The role of boundaries in healthy relationships

Category : Blog

Whether it’s for your friends, family, or even your employer, setting healthy boundaries is key to creating and maintaining happy, healthy and fulfilling relationships.

Boundaries not only help serve as a reminder that as individuals we have our own unique needs, interests, and feelings, but they also help us honour these aspects of ourselves and distinguish what we want for our own good and what others want from us. Without healthy boundaries, we contribute to unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships without realizing it.

Without healthy boundaries, we contribute to unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships without realizing it.

How do I set healthy boundaries in my relationships?

To set healthy boundaries one must first be able to define one’s boundaries.

Boundaries encompass both external or physical and internal or mental, emotional, and spiritual boundaries. While physical boundaries such as a locked door, or bodies, a password-protected computer are easy to see, internal boundaries like our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs are invisible and interpreted based on our communication and behaviour. It is important to remember that each person is responsible for their own thoughts, emotions and beliefs.

Setting healthy boundaries can be difficult, and may feel uncomfortable at first. Still, setting healthy boundaries is your right—don’t be sorry for communicating your needs! To start off, make sure you have a good understanding of what your needs and values are.

Knowing the most effective ways to communicate your boundary to the other person is key. Talking about a boundary in the moment that someone does something that makes you uncomfortable might work with some people, but for other relationships, it might work better to set aside time to have a thorough discussion.

For other relationships, it might work better to set aside time to have a thorough discussion.

Regardless of how you decide to bring it up, be specific about the boundaries you’ve defined. Using “I” statements may be helpful, as is explaining why you need this boundary and focusing on the others’ behaviours instead of motives.

For example, if your partner makes a negative comment about the food you’re eating, try saying something like: “I would like you to stop making negative comments about what I eat. If you have a concern about what I eat I appreciate it if you communicate your concerns and the reasons for your concerns instead of negative comments that are not constructive. “

When one has healthy boundaries, one has a strong sense of self and safety. A good example is a room with intact walls. It also has a solid door, but the doorknob is only on the inside. That means you can pick and choose who gets to come into your room, and who must stay outside. Healthy boundaries help you keep out toxic people, emotions, thoughts and beliefs.

How do I know if my boundaries have been crossed?

Boundary transgressions aren’t always deliberate, and they aren’t always obvious—sometimes the person crossing a boundary hasn’t realized they’ve done so at all. Regardless of what form it takes, you have a right to assert your needs, and your feelings are valid.

Sometimes, people will try to make us do things that we don’t want to do by pressuring us into them. For example, if you tell your sibling you can’t babysit your niece on a certain day, they might try to pressure you into it by saying things like “Oh, but we’re family,” “It’s only for a couple of hours, I do so much for you,” “If you love me/her, you’d look after her,” “But you’re so good with her, I can’t trust anyone else to look after her.”

These statements, even if they seem innocuous in nature, are a form of coercion. Coercive acts are essentially meant to get you to “change your mind” about a boundary you’ve already set in place and are boundary transgressions in and of themselves.

What do I do if my boundaries have been crossed?

In safe, healthy relationships, open communication is everything. You have a right to address things your partner has done that have upset you or made you uncomfortable. Prepare for these conversations in any way you need to—sometimes it seems to be best to address things right away, and in others, it may help to think about things and write them down first.

Prepare for difficult conversations in any way you need to. It may help to think about things and write them down first.

If your boundaries have been crossed to the point that you believe your relationship is abusive, it may be time to consider ending the relationship.

Leaving an abusive or unsafe relationship can be dangerous, so it is very important to have a plan on how to leave safely and how you will stay safe if you can. Talking to someone you can confide in may be helpful. If you are in Metro Vancouver, Dixon’s 24-hour intake line is accessible at 604-298-3454. For resources across the Province please call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.


Six myths about love, debunked

Category : Blog

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we want to see those members of our community who are in relationships, in happy, healthy, and fulfilling ones!

Here are six common myths about love, and what the truth about happy, healthy, and loving relationships really is. 

Myth 1. It’s normal for a partner who is deeply in love with you to discourage you from spending time with family and friends.

