Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Boundary Agreement




I have two Boundary Agreements with Devin.  One is signed and dated and the other is an email we sent back and forth months later, a more “common sense” agreement.

The idea behind the Boundary Agreement is two-fold.  It allows the partner to set their boundaries while enforcing consequences when the boundaries are broken and helps create a safe environment for the partner.  Secondly, it informs the sex addict of what the partner is willing to tolerate within their relationship and what to expect when the boundaries are crossed.  It helps to define guidelines of acceptable behavior within the relationship.

It would seem that a mature couple would already have these guidelines, dare I say, rules, established before they get married but surprisingly most married couples make the assumption that their partner will not cheat on them or that they both have the same understanding of what cheating means.

However, not every person feels the same way about what the definition of cheating means or what is acceptable behavior within the confines of a relationship.

One couple may not have any problems with their spouse exchanging emails with someone of the opposite sex and not knowing it’s being done, what’s being said or perhaps that pictures are being exchanged but another couple may not feel that’s acceptable.  There are of course levels to these emails; I took it to the extreme.

Some couples may feel fine with their spouse going to lunch with a co-worker of the opposite sex and confiding in them about personal problems that are going on at home, while other couples may feel that is crossing a line.  What about a simple smack on the ass at work or a neck rub?  Where does that fit?

One couple may need to know where their spouse will be during the day or after work while another may not have any concerns at all and be confident that their spouse is just “doing their thing”.

Everyone is going to be different and in my case all the above is off limits for Devin.  They never used to be but they are now.

Of course, when dealing with a sex addict, that Boundary Agreement is a contract that must be written or at least verbally agreed to in a way that the partner can stick to.

For instance, in my Boundary Agreement, I have written and signed that if Devin cheats on me on-line or in person, I will leave.  This is something that I know I can abide by under no uncertain terms. 

I also have if he slips and/or relapses I must be notified by him within 24 hours or I will withhold affection for three days. 

Sounds crazy right?  Like I’m punishing a child?  In a sense, I am punishing a child, a grown man-child.  Sex addicts tend to stop maturing at the age of their first sexual acting out and/or experience.  They need to know there will be consequences for their actions or they will not stop the behavior.  That’s why it’s so important to create a boundary that can be enforced by the partner or it’s useless.  Much like the mom who says “Don’t make me take that toy away!” and then does nothing when the child continues to misbehave.  Nothing is learned.

Devin thrives off of my affection for him.  He loves to be loved and feel my hugs and my kisses and when I take that away, it hurts him.  It hurts me too but I have to stick by the consequence…and, in all honesty, as time has passed the typed document has changed and been tweaked verbally.  I was a week after Disclosure Day and a mental nut case…a dictator with a crushed heart.  I knew next to nothing about this addiction and it shows it my Boundary Agreement. ****eta (after writing this post I updated the BA in writing)

My “common sense” agreement I still stick to because, well, it’s common sense. Text me when you’ll be running late, things like that. 

Devin HATED, HATED these things when I first put them in place.  He felt like I was trying to control him because, at the time, he had been so completely out of control.  Now, it’s simply second nature and he’s not bothered at all.  It's something we rarely use because his recovery has come so far.

Note: When I wrote this in 2012, I was using a very strict Boundary Agreement. Now, in 2017, each of our recoveries have evolved to a point that the Boundary Agreement has also evolved and changed. There are still the obvious boundaries I have: if he cheats, I leave. If he slips, I need to know, but we talk things out rather than me having him sleep in another room or withholding affection...unless I'm uncomfortable with it. If I am, I communicate that with him an in healthy and respectful way. I feel that each couple will be different as they navigate through the process of recovery. The important thing is to make sure you're feeling emotionally safe and do what works for you.

  
Also, a great book that has nothing to do with sex addiction but is about how to trust again after an affair:  Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass - it rocks!

Or the one I wrote:


53 comments:

  1. Don't get mad...but my mind immediately went 50 Shades of Grey and their boundary agreement!! Clearly yours is a bit more serious... lol

    You're 100% right. Every couple has a different idea of what cheating is. It's a great idea to discuss this before tying the knot or even committing in general. Once again you've given me something to think about! (What are my boundaries to cheating??? I really don't know...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not gonna get mad, silly chickie =)

      They really had a BA in 50 Shades of Grey? That's funny - was it close to mine, I mean did they talk about what they could and could not do in their relationship?

      Right - it's like Clinton saying he didn't have sex with Monica because to him, oral wasn't sex.

      Delete
    2. Yes, they really had a BA in 50 Shades of Grey. It was very interesting to read all the hard and soft limits that were set in a dominant/submissive relationship. You may be interested in reading the book just to learn about that!

      While I do agree that oral is not sex, it certainly is cheating. Ok, you just helped me figure out a very small piece of my puzzle... lol

      Delete
    3. I don't know...I don't want to dominate Devin. LOL Just keep him from setting off triggers and red flags and understand what constitutes cheating and relapses.

