As the recovered partner of a former sex addict and intimacy anorexic I was taught at the beginning of the healing process to ensure I had boundaries. I had no idea what that meant then, and sometimes I still question how this works! Boundaries can be hard to pin down. We weren’t taught this outright. And often times women allow others to violate their boundaries in order to keep the peace or because they stuffed their gut feelings.
Let me explain how boundaries work, what they’re for and what they’re not for.
A boundary is there to protect you/your heart and is not intended to be used to control anyone or change them. If they happen to change as a result of your boundary then that is great.
A boundary is basically a line you draw “in the sand. There is a natural order to establishing boundaries:
- Identify the boundary
- Identify the action you will take when a boundary is violated
- Enforce the boundary
- Give yourself a consequence if you don’t enforce your own boundary
- Be accountable to someone for your boundaries
No two couples are alike and living with a sex addict or recovering from an affair can be challenging to have and enforce boundaries. You must be fully committed to a boundary in order to be successful in introducing it to your spouse.
Example: look me in the eye when speaking to me
A boundary is not a boundary if it is not enforced. Here you need to be careful as boundaries are not a way to complain, blame and not change yourself.
Example: when you don’t look me in the eye when we are speaking, I will go for a one hour drive alone.
Remember, once a boundary is established, it will be tested. If a boundary is not enforced it is just a threat and the violator will just keep on his way since he has been threatened before with no follow through on your part. Enforcing is the hardest part of making and maintaining a boundary. Enforcing consequences on a consistent basis WILL protect you and eventually change behaviour.
Example: If every time an addict throws something at you, and he has to go to the police station or jail, eventually the throwing will stop.
If you respect yourself, they will respect you.
You are worthy of having boundaries, but often may not feel so under the addict’s manipulative ploys to keep things the way they’ve always been (his way).
Example: If I don’t leave and go for a one hour drive alone when he doesn’t look me in the eye, I will not be allowed to have coffee the rest of the week.
This will help you change your own behaviour and rebuild your self-esteem and self-worth.
Developing boundaries is a process and not black and white. We must look at our relationship to see which boundaries need to be implemented now so that we build our confidence in the beginning stages.
The best way to start is with a boundary you have enough desire to see through until it is achieved. Start with just one. The heat may go up momentarily. Be ready to be called “codependent” or “controlling” or see some other way the violator may display himself as a victim.
Stick to your guns and when you’re ready, introduce a new boundary. Go through this same process and use me, your coach, and support system to help you through it.
You are worth a relationship with healthy boundaries.
Leave a comment on how or what boundaries have worked for you.
Adapted from Partners Recovery Guide by Dr. Doug Weiss