & mom refusing to hear the truth – is them still abusing me? Do I pray? Yes. Do I hope for them to come to a place of humility & repentance? Yes. Do I stand up for the little girl inside of me? Yes. I cannot turn my back on her; everyone else in my family of origin did.


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