Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries…oh, and consequences

I was reading some posts from one of my followers today.  From what she says, it sounds as if her husband is extremely dismissive of her feelings  and doesn’t show her the respect that she deserves.  It makes me sad, because I remember so clearly how that feels.

I can’t stress enough how valuable it is – in any relationship, but especially those with a history of wrongdoing – to have a comprehensive, written list of boundaries and consequences.   It’s not an easy list to create, it takes a bit of time and editing to come up with something that both you and your spouse can abide by, and that makes you feel protected.

At the time I created my list, I didn’t realize how comforting it would be to pre-plan my reaction if there are any slips on his part in the future.  It takes away an unknown and is a sign of respect to myself to put my needs first in a time of fear or crisis.

This is my list with some explanations:

– Computers at home and work must have internet filters which allow me access to accountability reports.  (we have installed filters and he likes not having the option to look at porn, etc.  we have also disabled safari on his iPhone)

– You must allow me access to check emails, credit card statements, phone records anytime at my request (he has given me all passwords to do this as he says he has nothing to hide anymore)

– No contact of any kind – including emails, texts, phone calls – with any acting out partners without my prior approval (I added ‘without my approval’ as it seems more fair – I can’t imagine a reason why he would need contact with them, but I am reasonable enough to know that it could be necessary in which case I would insist on being a part of the conversation, or cc’d on an email or whatever)

– Must attend an intensive retreat once a year, either solo or couples (this is a good habit for any couple – especially one who has been through the wringer.)

– Take part in yearly disclosure/polygraph for the next 3 years and thereafter when requested by me. (It sounds horrible but I see it as the equivalent of having a drug addict pee in a cup once in a while – just to be sure.  After all, the number one common trait in addicts of any sort is the impressive ability to lie)

– Inform me immediately if any acting out partners attempt to contact you (for obvious reasons)

– No social activities (lunch, drinks, etc) with female friends or colleagues without my prior consent. (My husbands job requires lots of contact with lots of people including very attractive women in his business.  They constantly as for lunch meetings – but that’s breeding ground for flirting & thus, trouble.  He just needs to ask me if it’s OK, we will discuss and make a decision together.  If he needs to see someone for business then I can suggest he bring his assistant along, or they go to a restaurant where we know people so it’s not romantic, etc)

If any of those above things fall by the wayside DUE TO HIS UNWILLINGNESS we will take a therapeutic separation during which time there will be no contact with me and I will decide how to proceed.

– If you ever lie, omit or deceive me about any inner circle activities you must apologize and confess the truth within 24 hours.  I will take a therapeutic separation long enough for me to assess the situation and will decide how to proceed.

– If I find out that you have lied about inner circle activities and didn’t confess within 24 hours we will immediately separate and you will go to rehab.  There will be no contact with me until I decide how to proceed.

–  If you take part in any physical sexual activity behind my back I will divorce you.  This includes sex, erotic massage or other physical activities with both anonymous and known partners.

– If you have any contact whatsoever including email, text, phone, IM or in person meeting with “skank who you cheated on me with” I will immediately file for divorce, even if the contact isn’t sexual.

This list changed a lot from the original version which basically had him walking around with a male chastity belt.  But I realized that we still need to live in the real world.  It’s unrealistic to say  “if you ever lie, even for a second, about anything in the world, I will leave you”.  That’s crazy.  His learned behavior from his crappy childhood is to lie when under pressure.  He has been dealing with this a lot and has made progress but lying is an easy thing to resort to.  That’s why he has 24 hours to come clean.  That gives him time to call brothers from SAA, talk to his sponsor or therapist, etc.   It’s fair.  That’s what marriage is about.

I also find that the concept of a therapeutic separation is vital.  It gives me time to sort out my feelings and discuss my options with my therapist if something goes awry.  There is no time limit on this separation, but when the shit hits the fan it’s important to have a plan in place.  I have a specific plan in place – where I go for the separation, etc – so in the case of an emergency, I won’t have to worry about where I will go.

I am very lucky that my husband is so tired of living a double life and so very much wants to be “normal”.  He is willing to agree to my boundaries.  We discussed them thoroughly and he had a few minor issues but they were sorted out between he, I and my therapist who specializes in working with partners of sex addicts.  It’s a list all 3 of us can live with.

And by the way, this isn’t a one way street.  His behavior caused me to do my own shameful things.  He is working up his list of boundaries as well and will present it to me when he is done.

I’m sure we will amend and adjust our lists over time, but a starting place is really important.  I urge everyone in a relationship that has been fraught with secrets, lies, affairs, etc to create a list and stick with it.  If your list is fair and your husband won’t agree to it then it might be time to consider further your reasons for being in the relationship.  This is why the consequence portion of this list is so very important.

In a million years I never dreamed my marriage would end up with such a list attached to it.  But that’s life – and in this life us women sometimes need to put our needs first in order to thrive.

2 comments on “Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries…oh, and consequences

  1. year2013 says:

    Hopefully things go better for you. I wish I could fwd this list to the cheating husband wife. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for posting this. I am struggling with defining my boundaries and consequences right now and this is really helpful guidance.

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