      Hmmm, maybe I shouldn't read that book! I may end up pissed off =P

      Delete
  2. I don't mind you doing two posts in a day :) I actually hadn't heard of Boundary Agreements before, well, not like this. I've heard of pre-nups but that's about it. In some ways it does sound like you're punishing a child, but like you said in essence that is what you're doing, and he even reacted (at least at first) like a child would to new, and restricting, rules. I'm glad he took to the rules in the end, and that he is now, seemingly, sticking to them. I don't know who you wrote this post for either, but always follow your gut, and post when it tells you, about what it tells you :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you said what you did at the end, Mark, about following my gut. I just had this nagging feeling I had to write it. I haven't thought about my BA in a long while since it's second nature for us and because he hasn't broken it - even with his most recent slip he told me about it, so I didn't have to do anything to enforce the BA.

      That's a very good analogy; it's much like a pre-nup except not with money but with emotions and physical limitations. I blame the internet LOL It's a blessing and a curse =)

      Delete
  3. This is my first time to read about BA as I would assumed couple who have been together would share the same limits and understanding. But of course, not all couples have the same understanding. You are so open with your journey and I thank you for sharing this with us ~

    All the best ~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I assumed the same thing, Heaven. To me, it was just common sense. One doesn't send flirty emails or cross certain line but then again I didn't know I was marrying a sex addict either LOL

      It was when we went to visit our first marriage counselor who knew nothing about sex addiction, where I learned about a great book called "Not Just Friends" and it outlines boundaries in a relationship. Nothing to do with sex addiction at all, just a great book about common sense relationships outside of your marriage that couples don't realize can be damaging to their marriage.

      Thank you, Heaven!

      Delete
  4. Still lurking Elsie. I ain't gone. Just sort of busy and pre-occupied. Today was a good day. You'll see in my blog post. I promise to be back more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to see you're still lurking about Barfly!!

      Delete
  5. Ahh.. cheating is relative. In a sense I knew this, but you putting it out there like that.. it's something to pay attention to when delving into a serious relationship, I think. Now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's one of those things that people just take for granted, I think. They go into a relationship thinking that they both have the same understanding of what cheating means...

      Delete
  6. I think a boundary agreement is a great thing when someone is with someone who has an addiction and not just a sex addiction but any addiction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think so to too, Jo-Anne. It is one of those things that is difficult to talk about but once it's out there it makes life easier if it can be enforced.

      Delete
  7. I wish I would have thought about a BA in my past relationship. It may have saved it from going to pieces. Something like that would help me as much as it would help my partner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had never hear of it before I had been introduced into the wonderful world of sex addiction and read about it on a forum. It never would of have occurred to me to write down a set of rules - even now, I have adjusted the BA to accommodate the level of Devin's behavior. I consider it a living and breathing thing with the exception of the "Deal Breakers" like the one I listed in the post. =)

      Delete
  8. That's actually a really good idea, I need to remember some of these things if I decide to get married one day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One day you'll meet that person who sweeps you off your feet and *poof* you'll be married! LOL

      Delete
  9. This is a great idea! But remember, you can't cage a lion and expect it to be on its best behavior. The boundaries are something that both must agree to and be able to live comfortably with. Tread carefully with any kind of agreement such as this!

    I'm sending you an email.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, Dan. That's why we discussed it, made sure we understood it before we signed it and then I had to make sure I would be able to enforce it - so I wouldn't have a lion on my hands. The idea is to reach an understanding and if that can't be done then the couple, in my opinion, shouldn't remain together because they'll end up fighting when boundaries are crossed.

      Got the email - thank you!

      Delete
    2. That's great that both of you are on the same page! Glad there are no lions in your den!

      Delete
    3. No Lions - Just Giants and Steelers LMAO

      Delete
  10. Hmmm never really thought of it like that, as I too assumed it would just be common sense. But I guess each person does have their own meaning behind what is and isn't cheating and can be tolerated and such. I'll be sure to let my mouth run about what I think if I should ever marry, beforehand haha

    And the cat will too I'm sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's best to lay everything out on the table up front just to be "safe" and have one awkward conversation versus crushed emotions later on in the relationship. Oh, you'll marry one day!

      The cat has no filter on it's wretched mouth.

      Delete
    2. Maybe that cat will choke on its own hairball!

      Delete
    3. Ha ha ha! See cat - Dan has sided with the Alliance!

      Delete
    4. Oh one day you say? Not if I keep mucking about in the manure, which is all that seems to grow around me.


      Pfft I'll just take a leak in his beer, then he will fear.

      Delete
    5. LOL - maybe that's why all the Canadians flock to my shore? They are looking for east coast mates ha ha ha!!!

      Oh my gosh, poor Dan, now he's on our side for sure!!! You threatened his beer!

      Delete
    6. Hmmm well you can keep them as they don't work for me, they are just a pain in the ass big time. Pfft you can have him, as he spends too much time outdoors anyway..haha

      Delete
  11. Elsie I find so interesting this post, you talk about always I thi.k and yes is true each couple is different than other and the couple change through the years and is really difficult so nothing is easy:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Gloria. I believe to each their own. If a couple is okay with certain things that I may not be in my marriage, it's not for me to judge them, it's their relationship. I agree, couples do change over the years.

