Narcissistic Abuse: Boundaries, Requests, & Ultimatums

In this interview, Mandy Friedman and Michelle Minette, mental health professionals who specialize in narcissistic abuse recovery, discuss the basics of boundary setting by exploring the differences among requests, boundary setting, and ultimatums. Too often people make requests or angrily dish out ultimatums and call them boundaries. Because of the need to change the way you look at relationships, it takes time to develop your skills for setting boundaries. Boundary setting is addressed throughout recovery, beginning with understanding what they are in relation to requests and ultimatums.

Boundaries are defined limits determined by what is acceptable versus unacceptable behavior for you in your life and relationships. They are the spoken and unspoken rules that guide our behavior keep our interactions with others predictable, routine, comfortable, and respectful. Boundary setting comes with consequences, but not all consequences need to be spoken—you are free to act on the consequence without alerting the boundary violator.

Your boundaries are about controlling what you have agency over in your environment. They are a baseline for being aware of and meeting your personal needs. Though you establish and maintain relationships with others based on their response to your boundaries, you are the only one responsible for upholding them.

Requests are merely things you ask others to do based on your wants or preferences. They do not come with consequences because you have no power to enforce consequences. The person receiving your request is free to deny it. For example, “Hey, neighbor, would you mind turning the noise down?”

Ultimatums are different from boundaries in emotion and what you are trying to control. An ultimatum is an attempt to control someone else by manipulating them into behaving differently. Ultimatums are usually delivered in anger and frustration without the opportunity for a discussion for mutual understanding. The consequences are typically emotional blackmail, at best.

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Disclaimer: This content is intended for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for mental health treatment. It is important for survivors of abuse to find mental health professionals who understand trauma and abusive relationships. Please seek support from trusted and trained practitioners. This content is not meant to be used by anyone as diagnostic criteria. Permissions have not been granted for anyone to utilize this material as a source to make allegations about specific individuals. Any online content produced by Michelle Minette and F! All That Wellness Coaching is an educational discussion about narcissism which is a descriptive term for tendencies and behavioral patterns. Individuals with narcissistic features or tendencies do not necessarily meet DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. The terms narcissistic and narcissism are used as descriptions of tendencies and behaviors and are not meant as clinical terms.