While most couples who are in love enjoy spending lots of time together, remember that healthy relationships include time apart, and don’t come at the expense of pre-existing social networks. It’s important to continue to spend time with those who you are close with because every relationship brings different types of joy.  

If your partner attempts to restrict who you can spend time with, this may be a sign you are in an unhealthy relationship. He may be worried that your family/friends could spot the potentially unhealthy aspects of the relationship.

By isolating you from those who advocate for you, an abuser is afforded a high degree of power and control, which may escalate to physical violence.

Group of five women, laughing together on a sidewalk.
It’s important to continue to spend time with those who you are close with because every relationship brings different types of joy.

Myth 2. If there is no physical violence, I am in a healthy and loving relationship.

Physical violence is certainly a clear indication of abuse, but abuse is not limited to physical violence. Other forms of abuse include being forced or coerced to engage in sexual acts against your will, stalking, imposing an allowance or other means of financial control, bullying, or the use of threats to control how you act.

If you feel unsafe in a relationship, even in the absence of physical violence, the relationship is likely abusive.

Myth 3. If my partner hurts me physically, it’s my fault for pushing his buttons or not being a good enough partner.

Love should never hurt. As human beings, we have agency and the ability to act decently towards others. Your partner can and should act with kindness, and work with you to build a relationship that is grounded in trust and respect. Some abusers may have a past characterized by volatility or trauma, but it is important to remember you are not responsible for this trauma, nor do you need to tolerate the violence or abuse imposed on you as a result.

Love is a powerful feeling that can be used to elevate your partner, making you both happier and stronger people in the process. However, immense love is not a replacement for counselling or other tools to help a partner who is processing trauma. Violence—physical or otherwise—is never acceptable, and it is never your fault.

A black and white photo of a woman's back, with "Love shouldn't hurt" painted on her right shoulder blade.
Love should never hurt.

Myth 4. My partner is jealous and keeps tabs on me because he loves me so much.

It is normal in relationships for feelings of jealousy to arise occasionally. However, concerns about distrust should be resolved through healthy communication. Your partner should never be checking your phone or restricting you from seeing certain people because of a delusion that you are being unfaithful. In a healthy relationship, if one partner is experiencing feelings of insecurity or jealousy, conversation takes place, not constant monitoring.

The expression of extreme jealousy, such as forbidding you from going out with friends or installing surveillance cameras in your house, is not a sign of love. While jealousy may be followed by expressions of sincerity, this is likely part of a greater cycle of abuse and does not justify the controlling actions of your partner.

Myth 5. We’re just fighting! My partner is only treating me badly because we had an argument.

Every couple has disagreements, and emotions can run high! While you or your partner might say something you regret during an argument, escalation to degrading and belittling you, personal attacks that are just meant to break your confidence, or threats of violence against you and your loved ones, including your pets, are not acceptable.

While all couples fight from time to time, violence in any form is never part of a healthy relationship.

Every couple has disagreements, but violence in any form is never part of a healthy relationship — even in a “fight.”

Myth 6. If I didn’t love my partner, I wouldn’t remain in the relationship. Couples stick together because they are still in love.

Emotional attachment and love are different, although often confused. Love is respect, support, care and sacrifice. Emotional attachment is missing someone you have had in your life, feeling better because you have company and not alone, feeling social pressure to be in a relationship. Love lifts you up. Love is a powerful emotion and should build both you and your partner into better versions of yourselves, not break you down.

This Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the many happy, healthy, and positive relationships we see in our community! Healthy relationships are centered on trust, empathy, and respect.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you or someone you know might be in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship, visit dixonsociety.ca for more information.


Donor Feature: Keith Metcalfe and Traction Guest

Category : Blog

In the summer of 2019, a team of 45 employees from Traction Guest came to assemble brand new dressers for the units at Wenda’s Place, our Second Stage Housing program. Since then, they’ve also hosted a coding workshop for the kids at Dixon.

“Dixon came into our view on the Traction Guest side of things because we have a belief that we have to impact more than just our shareholders, employees, and customers,” says Keith. “We also want to make an impact on our community, by giving our time, skills, and resources.”

