My girlfriend and I have been together for 6 months.
Early one morning, after a conversation we'd had the previous night, she calls me to ask me if I own a very private object. Not wanting to lie, I answered affirmatively. It is securely tucked away and there's no way anyone could accidentally find it, let alone see it. I myself have not looked at it since before the relationship began, but knowing I have it gives me a sense of comfort.
(Yes, I'm being deliberately vague about "the object" so as to deal with the specific technical question rather than any opinions over the object itself. But, if it helps, think of it like it's a nude painting of a dead relative by a famous painter or something like that. It could be a knife block given to me by an ex, as another example. You can have opinions about it, but this specific question is a technical question about boundaries and not about the object itself. )
She explains that:
- she feels "betrayed" by me having this object,
- that it is a violation of her personal boundaries, and
- she demands that I destroy it immediately.
She asks why I have it and, again not wanting to lie, I explain that it gives me comfort. She uses that explanation to suggest I'm emotionally attached to the object and attempts to place herself and the object on the same exclusionary scale. "The object is more important to me than her, and I can be with her, or I can have the object, not both." I know myself that I would never place her and the object on a scale, but she has continued to insist that it's part of her personal boundary that I not have it.
Conversely, I liken her asking me about it as being an invasion on my personal privacy. I feel invaded that she asked about it, and upset that she is prioritising her feelings and ignoring mine. After some weeks of this argument, and the relationship degrading significantly, she eventually acknowledges that asking about it was an invasion of my privacy, but she still demands that me owning it violates her personal boundaries nonetheless. She says I'm not taking responsibility for her feelings.
Reading about emotional boundaries I come across two categories about personal boundary violations:
- taking responsibility for another’s feelings,
- sacrificing your own needs to please another.
I have never heard of any personal boundary extending into another person's space, particularly such a private space (we are not living together). I understood boundaries to be mutually exclusive and, in most cases active in some way. In other words, I'd have to do something (even if it's verbal) to cross a personal boundary or, at the very least, have it exposed like putting it on the mantelpiece or showing it to her in some way. It feels like an overreach. Suggesting that they can be passive and inactive, that by merely owning something unrelated to them I could be violating someone's personal space makes me very uncomfortable. It also would seem to create huge, conflict-filled overlaps in emotional responsibility.
She says that the action is me gaining the object before we got together. So, therefore, I was already violating her personal boundary when we got together without her knowledge. I have attempted to resolve this by suggesting I move the object out of my house but that is not acceptable to her in the longer term.
It may be just that me not owning this object is a "dealbreaker" but I don't think that's quite what she means. There's something broader about boundaries that she's trying to elude which, from the arguments we've had, I'm not understanding fully.
Main Question: Are my own belongings really a part of someone else's boundaries in a relationship?
Extra Question: In an effort to understand her, if it's not within her own personal boundary, what other component of the relationship could I be violating by owning an object that upsets her that I could suggest to use in place of the word "boundary"?