Love Styles and Boundaries

 Love Styles and Boundaries

Controllers and Victims and Boundaries

Let’s begin by reviewing what boundaries are all about.  Henry Cloud and John Townsend have written extensively on the topic of boundaries.

The following overview is taken from the book by Cloud, Changes that Heal.  He devotes a chapter on boundaries.


Boundaries are the ability to maintain one’s own identity and selfhood while connecting with others.

An intimate relationship needs both vulnerability and closeness as well as the freedom to move apart and be separate.

In a healthy relationship, each person is supportive and encourages the uniqueness and
growth of the other.

In other words, closeness does not equal sameness.


Thinking about a relationship with no (or few) boundaries will help us better understand boundaries.

An enmeshed or fused relationship is an unhealthy bond in which boundaries are violated and any individuality, separateness, or differences are viewed as a threat and are not easily tolerated.

Dependence may be exaggerated and the ability to function independently is limited.

Controllers and Victims and Boundaries

Controllers have endless boundaries and they are often inconsistent, unpredictable and unfair.

What may be OK one day might set them into a tirade on another day.

In general any time a controller becomes insecure (and this may happen so fast they don’t know it) they will become more rigid and controlling.

Control makes everything and everyone predictable and predictability settles down that flash of anxiety, or inadequacy.

As kids controllers were often allowed no boundaries.  They had to endure and take what every came their way.  Somewhere along the way, they decided, “No more!”  Taking charge and getting everyone “into their box” serves a purpose.  It helps prevent them from feeling painful childhood feelings of fear, inadequacy and humiliation created by an erratic, volatile environment.

Controllers have no problem with anger and saying “No”.  They have problems with accessing any emotion under the anger.  When someone says “no” or sets a boundary with a controller, they are almost literally back in their childhood home.  Here is what they learned growing up…”If any one else has control in any way, bad thing will happen.”  So, they fight other people’s boundaries and resist any authority, limits, or control over them.

Ultimately, controllers do not respect people they can run over, control and manipulate.

What a dilemma they are in!

The solution?

Controllers need to realize, they will never suffer as adults the same way they did as kids when they truly had no control.  They need to learn to receive comfort for those horrible memories.  It takes a lot of the power out of past trauma when the memories are acknowledged, felt and soothed.

Controllers need to learn equality and reciprocity.

This is new.

Some one else can have control for a while and it is not deadly or humiliating.

Sometimes, my way; sometimes your way; sometimes a compromise.  This is all new territory for the controller, but they have to let go of rigid harsh boundaries to achieve this.

What about victims? 

Of all the types, victims have no boundaries.  They acquiesced to rigid control as kids and learned to tolerate way too much.  The abnormal became normal.  The intolerable became tolerable.  The unthinkable became common place.

Victims have no measure of “normal”.

Suffering, chaos and mistreatment were so common growing up it is literally just about all they know.  To complicate matters, they carry “I can’t resist” attitude and belief in their posture, gestures, voice tones and facial expressions.

Thus, they get victimized again and again.

They practically wear a sign around their neck that says, “You can do anything to me and I won’t stop you”.

I encourage people who have endured this level of victimization to get involved in some sort of aggressive physical activity.  Kick boxing, martial arts, even something like tennis where you have to whack a ball.  In my experience once the body knows how to “fight back” or be assertive, it is way easier to learn relationally.  I have seen this be the beginning of a transformation for men and women who were victimized as kids.

The goal is to help victims feel their power.

It fuels their ability to say, “no”, set limits and protect themselves.

Love and blessings,

Milan & Kay