We have been so grateful to have had their support. We sat down with their CEO, Keith Metcalfe, to chat more about Traction Guest’s “Guest for Good” program, their relationship with Dixon, and his experience with and understanding of the terrifying reality of domestic violence.

Traction Guest volunteers after assembling brand new dressers at Wenda’s Place

Keith originally learned about Dixon from a news article on Facebook, announcing Dixon’s approval of funding for our housing project.

The housing project caught his attention. Providing a house, or space, for women fleeing violence is not a theoretical impact on the community: it’s tangible. A person needs housing.

“So that was something simple that made a lot of sense to me,” says Keith. “Then I thought, hey, we’ve got this Guest for Good program, and we want to impact the community. Is [Dixon] something we can get around?”

And that’s exactly what they did.

Team-building events for staff—ping pong and the like—are great and fun, Keith acknowledges, but there’s something really meaningful about contributing to organizations like Dixon.

“When people get to do something tangible and see the result of their work, it’s really gratifying,” says Keith. “It was enjoyable to do something, and be able to think—I can see a room here, I know people live in here, I know they have a dresser, and maybe they didn’t before. There’s something really satisfying about that, given that our work [at Traction Guest] is largely around assembling ideas and giving them to people to use.”

Traction Guest volunteers (Keith on the far right) assembling a dresser at Wenda’s Place

Keith adds that it was also great to rally people around doing volunteer work because and the employees can see the values they talk about being embodied in action.

“I’ve also had some personal exposure to people experiencing domestic violence situations,” shares Keith.

It’s because of that exposure that Keith knows that leaving a domestic violence situation is not so simple. “I think some people hear about these situations and have thoughts like: We’re in a country where people can go and get a job. Why don’t they do that? Why don’t they leave? [But] then you get exposed to it, and you realize there’s emotional, financial, and physical obstacles.”

Keith has seen situations where people don’t have any financial means to leave, on top of having to consider the children involved, even if the person involved knows that they should leave the violent situation.

There is also the problem of the legal system.

“If I ever get into a place where I can revamp [the legal system], I would,” says Keith. “If you’re a woman trying to leave a bad relationship, legally, it can be a weapon against you. I’ve seen it, and it’s ugly. I’ve seen situations where people have to go through multiple lawyers. They’re having a hard time dealing with the legal process because they’re just in a space of protecting themselves, so then the abuser gets the opportunity to use the legal system against them.”

Keith knows that the legal system can be used as a tool to purposefully delay process, and prolong abuse. It seems profoundly unjust: the legal system should be protecting people who are vulnerable.

“And then there’s the emotional side: often, social networks are all tied together. Not only would you be leaving [an abuser], you would be leaving your entire safety net and social network,” adds Keith. “And then there are the physical threats to leaving—and maybe not just to you, but to children. And when you start appreciating that, it’s not that simple. The idea of leaving is terrifying. And maybe not even possible.”

Keith observed that a warm, safe place to go is probably the number one thing in mind for women fleeing domestic violence, and that’s what drove him to donate to Dixon Transition Society in the first place.

“Not having a safe place to go is probably the number one obstacle to leaving—so for me, I thought that it was something I could help with. Abused individuals are often in a state that they just need to get away and decompress, first and foremost, and don’t necessarily want to be around anybody trying to fix them.”

There’s also the benefit of being around women who have been through similar experiences and “come out the other side.”

“Just the idea that it’s possible [to move on] is inspiring, and maybe less hopeless,” Keith says, “so going to an environment where there are people who can say, ‘Hey, I’ve done this. You can, too,’ would be really helpful. And I like that about Dixon.”

We’re so grateful to collaborate with individuals and businesses in our community, including Traction Guest. These community supporters donate valuable time, money, resources, and effort, and these gifts help make Dixon successful. Without you, we would not be able to do the work that we do of supporting women and children as they rebuild their lives after violence, so thank you.

Thank you so much to Keith for taking the time to chat with us about his experiences, and thank you so much to Traction Guest for your continued generosity and support for the women and children we serve!


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