Boundaries are also known as limits   Boundaries vary from relationship to relationship but are set without the cooperation of the partner—they are not products of negotiation. Boundaries are decisions that protect fundamental safety or integrity, indicating what one will and will not tolerate. If you are describing a boundary, you will state what you will do, rather than try to state what the other person will do—for example, “If you hit me, I will end the relationship,” or “If you talk to me that way, I will leave.”

However, if not really meant, such statements are not boundaries, but threats. Boundaries are not about punishing someone who has been hurtful. The actions taken in holding to a boundary may not be liked by the other person, but still they are undertaken to maintain one's own integrity. A desire to get back at someone is understandable, but it actually weakens a boundary. That is because the other person's response becomes more important than the personal limit. A controlling person senses this and manipulates his response to make the survivor unsure of her boundaries. Punishment may be appropriate for acts of abuse, but punishments are disastrous to satisfaction from within an existing couple relationship.

The difference between control and boundaries is that control is meant to make others what you want them to be but boundaries make it safe for us to be ourselves. A primary aggressor will not respect boundaries. If a survivor tries to set boundaries, it may very well increase her danger. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be a matter of "safety first, sanity second."