Where ‘the line’ is for you in your relationship is a matter for you to decide. Healthy relationships (where there is an equal balance of power and control) rely on successfully creating agreements about what is and is not OK, and respecting this, even if your ideas are very different (for example - you need an agreement that your partner will not flirt with other people, s/he thinks it's OK to flirt as long as it goes no further, but agrees not to do this because it crosses your ‘line’).
If, however, you're in a relationship where you are feeling intimidated or unsafe, you may have tried unsuccessfully to ask your partner to change their bebaviour. You may have even convinced yourself that it's not so bad, and that you have to be more tolerant. Check out http://www.relationships.org.au/relationship-advice/relationship-advice-topics/relationship-difficulties/misuse-of-power-and-control-in-relationships for more information about the sorts of things that are considered to be violent or abusive in intimate relationships. If you are in this situation, it's important to reach out for help. Talking with a counsellor on your own can help you work out what the best way to move forward is for you. If your situation is more serious, crisis support services such as the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Couselling Service (1300 RESPECT; 1300 737 732) can help you work out how to get yourself to safety.
If you are the one who is struggling to manage your own behaviour in a way that crosses your partner's line - it's also important to seek help. Counselling can assist you to recognise and get control over strong emotions, and to make different choices about how you act in response to your feelings. Counselling can also help you to understand what beliefs and thoughts may fuel a sense that 'crossing the line' is justified, and make changes to these. A common but very dangerous idea is that “My partner is responsible for making me feel and act the way that I do”, for example. Only we have the power to take responsibility for our own emotions and control the actions we take in response to those emotions.
Whatever the reason, if you and/or your partner feel that boundaries are not clear and respected in your relationship, this is not OK. You may find relationship counselling a helpful way to get the support you need to explore where is ‘the line’ for each of you, and to create agreements together that respect each other's needs.
Warm wishes, Vivienne Colegrove
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