      Delete
    2. I think you are so wise (muy sabia) dear Elsie!! Is hard to learn didn't?

      Delete
    3. *blushing*

      I don't know about all that, Gloria, but I thank you profusely!

      Yes, it is very, very hard to learn. My first instinct was to cut and run because it's so much easier but I love him, addiction and all, as long as he continues to work a healthy recovery, I will stand beside him.

      Delete
  12. Painful and tough post. I like the idea of this boundary agreement.
    My husband is a huge huge huge geek and a nerd. Maybe I trust him too much or the fact that he has huge faith in marriage institution or he is pretty committed, but I would never suspect him. And he would never cross the line.
    And he is lazy too, handling two women or even thinking about having a fling with another woman would make him faint.
    On the flip side, he isnt that romantic type, he loves but never expresses it, so I could use reverse boundary agreement.
    1. Remember to wish me on my bday with a present
    2. Get me roses for valentine's day
    3. Atleast once a month say that you love me
    4. Surprise me whenever you can
    5. Be courteous to me I am hurt and console me when I am unhappy
    6. Be there when I need you.


    you clinton comment I laughed out loud. I cant use reply button from work, need to catch up with your prev post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You just made me want to reach through the screen and shake your husband and say "Wake up dude!!" Devin is always telling me how much he loves me, especially now and tells me how remorseful he is for messing things up. Roses are no longer permitted in our house. A story for another day. He's pretty good about consoling me although we just had a discussion about that not long ago -maybe I'll share it and it will help you?

      Have you ever told him these things?? How important they are to you?

      Devin is a bit of a nerd too. That's why he spent so much damn time on the computer and I thought nothing of it...I thought it was hobby related - silly me. *eye roll* I figured since he never cheated on his first wife, who verbally and physically abused him, why would he cheat on me, but we didn't know about sex addiction either and how that all figured into it. Oh well. Live and learn and move forward.

      A reverse BA - not a bad idea =)

      Delete
  13. A good idea this Boundary agreement . . . And this post. If something was telling you to write it, then you did the best thing and wrote it . . . It will have been perfect timing for someone who's reading it.
    Take care Lovey x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you don't think I'm crazy for going with my gut - I almost didn't fess up to that LOL I hope it helps someone.

      How are you, Lovey?? Be well!!

      Delete
  14. Oh Elsie, I had discussed this robot mode of his several times. I am partly to be blamed, I hated these romantic types, I ran away from guys who would get my gifts or say nice things to me all the time, I hated roses because I felt sad when they die and I dont cry over movies or get emotional, as I said emotionally handicapped. So, he seemed to be my type and he looked perfect to me. So I said ok.
    But now I want and long for someone to congratulate me and compliment me, but he never even bothers to say "thanks".
    I had expressed my concerns but he is like rubberband, he will listen and say yes and do it for two days then wind back to his original position his comfort zone, with laptop on the couch.

    "I figured since he never cheated on his first wife, who verbally and physically abused him, why would he cheat on me"
    => Maybe I am like Devin's first wife, I think I am a control freak and I am a brickbat and I expect him to carry energy level same as me and he is physically weak as well.
    And for a while I took a step back and let things run as he wished. Trust me, he created such a huge mess, it took 2 years to clear all that up. I cant even trust him to do grocery shopping alone, he screws it up bigtime who would wonder how can such a smart guy do such dumb things.
    He is not interested in going for theraphy, he says he is fine, and marriage life is excellent and doesnt need anyone else to tell him what to do. I cant mother him too long, my kids need me, I let him be himself with his laptop and gadget obession and heavy voracious palatte.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Replies
    1. Thank you and thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  16. Hmmmmmm.....being in love is freedom. Makes the soul soar, with your flying partner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unless you're an addict with no concept of boundaries until they are introduced to you, otherwise Freedom = Trouble.

      Delete
  17. thats a good idea, iv never gone back and analyzed a post before


    following

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, 1904. I'm glad it gave you something to think about...

      Delete
  18. I think what your doing with the Boundary Agreement is great! It might seem weird to some, but those people don't know what your dealing with! I hope you keep at it, and I know it will bring the stability that is needed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Berserc! I always appreciate when you swing by because I know on some level "you get it". It's one of the reasons I like you so much, you are very understanding to the people you follow - you're a good guy Bersercules!!

      Delete
  19. I'm always blown away when you write about your relationship and how you set up ways to cope and deal with issues...you're inspirational

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, G!! That means a lot to me.

      I hope you and your wife are doing well...and...I hope you'll keep us posted in the blog world when the big day arrives???

      Delete
  20. Wow. I must say, this is indeed very impressive! I feel inspired somehow.

    And congratulations on the award! :D

    -Barb the French Bean

    ReplyDelete
  21. *blushing*

    Thank you, Barb, you are so kind.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Interrupt away! Isn't that the whole point of this stuff?

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm here to help any way I can.