Boundaries outline what YOU will do, in response to another’s behavior that makes you feel unsafe physically or emotionally. Then it gives the other person the CHOICE to change their behavior or remain the same. It allows you to voice how you feel, and what emotions and values you have based these boundaries on, when you communicate them.
For example, you can set a boundary that you will only be in the relationship if your partner is in consistent recovery for his harmful and damaging sexual behavior.
– Or that they sever all ties and no longer have any contact with an affair partner;
– that there be no pornography in your home;
– whatever you need to feel safe.
Your boundaries, and other people’s response to them, will give you important information about whether or not your relationship is salvageable or not.
This is the formula I was taught to use:
WHEN YOU ( behavior)
I FEEL ( use words to describe your emotions when he does the behavior, use the Feelings Wheel to find the words)
IF YOU (continued behavior)
I WILL ( what you will do to feel safe, for example, ask you to sleep on the couch, invite you to my therapist’s office, go to xyz’s house, enact an in house separation and not be in relationship with you — whatever makes you feel safe until he can change the behavior)
When you refuse to actively seek legitimate, medically recognized recovery efforts for your addiction to sexually acting out,
I feel scared, hurt, demoralized, lonely, unsafe, and scared. The story I’m thinking is that I am being pushed aside, you don’t see me as a human, as a partner with rights to fidelity and emotional safety and connection.
If you don’t seek and actively work recovery,
I will ask you to leave this home. If you cannot leave this home,
I will request that you sleep in another room.
I will not be in relationship with you.
I will not provide you with relationship comforts such as sex, physical touch, emotional conversation, and we will only discuss housing, shared financial responsibility and co-parenting. This will be in effect while I consider my options regarding the future of this relationship and continue to observe your behavior for repair or continued wounding. Meanwhile,
I will seek counseling with a qualified betrayal trauma therapist, and seek support groups for spouses of sex addicts. My hope is that you will seek recovery, so we can work towards a healthy future together.
When you message women on Facebook, I feel shattered, hopeless, angry, sad, hurt, depressed, confused, and I don’t feel safe being emotionally vulnerable with you. So if you continue to message women on Facebook, I will not be in relationship with you, I wont sleep in the same bed (what you feel comfortable with) until I can feel safe being vulnerable with you again.
When you watch porn, I feel invaded, hurt, scared, not good enough, not pretty, not sexy, and I just feel absolutely devastated, and I don’t feel safe being emotionally or physically intimate with you. So if you continue to use porn, I will not be emotionally close to you, and I will not provide you with any relationship comforts, including physical intimacy. I will invite you to counseling with me for a betrayal trauma and sex addiction relationship professional’s advice on how to restore trust in our relationship and what fair expectations and boundaries are. If you won’t come to counseling, I will continue to go to counseling on my own, to get advice on whether I should stay in this relationship or not.
These are boundaries, not an ultimatum. An ultimatum is an order, said with anger, and are meant to scare, “Stop, or I will leave you forever.” That does not foster an environment for the addict to make a better choice or leave any room for “progress, not perfection” which is required for recovery from a disease like sexual addiction.
You need the courage to enforce it, and a group of recovery support friends to encourage you, keep you grounded in reality.
If you need more education and group support for coming up with boundaries, how to word them, how to enforce them, and then support from a loving place, learn more about the Clarity and Peace with Boundaries Digital Course and Experience